Illmatic is the crown jewel of the mid-90s classics that still define the genre. Unlike Biggies Ready to Die or Jay-Zs Reasonable Doubt, which were released in its wake, Illmatic was the game-changer that forever transformed the landscape of East Coast hip-hop. Not only did it establish Nas as the Best Rapper Alive for 1994 it raised the stakes for hip-hop production, lyrical technique, content, and overall artistic ambition.
Every song on this album matters. From Premiers masterful N.Y State Of Mind to the AZ assisted Lifes A Bitch and Pete Rocks piano laced The World Is Yours Illmatic starts out with powerful trio of songs that easily could solidify this album as classic if it stopped right there. Other tracks such as Memory Lane and One Love show Nas focusing on his neighborhood and local legends that really molded him into the person he was which made them all just as important to us. Large Professor delivers the albums first single It Aint Hard To Tell while Premier delivers the albums certified street anthem Represent.
Serious to a fault, and lyrically dense to an extent that has possibly never been matched, the 20-year old Nas stood on the shoulders of his predecessors and made them proud with this one. Time is truly Illmatic.