A LOOK BACK: Nas Illmatic....IT'S BEEN 15 YEARS

ON THIS DAY ON APRIL 19 1994 NASIR bin OLU DARA JONES DROPPED HANDS DOWN THE BEST HIP HOP ALBUM EVER TO BE CREATED AND IF YOU ARGUE WITH ME ON THAT YOUR FUCKING CRAZY.....

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Nas - Illmatic


FIRST OF ALL I WOULD LIKE TO SAY AGAIN THIS IS MY FAVORITE ALBUMS HANDS DOWN OUT OF ALL ALBUMS I'VE HEARD IN ANY GENRE. THIS ALBUM WAS NAS' FIRST ALBUM AND WHEN HE RECORDED MOST THE SONG HE WAS ONLY 16 AND IN EACH SONG YOU CAN FEEL HIS HUNGER AND PASSION IN EACH VERSE AND HOOK. SUPER PRODUCERS AND RAW LYRICISM EQUALS THIS ALBUMS. AND I JUST FOUND OUT THAT AZ ACTUALLY GOT SIGNED OFF HIS VERSE FROM "LIFE'S A BITCH". BUT I ALWAYS HEARD NAS WROTE THAT VERSE FOR HIM THATS WHY HE DIDN'T GIVE HIM CREDIT ON THE ALBUM FOR IT....OH WELL. LEGENDARY PRODUCERS FILLED THIS ALBUM JUST TO NAME SOME OFF THE TOP OF THE HEAD L.E.S., PREMO(DJ PREMIER), LARGE PROFESSOR, PETE ROCK, Q-TIP....I MIGHT BE MISSING SOMEONE BUT OH WELL. THIS ALBUM HAS BEEN NAMES IN COUNTLESS HIP HOP AND ROCK MAGAZINES AS ONE THE BEST ALBUMS EVER. AND DAMN NEAR IN EVERY MAGAZINE IT RECIEVES THE #1 SPOT THATS GUARANTEED. AND TO THINK WHEN THIS ALBUM FIRST DEBUTED IN 1994 IT DIDN'T SELL WELL AT ALL THE CLASSIC AND CULT FOLLOWING OF IT IS WHAT GOT THE ALBUMS IT'S MULTI PLATINUM NUMBERS. MOST OF THE ALBUM WAS PREVIOUSLY RECORDING WHEN NAS WAS ONLY 16 AND BEFORE HE WAS DISCOVERED ON THE TRACK "LIVE FROM THE BARBEQUE. IF YOU NEVER HEARD THE BEFORE ILLMATIC DEMO TAPE YOU NEED TO CHECK THAT OUT ASAP.

A LITTLE HISTORY LESSON FOR THOSE UNFAMILIAR WITH THIS ALBUM.....

BACK GROUND OF THE ALBUM...

As a teenager, Nas had chosen to pursue a career in rapping and had enlisted his best friend and neighbor, Queensbridge, Queens-native Willy "Ill Will" Graham, as his DJ. Nas first went by the nickname "Kid Wave" before adopting his more commonly known alias of "Nasty Nas". At fifteen, Nas met seventeen-year old producer Large Professor from Flushing, Queens, and was introduced to Main Source, a hip hop group of which Large Professor was a member. Nas made his recorded debut with Main Source, recording the opening verse on "Live at the Barbeque", from Main Source's debut studio album Breaking Atoms (1991), which would soon gather a considerable cult following. He later made his solo debut on the 1992 single "Halftime" for the soundtrack to the drama film Zebrahead (1992). The single added to the buzz surrounding Nas, earning him comparisons to the influential golden age rapper Rakim.[4] Despite the substantial buzz this collaboration generated for Nas in the underground scene, the rapper struggled to gain a recording contract, and was rejected by major rap labels such as Cold Chillin' and Def Jam Recordings. Nas and DJ "Ill Will" Graham continued to work together, but their partnership was cut short when Graham was shot and killed by a gunman in his native Queensbridge on May 23, 1992,[5] while his brother had also been shot, and survived, that night. Nas later cited this moment as "wake-up call" for him.

