HIP HOP WEEK #3
I always say I have a hard time getting into hip-hop because I don’t find its common strokes of gangsters, deep urban life, sex, drugs, and general grittiness to be that interesting. I was pleasantly surprised by the incredibly unique takes on the genre found on Enter The Wu Tang (36-Chambers) and The Low End Theory, but they didn’t blow my mind. So, what would be the hip-hop album that WOULD blow my mind? One about gangsters, deep urban life, sex, drugs, and general grittiness.
I really don’t understand hip-hop at all.
So yeah, Illmatic is pretty much amazing, for one major reason: I find it really satisfying emotionally. It’s not even because I can relate to it (I’m one of the whitest people I know and grew up in a very rual area), but because Nas is such an incredibly engaging storyteller. His voice and flow are reminiscent of someone casually chatting your ear off, spicing his rants with vivid imagery, a sharp vocabulary, and starkly human honesty. “Memory Lane (Sittin’ in da Park)” is so colorful that it sweeps me away every time I listen to it. “Life’s a B—-” features an amazing defeatist guest verse from AZ before Nas rounds it out with a hint of hope by maturing his life philosophy. “One Love” is a series of letters to friends in prison, balancing some genuinely good encouragement and advice with horrific details of prison life.
Wow, I just started listing off highlights without even talking about the beats. They’re excellent, featuring some of the most hard-hitting atmosphere I’ve ever heard come out of a studio. The samples, piano, occasional sound effects, and thick echoing envelop the listener in a brutal New York city where the only way to survive is to NOT behave like a stereotypical rapper.
The best part of the album is how tight it is. Clocking in at a little under forty minutes with only ten tracks (one of which is a short intro), the album never loses momentum. I limited myself when talking about highlights earlier, because every song is a highlight. I didn’t even touch some of the more immortal, famous classics like “N.Y. State of Mind” or “Represent”, but rest assured they’re powerful anthemic statements. Ahhh, dangit, every song is great! Why do most hip-hop albums have to pad their length with unnecessary guest verses, skits, or singles that feel more chorus than verse? GAAAH THIS ALBUM IS FANTASTIC.
I’m sorry for the extremely short, scattershot review, but I’d really rather not write right now. I’d rather listen to Illmatic. In the bathtub or something. If you’ve had a wee bit prior experience with hip-hop and don’t mind vulgarity, I see no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy this.
Thematic Content: 5/5
Experience: Walking around New York with your chatty ex-con friend.
10+/10. Best Song: I have no idea.