Monday, March 23, 2009
Last summer, my then-girlfriend asked me to put her on to some hip-hop.
Whenever I get a request like this from someone relatively uninitiated in the genre, I seldom know exactly where to start. After some consideration, I did what I thought made the most sense and started her off with the best: an 80-minute CD-R of Nas' finest tracks.
It's apropos. Fact: Nasir Bin Olu Dara Jones is the best rapper ever. Bar none. Period. Accept no substitutes.
Next month marks fifteen years since the release of his seminal freshman album Illmatic. XXL Magazine - a periodical that long ago lost relevance - celebrated the event with an article on the album's making of; with interviews from all the beat makers, producers and the man himself on how each track and the album as a whole came together.
The pictures of a 20-year-old Nas and company capture the true grit of New York hip-hop culture during its renaissance period, and the stories behind the album's ten tracks shine a new and intriguing light on material that I can recite from front to back. ("N.Y. State of Mind" first verse in one take! Busta Rhymes could have taken the beat for "Halftime"!)
Illmatic is one of the top three best hip-hop albums of all time, one of very few perfect records and the best example of the genre's finest producers behind truly prolific wordplay that has withstood the test of time. No matter what Nas does for the rest of his career, no one can take this from him.
For your consideration (click on each scan to bring up the whole thing):