The year is 1994, a solo debut is on the rise for a 20 year old Nasir Jones, who witnesses ready to be told stories from his apartment window in Queens. He needs to make money, get out of this lifestyle he has been living for years and show the world his talent. Illmatic was originally supposed to be his only released cd, after this, he was going to retire and take his money. But the success of this timeless masterpiece led him to stay and share more of his talent with the world with other great/classic cd's.
An album that gets hate for being so short, really could of been shorter, it's just that perfect. First things first, we have "The Genesis". This is about 20-30 seconds of a man talking (I think this is from some old movie) where it eventually cuts off with a beat and AZ and other people talking with Nas about how they gotta change the game and light some Phillies and stuff, then at the end he declares, "Representing it's Illmatic." After he says that you just know some crazy s*** is about jump off. And so it does. Track 2, "NY State of Mind", the best song on the album in my opinion, defines what this album and what him as a rapper is about. He spits a long two verse narrative of life on the streets over a blazing DJ Premier beat and it's an instant classic with lines like, "It drops deep as the words in my breath, I never sleep cause sleep is the cousin of death." Next we have the calm and relaxing beat of "Life's a B****" featuring AZ. I don't want to say Nas gets outshined, but it's hard not to when AZ spits debatably one of his best verses in his career. In the last 45 seconds or so of the track, Nas's dad does a solo with his trumpet, very nice. Now we have the great track produced by Pete Rock, "The World is Yours". This is such a great track as Nas does what he does best and Pete drops a DOPE beat with scratching and just this crazy vibe, one of his best. After that it's "Halftime" which was a single and with good reason. The beat as with all the others is very nice and lyrically its amazing, "Nas why did you do it? You know you got the mad fat fluid when you rhyme, it's halftime." Indeed you do Nas, indeed you do. Then after that mafioso performance we have "Memory Lane (Sitting in the Park)". I love this track. Again produced by the master Premier, the beat is just almost depressing and makes you really zone out. What can I say about the lyrics, they're great just like every other song on this album while discussing street life. Now for track 7 and what is one of the most memorable tracks on the cd, "One Love". It features Q-Tip who does the chorus and produces this simple sounding, yet awesome beat. Nas is basically writing a letter to this friend and gives a shout out to another great lyricist who got noticed when Nas said his name, "Whattup with Cormega did you see him are yall together?". After that he gives us "One Time for Your Mind". This song doesn't get much recognition, and isn't the best cut on the cd, but every song here is a classic and great beat wise and lyrically. I guess you could just consider it an under-rated track on the album cause people think highly of it, but just hardly ever speak of it. It's produced by Large Professor who is a great producer and really comes through and of course, Nas does it one time for our minds. Track 9 and getting closer to the end, we have "Represent". Great song with a beat provided by the one and only DJ Premier. Nas just talks about keeping it real and obviously, representing as the last bit of the song is nothing but shout outs to people and NY. Finally it's here, the last track, "It Ain't Hard to Tell". Once again Large P. comes correct with the smooth, catchy beat. Nas spits some fierce rhymes on this track, some of the best too, check it out, "It ain't hard to tell, I excel, then prevail/The mic is contacted, I attract clientele/My mic check is life or death, breathin a sniper's breath/I exhale the yellow smoke of buddha through righteous steps/Deep like The Shinin', sparkle like a diamond/Sneak a uzi on the island in my army jacket linin/Hit the Earth like a comet, invasion/Nas is like the Afrocentric Asian, half-man, half-amazin/Cause in my physical, I can express through song/Delete stress like Motrin, then extend strong/I drank Moet with Medusa, give her shotguns in hell/From the spliff that I lift and inhale, it ain't hard to tell." If that isn't a great way to end an album then I don't know what is.
This is absolutely a timeless classic with no flaws to be found. It's possibly the greatest album lyrically and production wise, I mean every track has big name people like Premier, Alchemist, Large P., or Pete Rock, and even the one guest appearance from AZ is priceless. Words can't describe the gold that is implanted on this disc, its rap at its finest. If you don't have this album, GET IT, if you don't like it, then you probably don't understand rap and hip-hop because this album defines them. I guess Nas truly is the street's disciple.