With charged poetic lyrics spit in an almost impossibly smooth flow, Nas turned the rap world on its ear in 1994 when the Queens MC unleashed the instantly immortal ILLMATIC. The immaculate record contained few frills, no skits, no celebrity cameos, just the rapper's deceptively complex rhymes, words that lounged in the listener's psyche for days after, layered over beats by some of the best producers of the day. While the following years would find Nas hard-pressed to live up to his supernova debut, he quietly released solid records. In 2001, his spirit revived by a beef with Jay-Z (they would reunite on stage years later), he released the acerbic STILLMATIC, which was followed by a string of critically praised records, but no shortage of controversy.
Vinyl Classics reissue of his debut album comes as a vinyl look-a-like CD that''s packaged in a die-cut see-through Slipcase. Columbia. 2005
Nasir Jones made this debut album at the age of 20, already armed with the calm perceptiveness and been-there-done-that attitude of a much older ghetto vet, though sometimes his inner callow youth shows itself. Illmatic is a look back at a life spent in the culture of the projects, acknowledging joy as much as pain and taking note of violence as a fact of his environment rather than a focus of his life. It''s enlivened by Nas''s kicky, deep-threaded multiple rhymes--you can tell he grew up listening to Mr. Magic''s rap show and internalizing the secrets of everybody''s flow--and by tracks from a bunch of all-stars, including the Large Professor, DJ Premier, and, most memorably, Q-Tip ("One Love"). --Douglas Wolk
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