Nas celebrates the 20th anniversary of Illmatic
Legacy drops Platinum Edition
In hip-hop, an album that is twenty years old is ancient. Typically a young man’s game, although there are certainly exceptions, hip-hop moves at breakneck speed, rarely looking back in its rearview. However, Illmatic has aged beautifully and is considered by many to be the gold standard for hip-hop albums. With its production handled by well-respected names like Large Professor, DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Q-Tip, and L.E.S., it blends seamlessly for being constructed by multiple beatsmiths. The laidback vibes of “Memory Lane (Sittin’ in da Park),” the sonic blast that is “N.Y. State of Mind” with its murky piano, and the jazzier “The World Is Yours” help to paint a musical backdrop on Illmatic.
However, it’s Nasir Jones that provides the imagery with his potent pen to fill out the rest of the portrait. There have been few in hip-hop’s forty years who have been able to blend street smarts with poetic pensiveness and precision. Lyrically, he’s quite possibly the best to ever grab a mic. For a twenty-year-old MC to possess the ability to pull a project together like this on his first attempt is something to behold. The genre has seen more ambitious affairs, but as an album experience, Illmatic still remains king.
The album is a life-dividing event for Nas in 2014. While it’s been an amazingly quick twenty years since it hit shelves originally in April of 1994, the MC was that same age upon its release. As stated in the press release by the maestro himself—“I’m here today because of Illmatic”—it’s clear that he recognizes how important this album has been to his career. While many artists in the genre fade due to a multitude of reasons, each solo release since 1994 has been a hugely anticipated event, thanks in part to his lyrics remaining impressively consistent.
While the ten-year anniversary release utilized newer remixes, the twentieth anniversary helps to develop the story leading up to the album itself. A bonus disc contains a 1990/91 demo of “I’m a Villain” that foreshadows of the greatness to come from a late teenager. Fast forward to October of 1993, and a Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito freestyle with his crew whetted the appetites of anyone who heard it on the radio mere months before Illmatic would drop. Its first commercial release is presented here. The Butcher remix of “Halftime” represents the earliest remix of the eight on the bonus disc with the rest seeing the light of day in 1994, including the Arsenal remix of “Life’s a Bitch.”
Disc 1: Remastered original album
1. The Genesis
2. N.Y. State of Mind
3. Life’s a Bitch
4. The World Is Yours
6. Memory Lane (Sittin’ in da Park)
7. One Love
8. One Time 4 Your Mind
10. It Ain’t Hard to Tell
Disc 2: Demos, Remixes & Live Radio
1. I’m a Villain (previously unreleased)
2. The Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show on WKCR October 28, 1993 (previously unreleased freestyle)
3. Halftime (Butcher Remix)
4. It Ain’t Hard To Tell (Remix) (promo single)
5. One Love (LG Main Mix)
6. Life’s a Bitch (Arsenal Mix) (promo single)
7. One Love (One L Main Mix)
8. The World Is Yours (Tip Mix)
9. It Ain’t Hard to Tell (The Stink Mix) (U.K. single)
10. It Ain’t Hard to Tell (The Laidback Remix) (U.K. single)
• • •
The contest is now over.
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