Classic Album Review: Nas’ Illmatic

Posted 6 years ago by
Tags: Nas,
Download DJBooth's new App, The PLUG (Editor's Note: From time to time DJBooth's partner site RefinedHype.com will dig into its vaults and pull out a classic album that deserves a much-belated review. This week writer Matt Juss examines Nas' seminal breakthrough album Illmatic.)

April of 1994 was a game-changing month for the music industry, on the east and west coasts.

In the pacific northwest, Kurt Cobain, songwriter and frontman for the band Nirvana, was found dead at his Washington home, shocking everyone in the nation. But as the industry lost one great talent, the month also brought a new talent on the other side of the country, rapper Nas.

On April 19, 1994, Nas released his debut album, Illmatic, which is considered by many to be the rebirth of East Coast hip-hop. Although the album didn’t have much commercial success when it was released, it eventually was certified gold in sales in 1996.

I don’t think many in the industry realized it at the time, but the album would change the landscape of hip-hop. Prior to the release of Illmatic the hip-hop industry had devolved into a disjointed genre, especially in style and location.

With the rise of Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Death Row Records, the west coast and Los Angeles seemed to be the new capital of hip-hop. Along with development of thoughtful rappers like A Tribe Called Quest, the hip-hop scene was changing.

With things up for grabs on the east coast, Nasir Jones took his chance. On Illmatic, the Queensbridge native displayed some raw and gritty beats that reflected the violent times that were crippling the New York streets. But more importantly, he brought on a unique poetic style that combined the image of gangsta rap with the thoughtful narrative and deep analysis often found in conscious rap.

Along with the Wu-Tang Clan, Nas helped firmly re-establish the New York City hip-hop scene as the center of the rap world.

What makes Illmatic so unique, so timeless, is how is concise and simple it is. The album consists of only ten tracks, with no skits, no wasted time, and no mainstream-sounding beats. Every track is great, but Life’s A B*tch, It Ain’t Hard To Tell and N.Y. State of Mind standout to me as all-time classics.

For more of this classic review, including video of the album's standout tracks like Life's a B*tch and It Ain't Hard to Tell, click here.

Nas  

Comments
Get The PLUG app by DJBooth and get the best hip-hop writing and news delivered daily.

Featured Video

Hip Hop News

Blank Face: Rare Album Covers That Don’t Feature the Artist’s Face

For a man with such a big ego, it's incredible that no Kanye West album cover has ever shown his face. Read More
Posted 2 days ago by Yoh

Mind Blown: Lupe Fiasco’s “Adoration of the Magi” Lyrics Are Genius

I've heard the song 100 times, but I never uncovered the mind-blowing references in the chorus until now. Read More
Posted 2 days ago by Nathan S.

Young Thug’s Modeling a Dress on a Giant NYC Billboard, Anything is Possible

There's currently a four-story NYC billboard of Young Thug modeling for Calvin Klein. That's a real thing that happened in real life. Read More
Posted 2 days ago by William E. Ketchum III

Can PARTYNEXTDOOR’s “P3” Album Break OVO’s Non-Drake Cold Streak?

PARTYNEXTDOOR's new album finally has a release date, but can the project break the year's cold streak of OVO signees? Read More
Posted 2 days ago by William E. Ketchum III

Marvel’s Upcoming Luke Cage Netflix Series Has Major Hip-Hop Influences

Episodes titled after Gang Starr songs, a Biggie portrait and ODB tunes await viewers of the upcoming on-demand series. Read More
Posted 2 days ago by William E. Ketchum III
Sample Text - Sample Link
0:00
3:00
Shrink
Hide

TRENDING NOW



Flame

TOP 20 MUSIC CHARTS


Discover the best new songs, videos, and albums added to the Booth.