December 18, 2021

Nas "Stillmatic" (December 18th, 2001)

In the early '90s there were rumors of a young man who could battle hip-hop legend Rakim. No one really paid attention to this foolishness, as Rakim was the best. Eyebrows were raised, however, when an eighth-grade dropout by the name of Nasir Jones made his debut on Main Source's 1991 "Live at the Barbecue." MC Serch of 3rd Bass approached Jones about contributing to the Zebrahead soundtrack. Jones submitted the explosive "Halftime" ... More folks began to see the Rakim comparison, and when Jones, the son of Jazz musician Olu Dara, dropped his debut, Illmatic, in '94, New York's hip-hop community championed him as the second coming. Nas had arrived. The teenager--who divided his time between street hustling and reading books on African culture and Western civilization, lessons from the Five Percent Nation, scriptures from the Koran and chapters from the Bible--became the talk of the hip-hop community. On his second album, It Was Written, Nas' remarkable writing skills and impressive lyrical delivery were complemented by tracks produced by Dr. Dre, Havoc, The Trackmasters and L.E.S. This helped to expand Nas' reach beyond New York. In 1999 I Am and Nastradamus sold well and contained some notable hits like "Hate Me Now," "Nas Is Like" and "Nastradamus," but many felt that Nas had strayed from his Queensbridge Project roots...

Nas then joined a group called The Firm, which consisted of fellow rappers Foxy Brown, Nature and AZ. This project looked better on billboards than it sounded on CD, tape or vinyl. His group, QB's Finest, produced a self-titled album that yielded one hit, the X-Rated "Oochie Wally." In 2001 Nas presented the modernized version of Illmatic. Stillmatic is the genius of Illmatic updated for a new century. This project is a collection of messages focusing on political awareness, creative and personal tensions and parenthood. The first single, "Got UR Self A..." borrows A3's "Woke Up This Morning" chorus as a prelude while the observant and loquacious MC celebrates his own accomplishments and reintroduces himself to masses. The blatant and audacious "Ether" targets rapper Jay-Z, as well as those who act friendly toward Nas but behave deceitfully behind his back. The second single, "One Mic," is an inciting, enlightening and descriptive look inside the life of Nas. He simply asks to share his message with the world, and this mesmerizing drama exudes passion, humility, consciousness and determination. Like an active volcano, "One Mic" begins with a slow ooze of rhyme and builds to an eruption of heated expression and emotion. Nas is not a rapper, he's a lyricist. His lyrics contain substance, important messages, food for thought. He's not in the game for the bling-bling; the shine of jewelry doesn't matter to him. His messages are luminescent enough to brighten a black hole. - April, 2002. Is Stillmatic a classic album? It isn't to me, so... convince me!