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4.8 out of 5 stars125
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 2 August 2004
Often cited as one of the best hip-hop albums of the '90s, Illmatic is the undisputed classic upon which Nas' reputation rests. It helped spearhead the artistic renaissance of New York hip-hop in the post-Chronic era, leading a return to street aesthetics. Yet even if Illmatic marks the beginning of a shift away from Native Tongues-inspired alternative rap, it's strongly rooted in that sensibility. For one, Nas employs some of the most sophisticated jazz-rap producers around: Q-Tip, Pete Rock, DJ Premier, and Large Professor, who underpin their intricate loops with appropriately tough beats. But more importantly, Nas takes his place as one of hip-hop's greatest street poets - his rhymes are highly literate, his raps superbly fluid regardless of the size of his vocabulary. He's able to evoke the bleak reality of ghetto life without losing hope or forgetting the good times, which become all the more precious when any day could be your last. As a narrator, he doesn't get too caught up in the darker side of life - he's simply describing what he sees in the world around him, and trying to live it up while he can. He's thoughtful but ambitious, announcing on "N.Y. State of Mind" that "I never sleep, 'cause sleep is the cousin of death," and that he's "out for dead presidents to represent me" on "The World Is Yours." Elsewhere, he flexes his storytelling muscles on the classic cuts "Life's a Bitch" and "One Love," the latter a detailed report to a close friend in prison about how allegiances within their group have shifted. Hip-hop fans accustomed to 73-minute opuses sometimes complain about Illmatic's brevity, but even if it leaves you wanting more, it's also one of the few '90s rap albums with absolutely no wasted space. Illmatic is a great lyricist, in top form, meeting great production, and it remains a perennial favorite among serious hip-hop fans.
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on 4 June 2007
There, i've started off my review with that statement. So why do I think Illmatic is worth that accolade. Well, I'd say it's the greatest for a number of reasons, one of them being the impact this album had on the rap world. Nas practically invented a new style of delivery, which influeneced every rapper going, and most rappers still use this style to this day.

My other reason is the lyrics. Nas is a true poet, and possibly the best lyricist in the game ever, maybe not in terms of wordplay like Rakim, but just the ability to tell a story in an articulate way is just astounding. Tracks like N.Y. State Of Mind and The World Is Yours depict what life is like growing up in New York as a working class individual, and considering Nas was only 20 at the time, it's like Bob Dylan writing Blowin' In The Wind, for the 90's.

The album is short for a rap album, containing only nine tracks and one skit. The phrase quality over quantity springs to mind immediately, because for me, seven of the tracks I'd rate as 5-star classics. Rap just doesn't get any better than this. Show any hater who thinks they know about rap, and slags it off, this masterpiece, and they'll be converted.