Meanwhile, the hip hop group 3rd Bass had dissolved, and MC Serch, a former member of the group, began working on a solo project. In mid-1992, Serch approached Nas. At the suggestion of producer T-Ray, Serch collaborated with Nas for "Back to the Grill", the lead single for Serch's solo debut album, Return of the Product (1992). At the recording session of this song, Serch discovered that Nas did not have a recording contract and, as a result, he contacted Faith Newman, an A&R executive at Sony Music Entertainment. As Serch recounted, "Nas was in a position where his demo had been sittin' around, 'Live at the Barbeque' was already a classic, and he was just tryin' to find a decent deal ... So when he gave me his demo, I shopped it around. I took it to Russell first, Russell said it sounded like G Rap, he wasn't wit' it. So I took it to Faith. Faith loved it, she said she'd been looking for Nas for a year and a half. They wouldn't let me leave the office without a deal on the table.Once MC Serch assumed the role of executive producer for Nas's upcoming debut album, he attempted to connect Nas with various producers. Based on his buzz at the time, numerous New York-based producers were eager to work with him and soon entered the Power House Studios with Nas. Among those producers was DJ Premier,who was known for his raw, aggressive production and heavy scratching, as well as his work with rapper Guru as a part of Gang Starr. Following his first solo production work on Lord Finesse & DJ Mike Smooth's debut album Funky Technician (1990) and Jeru the Damaja's debut album The Sun Rises in the East (1994), Premier began recording exclusively at D&D Studios prior to working with Nas.


RECORDING OF THE ALBUM....

Prior to recording, DJ Premier had listened to Nas's debut single, later stating "When I heard 'Half Time', that was some next shit to me. That's just as classic to me as 'Eric B For President' and 'The Bridge'. It just had that type of effect. As simple as it is, all of the elements are there. So from that point, after Serch approached me about doing some cuts, it was automatic. You'd be stupid to pass that up even if it wasn't payin' no money." Serch later noted the chemistry between Nas and DJ Premier, recounting that "Primo and Nas, they could have been separated at birth. It wasn't a situation where his beats fit their rhymes, they fit each other." While Serch contacted DJ Premier, Large Professor contacted Pete Rock to collaborate with Nas on a song that would ultimately be entitled "The World Is Yours". Shortly afterwards, New York producers Q-Tip and L.E.S. also gained the opportunity to work with Nas. Nas's father, Olu Dara, also contributed to the album. His cornet solo and rapper AZ's vocals were mixed with Nas's rapping in "Life's a Bitch". Throughout the recording, expectations for Illmatic were high, as AZ later stated "I got on Nas' album and did the 'Life's a Bitch' song, but even then I thought I was terrible on it, to be honest. But once people started hearing that and liking it, that's what built my confidence. I thought, 'OK, I can probably do this.' That record was everything. To be the only person featured on Illmatic when Nas is considered one of the top men in New York at that time, one of the freshest new artists, that was big."[10] During the sessions for Illmatic, Nas composed the song "Nas Is Like", which would later appear as a single from his third studio album I Am… (1999).

Concerning the recording of the album's opening song "N.Y. State of Mind", producer DJ Premier later stated "Nas — he’s one of our saviors now. When we did ‘N.Y. State of Mind,’ at the beginning when he says, ‘Straight out the dungeons of rap / Where fake niggas don’t make it back,’ then you hear him say, ‘I don’t know how to start this shit,’ ’cause he had just written it. He’s got the beat running in the studio, but he doesn’t know how he’s going to format how he’s going to convey it. So he’s going, ‘I don’t know how to start this shit,’ and I’m counting him in [to begin his verse]. One, two, three. And then you can hear him go, ‘Yo,’ and then he goes right into it." DJ Premier later discussed the unexpectedness of Nas's delivery during the recording, stating "He didn’t know how he was gonna come in, but he just started going because we were recording. I’m actually yelling, ‘We’re recording!’ and banging on the [vocal booth] window. ‘Come on, get ready!’ You hear him start the shit: Rappers…. And then everyone in the studio was like, ‘Oh, my God’, ’cause it was so unexpected. He was not ready. So we used that first verse. And that was when he was up and coming, his first album. So we was like, 'Yo, this guy is gonna be big.'" With the majority of the album recorded, Premier contributed one last song. After the album's completion, Nas discovered that Pete Rock was sexually involved with a romantic partner of his at the time, resulting in the two falling out and not working with each other since.


PRODUCTION ON THE ALBUM....

