Nas – Illmatic

If you can think of a clever subject line for today’s record, please feel free.It’s Nas’ Illmatic

And you can listen to it HERE:

For the record, I did go through:
Hey Hey Hey Goodbye
Villin’ Us  for possible subject lines



RC: Nas – Illmatic

I think he did a song with Lauren Hill in the nineties… But to be fair… Everyone did. Try not to fall in love with her dulcet tones. Oh wait… You wanted to know about Nas. I think it was “If I ruled the world”. I could be wrong but I remember very little of his part. I think he is in the rap genre? Si?

After Listening:
I forget how much I really can enjoy rap, and it was disappointing that the album only set to remind me that there are much better albums out there. I’m a bit upset that I didn’t recommend a Mos Def album. I enjoy the percussive aspect of the human voice. Some rap artists are beautiful wordsmiths. Yes, most of the lyrics aren’t that amazing, but the way that they are delivered it’s possible to be pulled in. Nas fails to keep me interested. He seems to think that profanity, “No’Whaaam sayyyin” and “what up son” are all you need. I’m guessing that since this isn’t his only album, there are people that get pulled in and don’t mind.

Favorite track/tracks:
The Genesis – This totally songs like it belonged in a clunky silver boombox ontop of some cardboard during one of my solo adventures in Jamaica Plain when I was seven.

Least favorite track/tracks:
Life’s a B**** – I really cannot stand the tag line for the song. It doesn’t help that it’s a part of the chorus and the rest of the words are strung together pointlessly. Also? Adding a trumpet doesn’t make everything fly. I learned that from this song.
Halftime – The buildup for the first 20 seconds led me to believe that there was going to be a crazy string of lyrical wonderment. After all, you don’t need to catch your breath for mediocrity, right? … Oh… Nevermind.

Overall (1-5 stars):  0.5
Since there were ten songs and I only really liked the first one… I’m going to give points based on that.


Nas – Illmatic: 4 stars

Precon: In my hip hop salad days of the late 90’s I thought all the mainstream stuff was pretty much worthless, and that’s where I lumped Nas in, mainly because of that song with Lauryn Hill, which I developed a particular distaste for some years prior, and the fact that I would see nine different albums from him at the record store all with him in some kind of vanity pose on the cover. He just seemed like a chump who crapped out albums and I wrote him off. Turns out I was a mixture of correct and immature. The exact percentages are unknown. By the time I was in college, however, I had embraced the braggadocious side of hip hop with guys like Slick Rick and Kool Keith and was generally more accepting of artists who had some mainstream success. I kept hearing about Illmatic, often in the context of “Yeah, Nas has released some bad albums but Illmatic is da bomb!” I gave it a shot and was pleasantly surprised. It’s been on a regular car rotation ever since and has even earned “no skip, multiple play through” status.

Favorite Track: The World Is Yours
Least Favorite: One Love

This is not an overwhelming album a la 36 Chambers, but rather a smooth jaunt through nine tracks (plus intro) of pure hip hop. It’s remarkably consistent and full of catchy songs. As I said, I never have to use the skip button, which is partly damning because it means there’s no track I just have to hear as soon as I put it in, but it also means I want to hear every track. The album also serves as a good showcase/introduction to the talented 19 year old from Queens. Nas fills up just about every box on the Consummate MC Checklist: tone, delivery, flow, lyrics, style, swagger, his only problem being he doesn’t really hit the stratosphere in any of these categories. I haven’t delved too deep into his other stuff, but Illmatic is definitely a classic and worthy of all the praise it gets.

Magic the Gathering Card: “Due Respect”



Preconceived Notions:  Well, it’s hip hop and I’m expecting something more on the Biggie side than the Common side of things.  That means that my stomach is slightly clenched in the kind of nervous anticipation you get while watching the suspenseful scenes in horror movies.  I’m really trying to keep an open-mind but the only thing I know about Nas is that he married Kelis and she wore a green wedding dress.  I mean the dress was awesome.  .

