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Nas - Nas Is Like (Dirty)

While reminiscing on his glory years, coming up with artists like JAY-Z and Biggie, Nas also gives a shoutout to the leaders of the new school, giving Drake, J. Cole, and Kendrick Lamar their props for cementing themselves as the greatest rappers of their respective generation.

Nas - Nas Is Like (Dirty)

It appears that Drake always had aspirations of being mentioned with the greats, like Nas and Jay-Z. Ed Lover recently shared that Drake admitted his goal was to be mentioned with the greats by the end of his career.

In mid-1992, MC Serch, whose group 3rd Bass had dissolved, began working on a solo project and approached Nas.[13] At the suggestion of producer T-Ray, Serch collaborated with Nas for "Back to the Grill", the lead single for Serch's 1992 solo debut album Return of the Product.[14] At the recording session for the song, Serch discovered that Nas did not have a recording contract and subsequently contacted Faith Newman, an A&R executive at Sony Music Entertainment.[15] As Serch recounted, "Nas was in a position where his demo had been sittin' around, 'Live at the Barbeque' was already a classic, and he was just tryin' to find a decent deal ... So when he gave me his demo, I shopped it around. I took it to Russell first, Russell said it sounded like G Rap, he wasn't wit' it. So I took it to Faith. Faith loved it, she said she'd been looking for Nas for a year and a half. They wouldn't let me leave the office without a deal on the table."[16]

Illmatic also garnered praise for its production. According to critics, the album's five major producers (Large Professor, DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Q-Tip and L.E.S.) extensively contributed to the cohesive atmospheric aesthetic that permeated the album, while still retaining each's individual, trademark sound.[48][49]' For instance, DJ Premier's production on the album is noted by critics for his minimalist style, which featured simple loops over heavy beats.[50] Charles Aaron of Spin wrote of the producers' contributions, "nudging him toward Rakim-like-rumination, they offer subdued, slightly downcast beats, which in hip hop today means jazz, primarily of the '70s keyboard-vibe variety".[51] Q magazine noted that "the musical backdrops are razor sharp; hard beats but with melodic hooks and loops, atmospheric background piano, strings or muted trumpet, and samples ... A potent treat."[49] One music critic wrote that "Illmatic is laced with some of the finest beats this side of In Control Volume 1".[50]

The nostalgic "Memory Lane (Sittin' in da Park)" contains a Reuben Wilson sample, which comprises the sound of a Hammond organ, guitar, vocals and percussion,[52] and adds to the track's ghostly harmonies.[59] Spence D. of IGN wrote that the lyrics evoke "the crossroads of old school hip hop and new school."[57] "One Love" is composed of a series of letters to incarcerated friends,[60] recounting mutual acquaintances and events that have occurred since the receiver's imprisonment,[47] and address unfaithful girlfriends, emotionally tortured mothers, and underdog loyalty.[61] The phrase "one love" signifies street loyalty in the song.[57] After delivering "shout-outs to locked down comrades", Nas chastises a youth who seems destined for prison in the final verse, "Shorty's laugh was cold blooded as he spoke so foul/Only twelve tryin' to tell me that he liked my style [...] Words of wisdom from Nas, try to rise up above/Keep an eye out for Jake, shorty-wop, one love".[38] Produced by Q-Tip, "One Love" samples the double bass and piano from the Heath Brothers' "Smilin' Billy Suite Part II" (1975) and the drum break from Parliament's "Come In Out the Rain" (1970), complementing the track's mystical and hypnotic soundscape.[52]

Illmatic was met with widespread acclaim from critics,[84] many of whom hailed it as a masterpiece.[85] NME called its music "rhythmic perfection",[80] and Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune cited it as the best hardcore hip hop album "out of the East Coast in years".[48] Dimitri Ehrlich of Entertainment Weekly credited Nas for giving his neighborhood "proper respect" while establishing himself, and said that the clever lyrics and harsh beats "draw listeners into the borough's lifestyle with poetic efficiency."[78] Touré, writing for Rolling Stone, hailed Nas as an elite rapper because of his articulation, detailed lyrics, and Rakim-like tone, all of which he said "pair [Illmatic's] every beautiful moment with its harsh antithesis."[81] Christopher John Farley of Time praised the album as a "wake-up call to [Nas'] listeners" and commended him for rendering rather than glorifying "the rough world he comes from".[12] USA Today's James T. Jones IV cited his lyrics as "the most urgent poetry since Public Enemy" and also commended Nas for honestly depicting dismal ghetto life without resorting to the sensationalism and misogyny of contemporary gangsta rappers.[83] Richard Harrington of The Washington Post praised Nas for "balancing limitations and possibilities, distinguishing hurdles and springboards, and acknowledging his own growth from roughneck adolescent to a maturing adult who can respect and criticize the culture of violence that surrounds him".[39]

