53 of 53 people found the following review helpful
on March 16, 2000
When I first laid this incredible piece of vinyl on my turntable, I wasn't sure of what to expect. I saw the credits, the amazing producers recruited (Primo, Large Professor, Q-Tip, etc.), but I definitely wasn't ready for the lyrical masterpiece that painted pictures of the sorrowful ghetto life right in front of my eyes, with so much depth that even Mr. Suburbanite could understand the trials and tribulations of the streets. Nas stepped into the studio with his skills and a blunt (or two or three) and spit description-packed lyrics that tell stories in a way nobody else ever can. There are greats like Slick Rick and others, but Nas' smoke-filled voice graces the track and compliments the beat so perfectly that you'd almost think the pulse of the music ran through his veins. And maybe it does. Nas feels the rhythm and gives a new melody to the songs with his original style, a style that many have emulated, but no one can master. Nas was truly ahead of his time with this album. In a time when slow, easily understandable rhymes over mainstream bass beats were popular, Nas stayed true and kicked wisdom for those true rap heads in the streets, displaying a mastery of the language with abundant metaphors and intensely descriptive flows that draw you into the music. Nas' true heart-felt emotion is apparent on all of these tracks, and in songs such as 'One Love,' where Nas is writing a letter to a friend in prison, it's easy for the listener to get caught up and lament the losses of all those other 'not-so-fortunates.' In a time when knowledge-based, lyrically-focused, rhyme-oriented hip-hop is on the B Side, and even Nas himself has fallen off into the league of the Ruff Ryders, this is a record you should have on your top shelf as a constant reminder of times past and possibilities to come, because Nas truly dropped a classic gem.
48 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2004
Let me preface my review by saying that the original Illmatic album (Disc One of this edition) is an undeniable classic, five stars, without a doubt. But as a whole, this 10 Year Anniversary Edition only gets three stars (I really wanted to give it two), and the primary reason is Disc Two.
The bottom line: this is so much LESS than it could have been.
I love remixes, but the four remixes included here...they just don't work. I don't want to hear Illmatic-era lyrics over 2004-radio-rapper beats. The best of the four is the "It Ain't Hard To Tell" remix, which does have a hardcore, yet updated feel to it. Nas spits some different lyrics (perhaps he re-recorded them for this edition), which is cool. The worst is the "One Love" remix; it inexplicably features censored lyrics, which completely ruins the song, especially when they edit words like "nine" and "L's." Come on. What a waste.
Perhaps the biggest problem I have with including these subpar remixes is the fact that there are already some great remixes of these songs THAT WEREN'T INCLUDED! I'm referring to the remixes done back in '94 and '95 when these songs were released as singles. The Q-Tip remix of "The World Is Yours" and the Arsenal Mix of "Life's a B****" are outstanding. "One Love," "It Ain't Hard To Tell," and "Halftime" were all remixed back in the day, and quite well too. I would argue that these remixes make up a large part of the Illmatic mystique, and they should have been included in this celebratory anniversary collection. I mean, why not? OPEN UP THE VAULTS!
Another thought: if you are going to create some new remixes of these songs, why not bring in the original producers to do the job? Get Primo, Extra P, Tip, Pete Rock and Big LES and have them either remix their own songs or let them swap. It would be pretty cool to get those legends to give us an updated version of their classic tracks.
The two new songs on Disc Two (produced by Marley Marl and Extra P) are pretty good, worthy of inclusion here. Although, again, I would have liked to hear something from 10 years ago...weren't there any unreleased tracks that were scrapped when the 10-song Illmatic sequencing was finalized?
My other complaint about this collection is the lack of liner notes. A small thing, perhaps, but when I buy a greatest hits disc, anthology, or anniversary edition, I expect to get liner notes--and I am disappointed when I don't.
It basically all boils down to this: this collection doesn't live up to the greatness of the very album it was created to celebrate. Quite a disappointment.
42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on March 22, 2003
OK, some cats come on here saying don't believe the hype, or that the album lacks beats, but they don't know what they're talking about. One cat even had the temerity to compare the Illmatic Nas to Eminem. To question the beats on this album is to show your stupidity in relation to the hip hop game. DJ Premier is known as one of, if not the best producer ever along with Dre. One is the best on the east, the other on the west. Large P is also thorough on the beats, and this album has nothing but the best beats. The lyrics are fresh, hungry, and still steeped in the streets.
