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30 Years ILL: A tribute to illmatic

A 30 year anniversary tribute to Nas’ debut album Illmatic

By Joe PattersonPublished about a month ago 5 min read
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“I sip the Dom P, watching Gandhi 'til I'm charged

Then writing in my book of rhymes, all the words past the margin

To hold the mic I'm throbbin', mechanical movement

Understandable smooth shit that murderers move with

The thief's theme, play me at night, they won't act right

The fiend of hip-hop has got me stuck like a crack pipe

The mind activation, react like I'm facin' time like

Pappy Mason, with pens I'm embracin'

Wipe the sweat off my dome, spit the phlegm on the streets

Suede Timb's on my feets makes my cipher complete

Whether crusing in a Sikh's cab, or Montero Jeep

I can't call it, the beats make me fallin' asleep

I keep falling, but never falling six feet deep

I'm out for presidents to represent me (say what?)

I'm out for presidents to represent me (say what?)

I'm out for dead presidents to represent me” - Nas (The World is Yours).

Illmatic (1994)

That there is the first verse of the song “The World Is Yours” by Nas off of his debut landmark album, Illmatic (1994). Today’s date April 19, 2024 marks exactly 30 years since Illmatic was first released and it is a must that any real fan of Hip Hop pay tribute to this album that is one of the most influential albums in Hip Hop history.

“The World is Yours” by Nas

The history and legacy of Nasir Jones, better known as Nas is well known, pretty much common knowledge in world of Hip Hop. He was an ex-drug dealer who grew up in the streets of Queens, New York and found his escape to a better life through Hip Hop. The work on his debut album that would become Illmatic began in 1992 and continued through 1993. The process of crafting this album was a special joint effort that took shape through some of greatest minds of East Coast Hip Hop.

The album’s production was handled by Some of Hip Hop’s most legendary producers including: Large Professor, DJ Premier, L.E.S, Q-Tip and Pete Rock. When combined with Nas’ vocals they formed a perfect flow of music.

“Before a blunt, I take out my fronts

Then I start to front, matter of fact, I be on a manhunt

You couldn't catch me in the streets without a ton of reefer

That's like Malcolm X catching the Jungle Fever

King poetic, too much flavor, I'm major

Atlanta ain't Brave-r, I pull a number like a pager

'Cause I'm a ace when I face the bass

40 side is the place that is giving me grace

Now wait, another dose and you might be dead

And I'm a Nike head, I wear chains that excite the feds

And ain't a damn thing gonna change

I'm a performer, strange, so the mic wonder warmer was born to gain

Nas, why did you do it?

You know you got the mad fat fluid when you rhyme, it's halftime.” - Nas (Halftime).

With Illmatic, Nas doesn’t just give the listener a good sound to jam out to, he also tells the story of the life of a kid from Queens. On songs like “The World Is Yours”, “Halftime” and “New York State Of Mind” Nas take us through his personal thoughts with his effortless flow, painting a mental picture of who he is, why he is, and how he appeals to his peers and listeners.

“I'm taking rappers to a new plateau, through rap slow

My rhymin' is a vitamin held without a capsule

The smooth criminal on beat breaks

Never put me in your box if your shit eats tapes

The city never sleeps, full of villains and creeps

That's where I learned to do my hustle, had to scuffle with freaks

I'm an addict for sneakers, 20s of buddah and bitches with beepers

In the streets I can greet ya, about blunts I teach ya

Inhale deep like the words of my breath

I never sleep, 'cause sleep is the cousin of death

I lay puzzle as I backtrack to earlier times

Nothing's equivalent to the New York state of mind.” - Nas (N.Y. State of Mind).

Nas even taps into a more heartfelt sense of storytelling with the albums songs “One Love” and “Memory Lane”. With these songs Nas pays respect to his peers who have fell victim to the criminal lifestyle of the streets. He even puts the listener in a first person point of view by revisiting his own personal accounts of these stories as he witnessed them. With all of its serious lyricism, Illmatic was not short of the crowd pleasing records you could party to and rev up a crowd with like “One Time 4 Ya Mind”, “Represent” and my top personal favorite song from the album, “It ain’t hard to Tell”.

“Yo, they call me Nas, I'm not your legal type of fella

Moet drinking, marijuana smoking street dweller

Who's always on the corner, rolling up blessed

When I dress, it's never nothing less than Guess

Cold be walking with a bop and my hat turned back

Love committing sins and my friends sell crack

This nigga raps with a razor, keep it under my tongue

The school drop-out, never liked the shit from day one

'Cause life ain't shit but stress fake niggas and crab stunts” - Nas (Represent).

Though Illmatic was not a commercial success during its initial release due to the dominating sound of West Coast Hip Hop at the present time, Nas and his debut album were universally acclaimed for its new and innovative sound that would inspire many artist of the future including: Jay-Z, Eminem, J.Cole and Kendrick Lamar. The album also gained the respect of Nas’ fellow peers of the time including: Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G.

I personally was also heavily inspired by Nas and his work on this album for the bar it’s set with its incredible display of lyricism. 30 years later Illmatic is still one of the most revered albums in Hip Hop history. It’s influence still lives and still serves as an inspiration for up and coming artist. Happy 30th birthday Illmatic, Hip Hop really appreciates all you’ve done.

“Wisdom be leakin' out my grapefruit, troop

I dominate break loops, givin' mics men-e-strual cycles

Street's disciple, I rock beats that's mega trifle

And groove even smoother than moves by Villanova

You're still a soldier, I'm like Sly Stone in Cobra

… Packin' like a Rasta in the weed spot

Vocals will squeeze Glocks

MCs eavesdrop, though they need not to sneak

My poetry's deep, I never fell

Nas' raps should be locked in a cell; it ain't hard to tell.” - Nas (It ain’t hard to Tell).

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About the Creator

Joe Patterson

Hi I'm Joe Patterson. I am a writer at heart who is a big geek for film, music, and literature, which have all inspired me to be a writer. I rap, write stories both short and long, and I'm also aspiring to be an author and a filmmaker.

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  • Stephen Kramer Avitabileabout a month ago

    Excellent job with this! I know a decent amount about the album and hip hop at this time but you still provided a ton more information and angles on this that I hadn’t known or considered. Really appreciate the effort you put into this. It was an excellent tribute. On a personal note which is pretty funny, I keep all my old CDs in my car and pop them in from time to time. And I had put this CD in a few weeks ago so it’s been playing whenever I drive. I didn’t even think of the fact that it was exactly 30 years ago and didn’t realize it came out on April 19th. So I HAVE to listen to it again today. Thank you for this great piece!

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