Certified PLAYER: Illmatic turns 25

By Chief Shari

Illmatic XXV: How the New York rapper created the masterpiece that left a heavy mark on music forever

Today in Hip-Hop history, Nasir Jones, a 19 year old rapper from the Queens, New York City would release his debut studio album, and change the game forever. I was only 6 years old when this music dropped, so it would be the duty of a true hip-hop lover like myself to go back and discover a vintage gem like Illmatic. It was around 2005, in high school when I was exposed to this album, and had enough maturity to truly appreciate the poetic art of Illmatic. I’ve lived with the music ever since, and it has truly become a part of who I am.


“A lot was happening in the five boroughs,” Q-Tip, who produced “One Love” , remembers on the podcast Drink Champs in 2017. “We’re talking about New York City ’93, right? That was the hottest year in recorded history: murder, crime, it was crazy. N***as was gettin’ left right where they stood, left and right, my n***a. We still livin’ in the hood! So we right around the way; we got our own lil’ fort. We got our own s**t happening right there.”


This album will place you in the Gritty aesthetic of New York City in the 1990’s, presented in such a poetic narrative only Nas can bring. On tracks like “It Aint Hard To Tell” he spits, “My mic check is life or death, breathing a sniper’s breath/ i exhale the yellow smoke of buddha through righteous steps/ Deep like The Shining, sparkle like a diamond/ Sneak Uzi on the island in my army jacket lining”. Heavy. My favorite song from the album, “The World Is Yours” has been considered one of the greatest hip-hop songs of all time. Produced by Pete Rock, the song samples “I Love Music” by Ahmad Jamal, and again Nas delivers:

sip the Dom P, watching “Gandhi” ’til I’m charged
Then writing in my book of rhymes, all the words past the margin
To hold the mic I’m throbbin’, mechanical movement
Understandable smooth shit that murderers move with
The thief’s theme: play me at night, they won’t act right

In March of 2014, Nas performed Illmatic with the National Symphony Orchestra. This year, in celebration of Black History, the Detroit Pistons brought Nas to perform Illmatic with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, March 5th, 2019.I never would imagine to have the opportunity to see Nas perform his album in Detroit, but 25 years later, I was in attendance experiencing history. I had the honor of attending the concert, and I must say, 25 years later, the songs still hit the same, if not even better. I am a lover of REAL hip-hop music with substance. On this night, he heard something with a story, lyrical content, in fusion with the finest classical musicians in Detroit. There was just a great feeling of excitement in the air, and fans went crazy for the key tracks from the project like, “The World Is Yours”, “Halftime”, and “It Aint Hard To Tell”. As a millennial , I still relate to this project just like it just came out. Great music is great music, and Illmatic is timeless. Staples like this one keep our culture golden, and will inspire the next great story teller to create history. #CERTIFIEDPLAYER



Illmatic 25th Anniversary | Apple Music

Originally Published: https://www.theplayerway.com/certified-player-illmatic-turns-25/