The best albums in hip hop history all came out right around the same time : 1994. Illmatic, Ready to Die, Southernplayalistik, Illadelph Half Life and Reasonable Doubt each vie for that title. In reality, it comes down to the debut albums from the Kings of NY, BIG and Nas. BIG had filler on his album, and stupid skits. Illmatic is just pure hip hop from beginning to end. A 40 minute oasis of what hip hop should always strive to be. A window to the streets combined with storytelling ability and lyrics that weave themselves together seamlessly.
New York is Hip Hop, and this is the best NY has ever produced.
Don't ever forget, this album is widely acknowledged as the finest in the history of hip hop by all the wisest rap scholars. You think some joker from Toronto or Washington State knows more about hip hop and what's raw than the sages of hip hop culture? I think not.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on September 20, 2004
Nas' street appeal has never been deniable, and that is his heart on every album he has ever made, from Illmatic, to Stillmatic, to God's Son. Illmatic was released again for its 10th anniversary, and never having owned the album, I bought it. Saying that this is one of the best hip-hop albums ever is a lie. It IS the best hip-hop album ever! Know why? Nas keeps it real for the streets. He doesn't use fancy production, he isn't flashy, and he has a limited vocab but a big heart for rapping. Illmatic has street written all over it. You can FEEL the streets of New York sweep over you as you listen to this album, and the experience is unmatched. Nas has always competed with Jay-Z for king of NYC, except on this album. While I listen to Jay-Z a lot more, and like him better, he doesn't have a heart quite like Nas does. Jay-Z is at his heart, a gentleman, obsessed with cars, girls, and cash by the bags. Nas isn't. He's authentic. I'm not saying Jay-Z is fake, but Nas only cares about rap, and sending messages straight from the projects. Listen to this album for a definition of what rap is. It will send a rush through you unlike any other. And with only 10 tracks, every one is a classic. The best rap album ever. period.
Bonus Cuts: They are very good, but they should be saved for another album. Definitely draw away the classic feel from the original Illmatic album. Still worth a listen. *If you already own the original Illmatic, there is little to no point in getting the anniversary edition.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 1999
You know how adults always say they wish they could be younger again. I wish Nas could be younger again. At age 20 (?) Nas released "Illmatic".....then as he grew in age, his tight grip on the edge of the streets began to slip...this is a review by myself, a professional critic (lol), of possibly the greatest hip-hop album ever released.
Positive: Basically everything about the cd was positive. With head-noddin' beats, and Nasty Nas' compelling lyrics, describing his life as he grew up in the projects. The dopest songs? "The World is Yours" (with assistance from the soul brother, Pete Rock), "Halftime", the deep, "One Love", with Q-Tip, and "It Ain't Hard to Tell", my personal favorite. Every one a classic, everyone amazing.
Complaints: That Nas ever left his Nasty Nas form to transform into Nas Escobar. =(
Beats: 5 Lyrics : 5
Best Song: It Aint Hard to Tell Beat: 5 Lyrics : 5
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 2004
THIS MIGHT BE IT! 36 Chambers is also so good but it would be too offensive to the elders. Nah, nah, scratch that, let's just get into my opinion of the damn thing. When I first heard this I thought it was pretty good, now it turns out I can't get enough of it now! This is probably the best rap album in my collection. Sure, anything might top it, it'll always have a warm welcome in my collection. I've enjoyed mr. Nasty Nas aka Nasir Jones aka Escobar aka Nastradamus's rhymes for a few years now but I was still into commercial rap only then lol. Well, turns out i'm into every type of rap out now. I wanted to check out the dude's debut when he was in his prime. Note for fans who enjoy Nastradamus & God's Son the most: This is alot different! It has old school and underground beats with Nas's voice sounding younger and lyricasm just about street life in general. You have to get it anyway. I don't care if you hate it, it will always be awsome in MY book! I haven't heard any other of albums yet but I bet NOTHING will top this classic, NOTHING like everybody says!
Phew, let's start.
