April 19th, 1994 marks the official release date of Nas’ classic debut album, Illmatic, on Columbia Records. Every superlative in the book has been used by Hip Hop purists, critics, and casual fans alike to describe this true masterpiece. Sonically powered by production from DJ Premier, Large Professor, Q-Tip, and L.E.S., Nas with a little help from AZ , Q-Tip, and Pete Rock carries the album’s 10 tracks lyrically with vivid tales of urban experience, extraordinary multi-syllabic and inside rhyme patterns, and a smooth, laid-back, spoken-word like delivery.
While Illmatic sold 59,000 copies in its first week to debut at #12 on the U.S. Billboard charts and received much critical acclaim (5 Stars in The Source, 4 Stars in Rolling Stone, an A- in Entertainment Weekly), commercially it took a while to gain momentum. It was not certified gold until January of 1996 and did not garner platinum status till 2001. Despite this, the record has become almost mythical among Hip Hop fans and is well respected by non-Rap enthusiasts as well. Its replay value is phenomenal, sounding just as fresh and entertaining today as it did back in the mid-90s. On a personal note, this is one of the few albums I’ve ever listened to that I can let play from beginning to end without skipping any tracks.
From “N.Y. State of Mind” to “Memory Lane” to “It Ain’t Hard to Tell” and everything in between, Illmatic is a true production and lyrical gem. As Nas would go on to rap on ‘Got Yourself A…’ from his 2001 album Stillmatic, “‘my first album had no famous guest appearances. The outcome; I’m crowned the best lyricist.’ True indeed Nasir Jones, and for that as well Illmatic’s across the board brilliance, we here at JP Lime Productions salute you! “Represent! Represent!”
For more takes on music, culture, politics and more, visit JP Lime Productions.