Queensbridge has produced a number of hot rappers, but none have ever taken us inside its world like Nas did on “Illmatic.”
It’s a place where police raids have busted hundreds of people in the drug trade in the nearly two decades since “Illmatic’s” release, a fact a younger Nas depicted in brutal detail on his debut record.
“I never sleep ’cause sleep is the cousin of death,” he spits on “N.Y. State of Mind,” which includes a section about shooting a Mac-10 that jams while simultaneously lamenting that the drug game has “younger n—– pulling the triggers, bringing fame to they name.”
It’s a powerful track on an album full of them. Its legacy is that he helped show the power of the East Coast rap scene, defining it as one with an emphasis of rhymes over beats, but there’s nothing wrong with the beats here. There are elements of jazz rap, so it’s no surprise to see Gang Starr collaborator DJ Premier among the producers.
With entrancing beats behind stunning flow and delivery, it’s no wonder Nasty Nas’ “Illmatic” is considered a classic. This is as good as hip-hop gets.
Our Music Year is Daily Republic popular culture writer Nick DeCicco’s yearlong online review in 2012 of albums he had previously not listened to. The reviews will appear in print on their corresponding days during 2013. Reach him at 427-6966 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ndeciccodr.