Illmatic also gained praise for its production. DJ Premier's production on the album has been noted by critics for his minimalist style, which featured simple loops over heavy beats. According to critics, the album's four major producers (Large Professor, DJ Premier, Pete Rock, and Q-Tip) extensively contributed to the cohesive atmospheric aesthetic that permeated the album, while still retaining each's individual, trademark sound. Q magazine noted that "the musical backdrops are razor sharp; hard beats but with melodic hooks and loops, atmospheric background piano, strings or muted trumpet, and samples ... A potent treat." With regards to Illmatic's production, one columnist wrote: "The production, accentuated by infectious organ loops, vocal samples, and synthesizer-like pads in the background, places your mind in a cheerful, reminiscent, mood...A substantial reason for its phenomenal quality...can be attributed to..the most accomplished and consistently excellent music producers."


ARTWORK ON THE ALBUM....

In an early promotional interview, Nas claimed that the name "Illmatic" (meaning "beyond ill" or "the ultimate") was a reference to his incarcerated Queensbridge friend, Illmatic Ice. Nas later described the title name as "supreme ill. It's as ill as ill gets. That shit is a science of everything ill." The album cover features a picture of Nas as a child, which was taken after his father, musician Olu Dara, returned home from an overseas tour. The original cover was intended to have a picture of Nas holding Jesus Christ in a headlock, reflecting the religious imagery of Nas's rap on "Live at the Barbeque"; "When I was 12, I went to hell for snuffing Jesus". The accepted cover, designed by Aimee Macauley, features a photo of Nas as a child superimposed over a backdrop of a New York city block,taken by Danny Clinch. In a 1994 interview, Nas discussed the concept behind the photo of him at age 7, stating "That was the year I started to acknowledge everything around me. That's the year everything set off. That's the year I started seeing the future for myself and doing what was right. The ghetto makes you think. The world is ours. I used to think I couldn't leave my projects. I used to think if I left, if anything happened to me, I thought it would be no justice or I would be just a dead slave or something. The projects used to be my world until I educated myself to see there's more out there."

XXL magazine called the album cover a "high art photo concept for a rap album" and described the artwork as a "noisy, confusing streetscape looking through the housing projects and a young boy superimposed in the center of it all." The XXL columnist also compared the cover to that of rapper Lil Wayne's sixth studio album Tha Carter III (2008), stating that it also "reflects the reality of disenfranchised youth today." Music columnist Byron Crawford later called the cover for Illmatic "one of the dopest album covers ever in hip-hop." On the song "Shark Niggas (Biters)" from his debut album Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...(1995), rapper Raekwon with Ghostface Killah criticized the cover of The Notorious B.I.G's Ready to Die (1994), which was released a few months after Illmatic, for featuring a picture of a baby with an afro, implying that his cover had copied the idea from Nas. In a 2009 interview with XXL, Nas discussed the purpose behind the album artwork among other promotional efforts, stating "Really the record had to represent everything Nasir Jones is about from beginning to end, from my album cover to my videos. My record company had to beg me to stop filmin' music videos in the projects. No matter what the song was about I had 'em out there. That’s what it was all about for me, being that kid from the projects, being a poster child for that, that didn’t exist back then."


PROOF I OWN THIS ALBUM....

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I WAS 4 WHEN THE ALBUM FIRST DROPPED SO I DON'T HAVE THE ORIGINAL BUT I CAN STILL REMEMBER MY POPS BUMPING IT ALL THE TIME WHEN IT CAME OUT. EVEN THOUGH I DIDN'T UNDERSTAND THE LYRICS TILL I WAS AROUND 10 OR 11 I NEED ENJOY THE INSTRUMENTALS ON IT.

