Released in 1994, Nasir Jones’ debut studio album is one of the most beloved and respected hip-hop albums of all time. Many consider Illmatic to be the best hip-hop album of all time, myself included.
Illmatic is musical storytelling at its absolute finest, taking the listener on a rollercoaster-esque journey through the realities of life in Queens, New York. Nas didn’t spare any details; Nas wanted the listener to see into his world as vividly as possible.
Nas succeeded in that, making Illmatic as visual and enrapturing as a movie. His superior storytelling and rhyme schemes were met with fitting, gritty production that further executed his vision. Nas’ delivery across Illmatic is so flawless that the story resonates with even the whitest, most suburban listener. Illmatic paints a picture of poverty, crime, and drug addiction that could be understood by anyone who listens close enough.
STANDOUT TRACKS: With 10 tracks and a running time of 40 minutes, Illmatic is a certified no-skip. However, my personal favorites are “N.Y. State of Mind”, “Life’s a Bitch”, “The World is Yours”, “Memory Lane” (Sittin’ In Da Park), “One Love”, and “It Ain’t Hard To Tell”.
FINAL VERDICT: Illmatic is, for good reason, widely considered one of the most important albums of all time. Not just hip-hop, but all genres. Illmatic revived the East Coast hip-hop scene and totally redefined what hip-hop could be. With the public perception of hip-hop still infantile in the early 90s, Nas capitalized on that to change the game forever.
What’s your favorite track off Illmatic? Do you consider Illmatic to be the GOAT? Let us know in the comments!