As I was listening to Illmatic I had the following question in my mind: what is it that makes for a hip-hop album that I end up enjoying. There’s an argument to be made that I am only listening to the best of the best thanks to this list, which must increase the chances of me accumulating a number of albums that I would like listening to. This hasn’t always been the case, then again it hasn’t been the case across all genres, but I think there has been an overall net positive.
That being said, I think that Illmatic is the best hip hop album that I’ve come across so far. There were elements of Raising Hell and Licensed to Ill that I liked, but I think that Illmatic isn’t just the best of the three, but it is also the most consistent. Never would I have thought that I would actually happily stick a hardcore hip hop album on repeat, or even pick out certain songs for standalone listening – then steps in Nas and Illmatic to challenge my expectations.
One of the things that I have always taken issue with when it comes to hip hop is the posturing and the shock tactics that are use, Illmatic does none of this. Nas finds anger and attitude in the more honest depictions of his world as well as finding the poetry. Where I liked the Beastie Boys’ lyrics for the humour, Nas is smart. Also, this is an incredibly well produced and well-mixed album.
Next time on this album list, I think I really need to listen to The Chronic by Dr. Dre. Given the rivalry between east and west coast rappers, it only makes sense that I give the other side of the USA a go. Also, given the amount of television from the 1990s that reference this rivalry, it’ll be good to finally know what the difference is.