After Listening:
N.Y. State of Mind- “like Scarface sniffin’ cocaine” within 30 seconds of the second track.  Apparently, New York is all about guns and coke and gangsta sleepovers where Scarface plays on repeat.  Doesn’t this all feel just a little dated?  Maybe if I was listening to this when it had first been released, I’d feel differently, but I’m not certain how this bodes for the way the album has aged.  Although I do enjoy the (probably) sampled piano line that back most of the track.
The World Is Yours- Did he just say “headin’ for Indiana stabbing women like the Phantom”?  Perhaps not the best way to win me over Nas, but in seriousness, I really like the samples on all of these songs so far.  There’s a jazzier quality than I had dared to anticipate.  However, I find the chorus on this particular song to be lackluster.
Halftime-Well, he did get a Marcus Garvey mention in there

For some reason, there’s something about this album that makes me think that this is like the WWE of hip hop.  Like there’s some basis of truth and genuine entertainment in it, but like the authenticity of the lyrics aren’t there.  Just go with my.  The lyrics are well written, and I have no problem with the delivery, when Nas is delivering, but when the choruses pop up, it seems that most times it’s just a word or two repeated.  I like most of the samples though.  However, the actual content of the lyrics seem to be the same things that I’ve heard over and over again, to the point of stereotyping and they all just feel slightly exaggerated to me.  I mean sure it’s possible that growing up in 1980s Queens, he snorted coke like Scarface, but I have a difficult time believing it.  It seems like there’s an equal amount of bravado and talent, and I wish that he would have been more worried about saying something new instead of just finding a new way to say the old things.  Does that make sense?  I really love the jazz-y vibe of most of the tracks, but when he starts worrying about street cred, the album starts to come apart.  On the whole, though, I always end up liking things like this more than I think I will, which means I really need to just re-evaluate my pre-conceived ideas about lumping everything in a genre together.

Favorite Track: One Love- It might be that it sounds like there’s a xylophone in the background that’s adding a weird noir-ish feel to this track.  Or it might be because it just, for some reason, sounds different from the other tracks.
Least Favorite-Represent- There’s just something that feels so stereotypical and stale with this one.  Like all of the possible tropes of 90s rap were combined, rolled out and flattened into something so overdone that it’s bland and tasteless.  It degenerates in to shout outs and teenagers dropping the F-bomb like they just found out what it meant.

Overall: 3.7  I think the context of the release of an album like this is important and to attempt to listen to it, for me at least, as a “new” album in 2012 some of it feels dated and irrelevant, but I think that there are some great moments hidden beneath what sometimes feels like overcompensation.


Preconceived Notions:  All I really know about Nas is that he’s Eastcoast and well regarded.  I have wanted to check him out for a long time to see what the hype is all about – since if I like rap it usually ends up being east coast style – Biggie, Wu Tang etc… So let’s see what this “landmark” album has to offer.

After Listening:  The production on most of these tracks has not aged well, and not b/c it’s distinctive to a time period – like some of the 80’s rap whose production is so dated that it becomes a style, but rather disappointedly because it isn’t very good.  I guess it tries- there are small elements of jazz and soul here, even if too many times the rhythm just slides into uninteresting straightforward meter. The intro track Genesis is typical lazy skit garbage that sort of sets the tone for the rest of the production issues.  Lyrically you can see some of the chops that made Nas famous here, but the subject matter is straight in the box – street life, money making, bragging on his verses.  The delivery may be better than some but he’s playing it straight, and still there is a definite lack of memorable hooks – so he seems to have hit the bland boundary of not quite pushing the experimental envelope and yet not producing hits either.

Favorite Tracks: “It ain’t Hard to Tell” – The sampled Michael Jackson aides the beats tremendously. It’s very clever production over decent lines “Hit the Earth like a comet, invasion/ Nas is like the Afrocentric Asian, half-man, half-amazin”  Bonus points for not simply relying on MJ and inserting the jazz sax sample.
“Life’s a B*” – I’ll get out of the way up front that the repetitive “Life’s a B*tch” chorus is corny, unimaginative and annoying….but somehow it doesn’t ruin the track beyond redemption.  Probably because the swelling bass, and the vocal tradeoffs provide some of the best vocal flow on the album. The closing horn adds a little tone color to a pretty bleak and album.

