Illmatic released in April 1994 is often considered the greatest hip hop album ever made whatever that entails! Tracks like New York State of Mind and Life's A Bitch demonstrate Nas' great lyrical flow and storytelling about the Queensbridge housing projects where he grew up in. Sample lyrics include:
It drops deep as it does in my breath
I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death
Beyond the walls of intelligence, life is defined
I think of crime when I'm in a New York state of mind
Add in DJ Premier from Gang Starr providing the production and it's the two most talented hip hop artists at the time. There's not a bad track on it as 'Nasty' Nas goes from thoughtful ballads One Love and Memory Lane to Moet-in-the-air party anthem Represent. The result is an inspired album that eats one dimensional MTV rappers for breakfast. (cough cough Jay-Z, 50 Cent). Also what a great cover!
His subsequent albums It Was Written (1996), I Am (1999) and especially in 2001 Stillmatic were all still far above the competition for those who rate great rapping, production and musicanship. He has also released an untitled album in 2008, including a welcome diss against Fox News, aptly named Sly Fox. How many rapper would have the brains and kahunas to do this?
Slick shit, sensin' misinformationLater on he gets quite specific.
Pimp the station, over stimulation
Reception, deception Comcast digital Satan
The Fox has a bushy tail and Bush tells lies and Fox trots
So I don't know what's real
They say I'm all about murder-murder and kill-killAh screw it here's the vide-e-i-o-a!
But what about Grindhouse and Kill Bill?
What about Cheney and Halliburton?
The backdoor deals on oil fields
How's Nas the most violent person?
Nas' mate and made the only Illmatic guest appearance on Life's A Bitch. His verse on that matches Nas so I checked out his first album Doe or Die.
It does not disapoint and stands up to Illmatic. While superior to most other hip hop it's understandably not held in the same esteem as Illmatic, it's overlong and lacks the originality and range of Nas' effort, and it came out a year later. The rhymes are great though and delivered with intent as well as dexterity and speed.
More friends of Nas and AZ.