ON THE INITIAL RELEASE OF THE ALBUM IT ONLY SOLD 59,OOO COPIES IN IT'S FIRST WEEK AND ONLY WAS ABLE TO GET A #12 SPOT ON THE BILLBOARD SPOTS. BUT THE POSSITIVE FEED BACK ON THE ALBUM GOT IT GOLD IN 1996 THEN EVENTUALLY PLATINUM 7 YEARS LATER IN 2001. THIS ALBUM HAS INFLUENCE SO MANY GOOD RAPPERS TO SPIT. YOU CAN ALSO SEE A LOT OF ILLMATIC BEING INFLUENCED ON JAY Z'S REASONABLE DOUBT EVEN THOUGH THE JAY STAN'S DON'T WANT TO ADMIT IT. YOU CAN PROBABLY GET ME TO CHANGE MY MIND OF A LOT OF THINGS BUT TELLING ME THERE IS A BETTER ALBUM THAN ILLMATIC.......SHIT WILL NEVER HAPPEN I DON'T WANNA HEAR IS AT ALL. YOU CAN SAVE THAT SHIT. IT AIN'T ILLMATIC FAULT NIGGAS DON'T KNOW ART WHEN THEY HEAR IT LOL. THE SAD PART ABOUT THIS ALBUM IS IT MADE AND BROKE NAS' CAREER IN SOME PEOPLES EYES NOT MINE THOUGH. ILLMATIC WAS SO GOOD OF AN ALBUM IT CAN NEVER BE REMADE I DON'T CARE WHO MAKES. NASIR JONES HIMSELF CAN NEVER MAKE AN ILLMATIC AGAIN. HE WAS DAMN NEAR CLOSE ON "IT WAS WRITTEN" BUT NO CIGAR. YOU CAN'T MAKE AN ILLMATIC. ILLMATIC MAKES ITSELF. AFTER THIS NAS PUT OUT COUNTLESS GOOD ALBUMS. I ACTUALLY LIKE EVERY SINGLE ONE OF NAS' ALBUMS INCLUDING NASTRUADAMUS. TOO ME HIS WEAKING ALBUM WAS GOD SON. YOU DON'T MAKE STILLMATIC(ANOTHER CLASSIC) AND TURN AROUND AND MAKE GOD SON LOL. BUT I GUESS ILLMATIC WAS A GIFT AND A CURSE. I LISTEN TO EVERY NEW NAS ALBUM KNOWING DAMN WELL IT WON'T BE BETTER THAN ILLMATIC LOL. BUT I'M STILL A NAS' FAN AND IN MY OPINION HE IS THE BEST RAPPER TO EVER TOUCH A MIC AND THAT'S NOT UP FOR A DEBATE KICK ROCKS. TO RAP THIS SHIT UP CLASSIC ALBUM EVERYTHING WAS FLAWLESS ON IT FROM PRODUCTION TO LYRICS. THIS IS THE REAL "BLUEPRINT" OF AN ALBUM NO OLD MAN JIGGA. NO ALBUM IS CLOSE TO THIS. ONLY ALBUM I SAY IS EVEN NEAR IS RAEKWON "ONLY BUILT 4 CUBAN LINX". WHEN I HAVE KIDS I'M GONNA MAKE THEY ASSES LISTEN TO ILLMATIC EVERY SATURDAY AND SUNDAYS NON STOP. AND I'M GONNA PASS MY COPY OF ILLMATIC FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION LIKE YOUR GRANDPA'S LOCK IT LOL. THAT'S HOW GOOD THE SHIT WAS. AND THAT ALL I GOT TO SAY....ONE MORE THING.

MY TOP 15 BEST HIP HOP ALBUMS OF ALL TIME IN MY OPINION.....

1. NAS- ILLMATIC

2. RAEKWON- ONLY BUILT 4 CUBAN LINX

3. NAS- IT WAS WRITTEN

4. WU-TANG- ENTER THE 36 CHAMBERS

5. MOBB DEEP- THE INFAMOUS MOBB DEEP....

6. A TRIBE CALLED QUEST- MIDNIGHT MAURADERS

7. BIG PUN- CAPITAL PUNISMENT

8. JAY Z- BLUEPRINT

9. B.I.G.- READY TO DIE

10. JAY Z- REASONABLE DOUBT

11. MOBB DEEP- HELL ON EARTH

12. NAS- STILLMATIC

13. SLICK RICK- THE ADVENTURES OF SLICK RICK

14. MOS DEF- BLACK ON BOTH SIDES

15. PRODIGY- H.N.I.C.


MY LIST VARIES FROM DAY TO DAY BUT ILLMATIC AND OB4CL WILL ALWAYS BE #1 AND #2.

2 COMMENTS!!!:

Flowsomuch said... / April 19, 2009 at 10:15 PM  

Great read fam! I completely agree with your take on Illmatic. Album is timeless and is a league of it's own IMHO. Your top 4 albums: Co-sign.

PennyFoamposite said... / April 20, 2009 at 7:50 PM  

:hat
I didnt the middle since i already read the wikipedia before but definitely a good read

Also my favorite, and number 1 album

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