Least Favorite Tracks:   “The World is Yours” – If it was 2 mins it might have been ok, but as with too much of this album by the time it gets to minute 3 you wonder if you’re going to hear anything interesting. You won’t, the lyrics may be decent, but they meld together as the track just drags out and out.

Overall 2.55  I was disappointed with this album.  I thought maybe I’d be getting something in the vein of the Wu’s 36 Chambers, or even Gravediggaz and not necessarily stylistically but more of those albums’ immediate like “woah” factor.  There’s no woah factor on this album – although it’s apparent Nas knows how to write a verse – his spitting of said verse is only half effective, and the backing of the verse is at best unimaginative.  It’s a very middle of the road album which is surprising given all of its accolades.


Nas – Illmatic

Preconceptions: It’s my pick, and I bought it when it was released in ’94—it’s awesome.

After Listening: Nas is one of the greatest lyricists in rap history, and this debut was much anticipated and delivers from start to finish. This record is straight forward and features Nas’ lyricism, and his tapestry of raw street truth telling, without the aid of gimmicks and theatrics, is what makes this record so amazing. My impression from my recollections from when it was released and today in retrospect, is that this album refocused east coast/New York hip hop in a time when things were starting to get a little silly. It’s no nonsense and nearly flawless.

Favorites: It Ain’t Hard to Tell, NY State of Mind,
Least: Can’t say—it’s hard to tell J

Overall: 5 stars


Nas – Illmatic

Preconceptions: Oh, this is tha REAL sht, son! At least that is what I’ve heard for years.

Post listening: This was like eating a White Castle burger for the first time: I’d heard raves for years and it’s just average fare that leaves me with a bad tummy.

Bestest: um, It Ain’t Hard to Tell? Turns out , it IS hard to tell. It all kinda runs together.
Worstest:   The Genesis- Just start the damn album, ok? New York State Of Mind and the rest of the album.

Overall: First, lets stop this “Scarface is a good movie” nonsense now. Second, 3 bullets jammed in the chamber of a Mac-10? Even with the admittedly inferior quality of the Mac-10, there is no way it’d feed three bullets. And the Mac-11 isn’t 1 better than the Mac-10. Of course, if Nas knew his submachine guns, he’d buy an H&K MP-5 and stop messing around with those Ingrams.

All of the songs stalled like panicked freestyler, with a lot of “Yo, yo!”s and “Knowaddayemzayin”s. So Nas like weed & embalming fluid? And guns? Interesting. For one song tops.

Rating: 1.2 (an’ ya don’t stop) (but please do)
Pre-listen estimate: 3.9
+/- season to date: -1.89

Extra Credit: Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

admin (196 Posts)

Record Club began in the cold, dank, snowmageddon scene that was New England of January 2011. We’re probably no different than you. We all work in cubicles, some in smaller, less private cubicles than others; that just means we have to be even sneakier about how we listen to our music. But we have to listen to our music, mostly as a way of saving our own personal sanity. Sometimes our opinions lead us to debates that may or may not be published in their entirety on this site, but I can promise you’ll at least get a glimpse of the way our minds work. The main goal is to find new music we like or find old music that we didn’t know we liked. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes it’s a total and complete disaster. After our ears have rejoiced or stopped bleeding we try something else. This is our pattern, every Tuesday and Thursday. Sometimes, when the club isn’t officially in session, just to keep everyone on their toes, we throw in a theme day. We’re beginning to run low on our original list, so please, if you have albums that you’d like us to review or themes that you’d like to see our playlist of, feel free to contribute. After all, we’re all in this together once we punch the time clock. So if you’re busy (or just plain bored) lurking in your cubicle as you read this join in. After all, life wasn’t meant to be lived staring at a computer screen. I guarantee you, it’s at least more fun when you plug the headphones in.

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