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Born to Use Mics: Reading Nas's Illmatic Paperback – December 29, 2009
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Though not an overwhelming chart success when released in 1994, Nas’ album Illmatic has long been hailed as a hip-hop masterpiece, whose sales steadily climbed until in 2001 it attained platinum status (i.e., one million-copy U.S. sales). Editors Dyson and Daulatzai corral a team of all-star commentators, including themselves, to assess the album’s merits and its place in the larger cultural context. Arriving at the very end of hip-hop’s “Golden Age,” Illmatic pointed the way for hip-hop’s post-gangsta crossover into and alteration of the pop-music mainstream. The essays aren’t easy reading, but they constitute a vital book for readers eager to understand the history of the genre. As Daulatzai observes, “There is something about Illmatic that transcends the categories of hip-hop,” though at the bottom line, “Illmatic is just a dope album, embodying everything that is hip-hop while mastering what matters most: beats and rhymes.” An absolute must for serious pop-music collections. --Mike Tribby
“A vital book for readers eager to understand the history of the genre.”