by Alex Lucas
The 1990s was a transformative decade for hip-hop, a lot of the greatest rappers we think of today were at their peak in this decade. A highly talented young MC by the name of Nas shot into not just hip-hop but musical folklore at the age of just nineteen, with what many consider to be the greatest album in the genre to this day. The year is 1994, New York is rap’s epicentre, the Wu-Tang Clan, Notorious B.I.G and A Tribe Called Quest, to name a few artists, have been crafting rap records which have served as cornerstones in hip-hop.
Illmatic hit the shelves in April 1994, with a youthful Nas appearing as a fully formed, multi-faceted artist with the lyrical power and flow of someone twice his age.
This LP is a masterful allegory of New York, and specifically Queens in this era, the beats are melodic yet hard-nosed and Nas’ performance is reflective, yet emphatic.
The album is packed with classic tracks ‘N.Y. State of Mind’, ‘It Ain’t Hard to Tell’ and ‘The World is Yours’ to name a few, but every song paints a vivid picture of the dark underbelly of an ostensibly bustling city. Through consistently exceptional production and Nas’ ability to digest and then articulate issues so brilliantly, Illmatic is an utterly timeless album.
The truly classic records transport you to a place in time, even if you were never there and Illmaticis as good an example of that as any.
This album is so special to me personally, this was the record which got me into hip hop, a genre of music I now consider a firm favourite and I sincerely hope it does the same for you.