Illmatic 10th Anniversary Platinum Edition (Columbia)



Illmatic 10th Anniversary Platinum Edition (Columbia) Galvanized as the marquee emblem of modern rap, Illmatic is the standard by which all other hip-hop albums are judged. Forging the visual rhymes of an emerging Nasty Nas with raw heat produced by an all-star cast of New York's most revered studio visionaries, the concise 10-track debut reveals the apex moment of "rotten apple" aesthetics circa 1994. Advancing the mechanical innovations of Rakim with implied rhythmic patterns ("understandable smooth shit that murderers move with"), Nas sets his lyrics upon the task of restoring the once-glorified reputation of his beloved Queensbridge locale. Simultaneously dodging bullets and DJ Premier piano keys on "NY State of Mind," the self-proclaimed "rebel to America" illustrates the dissonance of project life with the intensity of youthful conviction. The theme of street desperation continues as "Life's a Bitch" reanimates the feel of the Gap Band's "Yearning for Your Love" and the Pete Rock-produced "The World Is Yours" boastfully reaffirms the spirit of T La Rock. Between the inescapability of "Halftime," the ill contrabass movements of "One Time 4 Your Mind," and the dizzying echoes of "Human Nature" on "It Ain't Hard to Tell," Large Professor proves the ideal foreman for Nas as he succinctly admits, "my brain is incarcerated." Wielding a sticky vibraphone loop arranged by Q-Tip, "One Love" assumes the form of a touching letter written to a close friend in jail. Capturing the darker nuances of black urban reality, Illmatic is every bit as striking as it was a decade ago. While a bonus disc of remixes and B-sides, including "Star Wars," makes for a nice addition, it's difficult to augment that which is already perfect.


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