1994 hip-hop Album released by Nas (b. Nasir Jones) on Columbia. Arguably, the greatest hip-hop album of all time, due in part to phenomenal production, handled for the most part by the legendary DJ Premier, but tracks by Large Professor should not be overlooked. Of course, the real star of this LP is Nas and his remarkable rapping ability. His flows relate primarily to the New York drug scene of the late 1980's and early 1990's, but also touch on issues not related to the street life. He tears through the beats supplied to him at a breakneck pace, moving from one idea to the next before the listener can even grasp what hit them. This is what separates Illmatic from other innovative albums that were released at the same time. Peep a verse from "N.Y. State of Mind":

I got so many rhymes I don't think I'm too sane
Life is parallel to hell but I must maintain
and be prosperous, though we live dangerous
cops could just arrest me, blamin us, we're held like hostages
It's only right that I was born to use mics
and the stuff that I write, is even tougher than dice
I'm takin rappers to a new plateau, through rap slow
My rhymin is a vitamin, hell without a capsule
The smooth criminal on beat breaks
Never put me in your box if your shit eats tapes

Nas was clearly on top form when he dropped this album, as the entire record is filled with lyrics that will have you pressing rewind. He shows a complete mastery of the art form, especially in rhyming consecutive words and in creating elaborate rhyme schemes. Only one track (Life's a Bitch) has a guest shot, and the verse dropped by AZ somehow manages to stand next to Nas' lyrical onslaught. The track closes with a trumpet solo by Olu Dara, Nas' own father and an accomplished musician in his own right.

In short, this album is one of the finest examples of early 90's hip-hop, which I would consider to be the Golden Age of the genre.

Samples or references to Illmatic have appeared on numerous hip-hop songs, such as Common's "Resurrection," Encore's "Love & Hate". Ever heard a reference to the phrase "half man half amazin?" Yeah, that was Nas. The album has truly become a classic, one that any self-respecting hip-hop head will not be without. On the other hand, Nas has always had problems living up to the standard that Illmatic set, and I feel that he will never be able to escape the shadow that these 40 minutes of perfection have cast over him.

Track Listing:
1. The Genesis
2. N.Y. State of Mind
3. Life's a Bitch feat. AZ, Olu Dara
4. The World Is Yours
5. Halftime
6. Memory Lane (Sittin' in da Park)
7. One Love
8. One Time 4 Your Mind
9. Represent
10. It Ain't Hard To Tell