In a new TC Segment, we’re gonna travel back in time, embracing the past and revisiting albums that have had a massive impact at how we perceive music today.
Illmatic’s impact on hip hop is unquestionable. New York MC Nasir Jones seemed to come out of nowhere with his smooth flow and slicing lyricism. Unbeknownst to many, Illmatic is actually the first hip hop record to include multiple producers on different tracks, rather than one producer for the entire project, opening a door for both rappers and producers to explore different style to match up. In a multitude of ways, this album is the reason why the 90’s is referred to as the golden age of hip hop. For the inaugural tbtReview, we’re gonna dissect the record and take a look at just what exactly made the record so powerful.
Out the gate, this album smacks you in the face ridiculously hard. The intro track The Genesis opens up with a couple bars of the grimiest of lyrics, like “Street’s disciple, my raps are trifle. I shoot slugs from my brain just like a rifle.”, giving you just a taste of the absolutely nasty lyricism you’re gonna here on the whole album. N.Y. State of Mind, the first full track on the album, opens up crazy as well. Nas’ line “rappers, I monkey flip ’em with the funky rhythm I be kickin‘“, pushed me to the back of my chair, covering my mouth with my fist and letting out a smooth “oooweeeee”. True hip hop fans know how iconic The World Is Yours is, aging beautifully but maintaining the same meaning for the past 22 years. Nas’ classic served as not only a N.Y. anthem, but an anthem for years for hoods everywhere. Throughout the entirety of the project, Nas surely lives up to the name Nasty Nas.
The album represents New York at its finest off production alone. With his mentor Large Professor unable to produce his entire album, Nas unknowingly changed the face of hip hop by collaborating with multiple producers. Beats from the likes of New York legends Pete Rock, Large Professor, and DJ Premier all grace the albums, helping further cement it as one of the greatest New York records in history. Exploring the idea of multiple producers lead to producers being able to work with pretty much whoever they wanted. Fast forward to today, and a project between one artist and one producer and one artist has become sort of an event, like PRhyme, the project formed by Detroit rapper Royce Da 5’9″ and DJ Premier. This album helped set in motion hip-hop as we know it.
Timeless is the simplest explanation of this album. For its time, it was innovative and unique, yet grounded and familiar. Going off this, it’s no wonder that Nas went on to be known as one of the greatest to ever do it.