1. The Genesis: An intro with The Firm & Nas talkin about how bullish is on the radio these days & they tune into an awsome station finally. (no rating)
2. NY State of Mind: Classic. Probably the most well-known song on the album. (10/10)
3. Life's A Bitch (featuring AZ): Best on album with the classic introduction verse from AZ & Nas's verse is awsome as well. Olu Dara, Nas's daddy plays a trumpet solo at the end! (10/10)
4. The World Is Yours (featuring Pete Rock): Another hit, another one of the best on the cd too. First song I heard off the album when I played THUG. GREAT production from Pete Rock. (10/10)
5. Halftime: The 1st song Nas ever recorded when he was 18 or 19. Nice loud horn after the hook. (9/10)
6. Memory Lane (Sittin in Da Park): Awsome beat & chorus with Nas on fire again. Pretty touching. (10/10)
7. One Love: Beautiful song. Deticated to homies about their rights & wrongs in jail. Q-Tip is a good producer! He's still a better rapper tho. (9.5/10)
8. One Time 4 Your Mind: Pretty good but a pretty annoying chorus soemtimes. Probably the worst on the album. (8/10)
9. Represent: I love the chorus when whoever shouts "REPRESENT! REPRESENT!" Nas is still awsome too. OK intro. (8.5/10)
10. It Ain't Hard To Tell: Another classic, although a little repetiave. Still, one of the best tracks lyrically on the album, the best being NY State of Mind. (10/10)
RECOMENDED TO ALL RAP FANS OR WHOEVER DECIDES TO GET THIS AS THEIR FIRST RAP CD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Top 5 best songs:
Life's A Bitch
NY State of Mind
World Is Yours
It Ain't Hard To Tell
The message is:
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 2006
C. Umanzor "RAP FAN"'s review was the most ignorant thing I've ever heard. Notice his "rap fan" is in parenthesis. This album is the corner stone of all hip hop. This is what RAKIM set the stage for and what every MC wants to achieve: commercial status without compromising artistry. This album was born out of the strive for perfection and the utter disregard for public expectations. I bought this album in '97 after hearing so many people say it was the gateway to true hip-hop. They were right. The album is complete and fluid no matter how often you hear it and openly displays the possibilities of a brilliant mind at work. If there were a 10 star rating i would rate Illmatic at that. The album is most likely the most flawless hip-hop record to date and is perfect for those coming to understand rap's lyrical intricacies.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on August 31, 1999
I don't even know where to start. I normally don't write long reviews (if any), but had to for this. I didn't get into Nas from the get-go, even being a big hip-hop fan, mostly because I got sick of the whole East Vs. West thing that 2Pac & BadBoy created. It got to be tacky, and got to the point where it seemed like they were just cashing in on the whole thing. How about just making good music and cutting the crap? I thought Nas was also really into it because of what is said on the Makaveli album. After hearing great reviews of this album from friends and magazines alike, however, I bought it, and can't even believe it. This may be THE BEST hip-hop album I've ever heard. From the intro to the last second of the last song, there is NO weak spots on this album. When I listen to it (which is nearly all the time now), I feel like he actually takes the listener into his world for the duration of the recording, which is something very few artists (in any style of music) have ever been capable of doing. The lyrics, beats, and overall flow are mesmerizing, and it simply bumps like nothing I've ever heard.
Nasir Jones was 20 when he wrote this. And for it to sound this good at that age (and being his first release) means only this to me: HE WAS ALL TOO REAL when he made this, and it shows. He doesn't rant and rave on every track about how many people he kills (although legitimate street violence is an often covered topic), he doesn't babble endlessly about how many hoes he bangs, he simply states street life as he sees and lives it as a 20-year old N.Y. kid. And he does it as a LYRICAL GENIUS. It sounds so real and believable, it's almost unreal. I could go on, but I will just say this: I love a lot of 2Pac's stuff, a lot of Biggies, and a lot of other stuff from this genre (36 Chambers from Wu Tang was a classic), but when it comes down to an individual album breakdown, I don't feel ANY artist has created something as monumental as this in the hip-hop world. Not one. I've heard "It Was Written" a bit, and liked it, although it didn't touch this flawless piece of work. And I'm afraid to get "I Am..." because of my deep despise for Puff Daddy and what he's done (and still does) to hip-hop music. But nothing can really touch this. Everything from the album cover and inside jacket (which doesn't look like a bunch of guys trying to look thuggish for a photoshoot -- it looks legit) all the way to the mastery of the beats, lyrics, and production makes this as good as I said. I'm really not concerned with whether I like his newer stuff as much or not -- Nas accomplished more on this 40 minute album than 99 percent of artists will with all of the albums in their careers combined. He redefines "keeping it real" here, and I think created the best street-level hip-hop album to date in the process.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2003
Nas' all-time classic debut will go down as one of the most important records in the hip-hop genre of all time. Who cares if it 9 songs? "The Genesis" is an intro, but with a banging beat which makes it a perfect start for the album, it puts you in the perfect mood. 9 songs of perfection. No doubt, Nas will never reach this level again, but on the positive side, he actually has put out a few good albums lately, meaning "Stillmatic" and "The Lost Tapes". But this stands as his best all alone. I don't see how anyone can complain about the production, I mean it's hip-hop, DJ Premier (producing 3 of the cuts), The Large Professor (producing 3 of them), L.E.S., Pete Rock, and Q-Tip made some dope beats with Nas' spittin' his rhymes his own way, with influence from Rakim. The people who has called this overrated simply doesn't understand the album. Listen for yourself closely, while reading the lyrics, and just relax and feel the beats. It's hard to choose a favorite track but it's probarly "Halftime" or "Memory Lane (Sittin' In Da Park)". Simply amazing. Slept on this? Time to wake up! Classic!