Eventually, the review for Illmatic was handled by the magazine's columnist Miss Info (real name Minya Oh, then writing under the pen name "shortie"), who shared Schecter's enthusiasm for Nas' album. In her review of Illmatic, Oh wrote, "I must maintain, this is one of the best hip-hop albums I have ever heard" and wrote of its content, "Lyrically, the whole shit is on point. No cliche metaphors, no gimmicks. Never too abstract, never superficial."[82] She also commented on the impact of Nas' "poetic realism" writing: Nas' images remind me of the personal memories and people, both past and present... All this may sound like melodrama, but it's not just me. I've been hearing similar responses all over. While 'Memory Lane' is my shit, my homies claim 'The World Is Yours,' and if you've got peoples doing time, then 'One Love' may hit you the hardest."[82] With the backing of Schecter and the other editors on the staff, Minya awarded Illmatic with the magazine's highest rating.

Yet while hip-hop artists continue to draw upon this template for album production, the practice has earned some criticism. In an article titled, "How Nas' "Illmatic" Ruined Hip-Hop," Insanul Ahmed of Complex argues that one "unintended consequence" of Illmatic was the overall decline in the cohesion and quality of rap albums: "Next thing you knew, rap albums started having a different producer for every song. And like a film that has a different director for every scene, albums became unfocused affairs. This also meant that producers weren't tied to artists anymore."[124]

"We used to always hear it [Illmatic] chillin' with Nas [in Queensbridge]. What's funny about it was he was humble with it. I would listen to it and the songs were so ill, it made you wanna cry. He was just calm, like, 'How you like it?' We was hearing it piece by piece, so when it came out, it wasn't surprising to hear everybody's reaction. Everybody was going crazy. You could not walk through the 'hood without hearing Illmatic. It was on your brain.

Illmatic is also credited with reviving the Queensbridge rap scene.[10] Once home to prestigious pioneers such as Marley Marl, MC Shan, Roxanne Shanté, Queensbridge had been one of the most productive hip hop scenes in the country during the 1980s. In an April 2006 article, an XXL columnist wrote of the history and impact of the Queensbridge hip hop scene, stating "Since the 1980s, New York City's Queensbridge Housing Projects has been documented perhaps better than any other geographic location. Starting with super producer Marley Marl's dominant Juice Crew in the '80s all the way through '90s mainstays like Nas, Cormega and Capone, the Bridge has produced the highest per-capita talent of any 'hood."[126] Yet during the early 1990s, the Queensbridge rap scene was otherwise stagnant. According to Nas: "I was coming from the legacy of Marley Marl, MC Shan, Juice Crew kind of vibe. Knowing these guys out in the neighborhood. At that time, the Queensbridge scene was dead. Dropping that album right there said a lot for me to carry on the legacy of the Queensbridge pioneers."[121]

The critical acclaim surrounding the album also helped to shift attention away from the melodious, synth-driven, and funk-induced G-funk subgenre, which dominated the charts for some time after Dr. Dre's The Chronic (1992).[128] Citing the example of Snoop Dogg's wildly popular Doggystyle (released six months prior to Nas' debut) author Matthew Gasteier writes, "The first thing immediately noticeable about the [Source magazine] review, is that, like essentially every other review about Illmatic in publications like Vibe, Spin, Rolling Stones, and The New York Times, it mentions Snoop Doggy Dogg's Doggystyle in the first paragraph."[90] That nearly every reviewer felt the need to contextualize their response to Illmatic within the frame of West Coast G-Funk "is a reminder of just how pervasive the style was within the hip hop world and the music community as a whole."[90]

West Coast artist The Game also recounts the impact of Illmatic for fans like himself outside of New York. In his collaboration with Nas on "Hustlers" (2006), he retells an episode taking place during his youth, where he decided to shoplift both Illmatic and The Chronic: "1995, eleven years from the day/I'm in the record shop with choices to make Illmatic on the top shelf, The Chronic on the left, homie/Wanna cop both but only got a twenty on me/So fuck it, I stole both, spent the twenty on a dub-sack/Ripped the package of Illmatic and bumped that/For my niggas it was too complex when Nas rhymed/I was the only Compton nigga with a New York State of Mind". 041b061a72

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