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May 11, 2014 | by  | in Arts Music |
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Illmatic Turns 20

Nas’s seminal contribution to East Coast hip-hop turned 20 this April. Nas was 20 when he released Illmatic. I was 20 when I cranked Illmatic the hardest. If you’re 20, you should listen to Illmatic.

Illmatic’s strengths lie in Nas’s unique narrative style and his ability to create vivid imagery. We get images from his past, growing up in the Queensbridge projects, and images of the future of hip-hop too. None of the ten tracks on the album feel their age, but specifically, ‘It Ain’t Hard to Tell’ and ‘N.Y. State of Mind’ sound entirely relevant and at home in the industry they helped shape. Throughout Illmatic, Nas pioneers his own style of narrative storytelling, one which he definitely flaunts in tracks like ‘One Love’. It’s super-apt that Illmatic comes of age just after Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City has firmly placed narrative storytelling back in rap-industry vogue. Special mention for ‘The World Is Yours’, which with Nas’s lyricism/flow and Pete Rock’s golden meddling is considered one of the greatest hip-hop songs ever recorded and one of my personal favourite tracks of all time.

To mark the 20th anniversary, the album has been re-released under the title  Illmatic XX, featuring an additional two tracks recorded in the early ‘90s and eight alternate recordings/mixes of the original ten. Nas also has a feature-length documentary planned for the 2014 film-festival circuit titled Time Is Illmatic, which looks into the making of the album and tracks its legacy within the industry.

Illmatic is widely considered one of the best hip-hop records of the ‘90s, if not of all time, and is at the top of my list (alongside OutKast’s Aquemini). Illmatic is great, everybody knows it’s great. Give it a listen if you somehow managed to miss that.

 

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