21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on August 3, 2005
What could I possibly say about "Illmatic" that the other 450 reviewers haven't said already. Where do you start with an album that has been hailed time and time again, as the best hip-hop album of the 90s. It's a crowing achievement that Nas rests his reputation on comfortably. I was never into rap back in the mid-90s, so subsequently, I slept on this album up until 3 weeks ago. I finally decided to pick it up after I read an interview with one of my favorite [underground] rappers, Mr. Lif. He was grouping Nas "Illmatic" with classics from Public Enemy and BDP as some of his favorite rap albums of all time. I guess I never got into rap in the mid-90s because I didn't think it was all that great. I was never a very big fan of Dr. Dre's "The Chronic" or Snoop Dogg's work (although they undoubtedly have their strong points). Needless to say, I'm happy that Nas brought back the street poet aesthetic that hip-hop needed. Not that Nas is completely different from the bunch. He recruited the best jazz-rap producers in the biz, including Q-Tip, Pete Rock, DJ Premier, and Large Professor. The beats are strong, and Nas' lyrics are rough and tough. He really brings rap back to the hardcore street style of Rakim, Chuck D, and Gang Starr. Most importantly, Nas brands himself as a highly literate street poet. The lyrics are observatory reactions to everyday life. His outlook is more interesting than what a lot of emcees bring to the table. Without a doubt, Nas is an emcee's emcee. His fluid flow is nothing less than addictive ear candy for yours truly.
You will hear a lot of hip-hop heads going on about how 1994 was the year for hip-hop. I have never understood that. 1988 was the year for rap. But after hearing a record like "Illmatic", I can see where they are coming from. Although I can't honestly say that this stuff is more groundbreaking than Boogie Down Productions, Public Enemy, Eric B. & Rakim, Ice-T, Beastie Boys etc.. I will say that Nas has made something that stands strongly next to those talents. But to think that this is more groundbreaking than some records from 1987 or 1988 is a bit ridiculous. Nas might have a state of the art flow, but the beats are hardly groundbreaking (not to say they're bad, because they're great).
Since rap moved it's way into the mainstream by the mid-90s, "Illmatic" was pretty successful on the charts. "It Ain't Hard to Tell" reached number 3, "One Love" and "The World Is Yours" reached number 6 and "Half Time" reached number 8. That's pretty substantial for a hip-hop record back then. But I would have to say my favorite cut would be "Life's a Bi*ch".
Nas came in at the right time to stir up the music industry. It was a positive step away from the Chronic-era that brought things back to brass tactics. I can fully understand why this album is at the top of every hip-hop heads top 10 list. But I have a bigger question. Who the hell is going to save us from the bling-bling era of rap. Seriously, is mainstream rap dead? If you ask me, yes, yes it is. It's sad that people hate rap because of the horrible reputation it's been given by artists like Cam'Ron, Chingy, Nelly, and countless other (c)rap artists. That's the way I felt until I discovered underground rap. Rap is still alive, and artists like Atmosphere, Eyedea & Abilities, Brother Ali, Binary Star, Company Flow (El-P), Mr. Lif, Edan, Latyrx, Lyrics Born, Aesop Rock, Sage Francis...etc are as real as it gets. And if you ask this reviewer, the new underground hip-hop brought forth by labels such as Rhymesayers and Definitive Jux is becoming just as influential as old-school hip-hop (late 80s). Don't give up on the genre, just give up on the mainstream aspect of it.