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Artist: AZ; Olu Dara
Distributor: Sony Music Distribution (
Notes: Personnel includes: Nas, AZ (vocals); Olu Dara (trumpet). Producers: DJ Premier, L.E.S., Pete Rock, Q-Tip, The Large Professor. Engineers include: Eddie Sancho, Jason Vogel, Jamey Staub. Recorded at Chung King Studios, D & D Recording and Battery Studios, New York, New York. Personnel: Nas, A.Z. (rap vocals); Olu Dara (trumpet). Producers: DJ Premier, L.E.S., NAS, Pete Rock, The Large Professor, Q-Tip. Engineers include: Eddie Sancho, Jamey Staub, Kevin Reynolds. Includes a bonus disc with select remixes. Personnel includes: Nas, AZ. Producers include: The Large Professor, Pete Rock, L.E.S., DJ Premier, Q-Tip. Out of a seemingly endless array of hip hop albums, every now and again something fresh and powerful rises to the top of the pile. Hailing from the Queensbridge Housing Projects in Long Island City (home to Marley Marl among others), 20-year old Nasir "Nas" Jones is less concerned with being an impersonator than with being an originator, bypassing adolescent fantasies and B-boy braggadocio in favor of jazzy beats, rap noir realism and new answers to urban despair. ILLMATIC is his story, a cautionary tale of the inner-city streets, and as Nas makes plain on his opener, "The Genesis," this is what he does, with or without a record contract, and it's going to be served up straight, no chaser. And because Nas has the courage to transcend popular trends, to separate himself from the ranks of wannabes and me-toos, he may be on the verge of inaugurating some stylistic changes of his own. Production-wise, Nas has gathered together some of the superstars of the hip hop underground, producers the likes of Q-Tip, Pete Rock, L.E.S., DJ Premier and The Large Professor, but it is Nas's unique rhythmic cadences, his idiomatic sense of on-the-street wordplay, his disrespect for the high time and the empty rhyme that distinguishes ILLMATIC. When Nas rocks the mic, it's not a hedonist's wet dream, but a depiction of urban hope and despair, and thanks to Nas's poetic insights, he soon transports you there (in a manner seldom seen in black pop since the days of Stevie's INNERVISIONS and Marvin Gaye's WHAT'S GOIN' ON?).
Rolling Stone (5/13/99, p.73) - Included in Rolling Stone's "Essential Recordings of the 90's." Rolling Stone (8/25/94, p.88) - 4 Stars - Excellent - "...Nas' no-nonsense urban tales pair ILL's every beautiful moment with its harsh antithesis..." Spin (8/94, p.84) - Highly Recommended - "...ILLMATIC pays serious mind to uncertain sources, to abstract anxiety, spiritual and otherwise....These are powerfully stressed-out images, but Nas hints that he's after something more personally revealing..." Q (5/97, p.142) - "...the musical backdrops are razor sharp; hard bears but with melodic hooks and loops, atmospheric background piano, strings or muted trumpet, and samples...A potent treat." Vibe (6/02, p.108) - Ranked #4 in Vibe's "Top 10 rap albums" - "...As perfect as 39 hip hop minutes get..." The Source (4/94, p.73) - 5 Mics - Classic - "...I must maintain that this is one of the best hip-hop albums I have ever heard...No cliched metaphors, no gimmicks...Never too abstract, never superficial. Even the skit-intros are meaningful..." The Source (4/94, p.73) - 5 Stars - Classic - "...I must maintain that this is one of the best hip-hop albums I have ever heard...No cliched metaphors, no gimmicks...Never too abstract, never superficial. Even the skit-intros are meaningful..." Musician (8/94, p.95) - "...ILLMATIC could be one of the finest conventional hip-hop albums ever made...Nas is a dark, compelling lyricist who enunciates cleanly and quickly, leaving the listener able to hear everything he says, but racing to follow the meaning..." Mojo (Publisher) (p.103) - 5 stars out of 5 - "Concise, focused and lyrically dazzling, ILLMATIC remains one of hip hop's must-buys..." NME (Magazine) (12/24/94, p.23) - Ranked #33 in NME's list of the `Top 50 Albums Of 1994.' NME (Magazine) (7/9/94, p.44) - 9 - Excellent Plus - "...Nas' upbringing oozes from every pore of the music. This is the true voice of where Nas comes from, set to 40 minutes of rhythmic perfection. A stunner..."
With charged poetic lyrics spit in an almost impossibly smooth flow, Nas turned the rap world on its ear in 1994 when the Queens MC unleashed the instantly immortal ILLMATIC. The immaculate record contained few frills, no skits, no celebrity cameos, just the rapper's deceptively complex rhymes, words that lounged in the listener's psyche for days after, layered over beats by some of the best producers of the day. While the following years would find Nas hard-pressed to live up to his supernova debut, he quietly released solid records. In 2001, his spirit revived by a beef with Jay-Z (they would reunite on stage years later), he released the acerbic STILLMATIC, which was followed by a string of critically praised records, but no shortage of controversy.
Also Appears On:
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Blu Boogie Down Productions Craig G D.O.C. (The) EPMD Eric B. & Rakim Gang Starr J, LL Cool Jackson 5 (The) Kane, Big Daddy Kool G. Rap Main Source Marley Marl Public Enemy Rakim Sermon, Erick Tragedy Treacherous Three
East Coast Rap