For me, this is the greatest rap album ever made, and is in my all time top 10 of all genres. This is as essential as Sgt. Pepper's, London Calling, or The Queen Is Dead.
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on 30 November 2003
One of the most influential and innovative poets of rap. Along with 2pac, Raekwon and NWA. This album is so short and sweet it feels like a lyrical high that invokes the senses to the maximum. Illmatic doesnt exemplify gangsta rap, or conscious rap, this album begins a long line of albums and emcees i call POETRY. Although there were emcees like Nas be4 him like Rakim and G.U.R.U. his album doesnt sound as dated. Pete Rock's symphonic melodies produce multiple eargasms for any rap fiend. And his lyrics arent the slow predictable lyrics of the early 90's like RUN DMC (although all respect to them 1 love) they are the steady coherent lyrics that become trademark for him in the latter years. Fave songz NY state of mind, Lifes a bitch, Halftime, Represent and It aint hard to tell. Every song is dope and you wont want to skip songs at all. This album is so ightly edited and beautifully constructed (10 songs, no skits) that it begins to depict a diamond. A glistening true rap gem that will shine for years to come.
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on 16 April 2005
First off, I'd like to let you all know that I'm one of those 'kids' whose first experiences of rap/hip-hop was albums by artists like chingy. I liked the music solely for its beats and didn't listen for or appreciate good lyrics. The day I bought Illmatic though changed all this. I'd heard so much hype about this album and now I realise what for. Everything about it is perfect. It's 9 songs (plus Intro) are all masterpices in rapping. The way Nas percieves things and then rhymes about them flawlessly inspires me so much, and makes me realise that this is what hip-hop is all about. I love all the tracks, but my favourites are N.Y. State Of Mind, The World Is Yours and It Ain't Hard To Tell, yet, I think, the best line comes in Nas's first line of Life's A Bitch, pure brilliance.
In short, take my advice and buy this album now. I guarantee you won't regret it. One of, if not, the best.
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on 10 June 2002
if there was a sixth star, I'd give that to this album too. I bought stillmatic a while back and after enjoying tracks like '2nd childhood' I moved onto illmatic, the more critically acclaimed debut album. what can I say, every track is genius. it sounded a bit old school to me at first, some of the loops seemed a bit tedious at the time, but with every listen it became more and more infectious. I honestly think nas is hip-hops only true poet, tupac may have stood for more but on ILLMATIC nas is so fluent and consistent, his force in modern hip hop is undeniable. Every track is of the highest order but after millions of listens my fave tracks are halftime, one love, represent and it aint hard to tell. I hope this review is helpful to those who have just discovered nas, cos you'll find his new stuff quite accessable but like most hip hop albums, a bit patchy. Illmatic is 39 minutes, 10 tracks and no fillers, it truly is an urban classic.
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on 12 August 2001
If you like commercial rap such as Jay-Z, Dr. Dre, Nas' later material etc., then on the first listen of this, you won't like it at all. But on the third or fourth listen this album begins to appeal to you and eventually has you hooked. The beats [provided by Primo, L.E.S, Large Professor and Q-Tip] are unrivalled even today by anything around. Nas' lyrical content is the perfect compliment to these beats as his Ghetto poetry is sheer genius. If I hadn't known any better, I would've thought he had a college degree in English literature rather than being a High School drop out. This album is a necessity for anyone who even thinks that they may like hip-hop. It's the perfect advertisement for East Coast Rap...f*** that, it's the perfect advertisement for rap.
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on 25 November 2005
i have to agree with other reviewers and call this the best rap album ever, the lyrics on this album are quite possibly the best lyrics written in any form of music, nas has an amazing multi-syllable rhyming scheme, he uses incredible alliteration, and flows amazingly over every song. The beats are done by pete rock, big LES, dj premier, q tip and the large professor, and even though some people reviewing illmatic say the beats arent very good, i think they are actually very creative and interesting, and the producers of illmatic were the best producers around when illmatic was made, as i said before, the lyrics of illmatic are truely amazing, and its unbelievable that a 20 year old(thats how old nas was when he made illmatic) could think up lyrics like this, nas also has an interesting, voice, which makes the album better, nas paints such a perfect picture of the violent environment he grew up in, and perfectly describes his thoughts on his environment, even though he does talk about drug dealing and shooting people, he does not only rap about those things, he also raps about raps about his depression, his daughter,dead friends, and hardship of life , illmatic tells tales of shootouts, friends in prison, and crew loyalties, all with unbelievable lyrics flow, and delievery,

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on 27 September 2001
this to me is one of the best hip hop albums ive ever heard. the lyrics are the best on a debut hip hop album ive ver heard,and the production is tight (with production by the likes of DJ premier,pete rock,large professor and L.E.S).If you liked nas's later albums,then this is a must have. Compared to it was written, i am and nastradamus(his worst album) it is a masterpiece!.
if you are a real hip hop fan u would admire nas for this album, and you would love it. its up with the best hip hop albums,biggies Ready to die,wu tangs 36 chambers,jiggas reasonable doubt,outkasts aquemini,tribes low end theory and eric b and rakims paid in full. get this album
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on 4 September 2003
Now if there was a debate ongoing claiming that Nasir JOnes was the greatest ever, i'm not sure I could fully back him, due to most of his albums not living up to this incredible piece of art. This goes beyond being vocals and beats recorded onto a round piece of plastic, this could well be the best album ever, (i know that term flies around too much). Its a simple formula which is so difficult to maintain or replicate. Nas' hard, truthfull streetlife ryhmes (which were way beyond any other 20 year old)+ top production from DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Large Professor etc = Nas' Illmatic. If u sleep on this, your missin' out. Remember, sleep is the cousin of death!
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on 29 November 2008
If there is one album in hip-hop history that should be heard by every music fan then it is Nasir Jones' Illmatic, released in 1994. Although this album is over a decade old, it still stands head and shoulders above anything that is being released today. Why? It has the two key components of a great rap album, fantastic production and incredible lyricism.
Some people may be put off by the short track listing, only 10 tracks (1 of which is an intro) but don't be. Although the album is only about 40 minutes long, it is 40 unforgettable minutes that you will want to hear over and over again.
From a lyrical perspective, this album has probably never been equaled. Whether it is multi's, wordplay, internal rhyming, story-telling, whatever you are after, it is on here, hence why after the albums release, Nas was immediately hailed as the 'new Rakim'. High praise indeed and totally justified on this evidence.
There's very little praise that I can give this album that has not been given already. To put it simply, the production is fantastic, Nas is jaw-dropping on every single track and the guest verse from AZ is arguably the greatest guest verse of all time as he matches Nas lyric for lyric.
The result is arguably the best rap album ever recorded.
No Hip-Hop album collection is complete without this gem.
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