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Nas' 'Illmatic' | For The Record
The GRAMMY-nominated rapper Nas is nothing short of legendary, giving the world plenty of his smooth lyricism and iconic verses in his releases over the years. To date, he has released 11 studio albums, the most recent being the Kanye West-produced Nasir, which dropped this summer as part of West's Wyoming sessions releases. Since the start Nas has been turning heads and paving the way for other hip-hop artists. His debut LP, Illmatic, not only put him firmly on the map, but also provided a revitalization of the East Coast rap sound.
A 20-year-old Nas released his first full-length album, Illmatic on April 19, 1994, to much critical acclaim. Source blessed it with a rare 5 Mic rating when it came out, an honor they had only given to 15 albums at the time of release. The LP was a work of love. It was produced by DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Q-Tip, Large Professor, L.E.S. and Nas, in the rapper's hometown of New York City and shared a snapshot of life in the streets of NYC, set to melodic hip-hop beats. Nas shared his experience with the world in a raw yet refreshing way. As he raps on "N.Y. State of Mind," "Life is parallel to hell but I must maintain."
Source's Shortie captured the anticipation and excitement around the album in her 1994 review. "After peeping his soul on 'Live at the BBQ,' 'Back to the Grill,' and the official bomb, 'Halftime,' street dwellers and industry folks alike were predicting Nas' first album to be monumental," she shared. "I must maintain that this is one of the best hip-hop albums I have ever heard. Musically, when Nas hooked up with four of hip-hop's purest producers, it seems like all of the parties involved took their game to a higher level of expression," she furthered. Those would be echoed by countless fans and critics at the time and retrospectively.
As the rapper said himself when explaining the meaning of the title, the album most definitely is "supreme ill" or "as ill as it gets." The album debuted and peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard 200, and although its singles surprisingly did not chart, the songs, including "The World Is Yours" and "One Love," featuring co-producer Q-Tip, have had a long-lasting impact and staying power through speakers and in the hip-hop arsenal of records. These tracks, and the album as a whole, are often credited as creating the blueprint for the new East Coast hip-hop sound that thrived following its release.