The Hip Hop Mortuary

"I wax lyrics so poetic even the most narcoleptic skeptic feels awake and perceptive"

1:37 PM


Posted by Guy Fawkes

I decided to re-review this joint. Enjoy.



April 19, 1994. A single tape of 39 minutes and 43 seconds revolutionizes an art form called hip-hop. No matter what precedes this album nor what comes after, April 20th was a new day for hip-hop. Just like the later predecessors drew influence from innovative artists like Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, and Krs-One, such was Nas’ influence on hip-hop. In many senses Illmatic became a manual of sorts, a holistic Qu’ran for any rapper truly seeking the approval of underground heads. Illmatic was Nas’ Starry Night, the endless ideal that even the architect would never again achieve. Aside from being a cultural bookmark and divisor, this album also clearly marks Nas progression from lazy-eyed freestyle kingpin to someone who truly deserved the cosign from Main Source and MC Serch. Chronicling the rise of a young street dweller who came up in an almost the identical pattern as Big Daddy Kane. Starting off on a classic posse cut - for Kane it was The Symphony, for Nasir it was Back To The Grill and Live At The Barbeque - and then growing to infamy with a classic first album. Both Long Live The Kane and Illmatic also only consist of 10 songs. However, that’s where the comparisons end. Kane entered the history books but Nas re-wrote the history books.


The Genesis

Back in the day when Q-Tip was a teenager, intro’s like these were a dime a dozen. In reality, it may seem like it’s just Nas and AZ bullshittin’ over an prehistoric Grand Wizard Theodore instrumental- Subway Theme to be exact- but this track unconsciously sets the tone for the rest of the album.

N.Y. State Of Mind

This song is why The Genesis is such an effective intro. You expect to hear a lounged-back Main Source (Live At The Barbeque) sound, but Primo and Nas deliver anything but. Those dirty drums start kicking, that bassline just floats along the instrumental, and the one piano key ominously ends the loop. Nas adds a memorable first verse that seems to never end, but still effortlessly seams into the hook. Simplistic beyond comparison, yet all Primo needs is a quick vocal from Eric B and Rakim’s Mahogany and Nas is off. In the second verse, Nas simply unleashes countless quotables until Primo lets the beat go.

Life’s A Bitch

You go from the chill freestyle vibe of N.Y. State Of Mind to the comfortably rushed atmosphere that engrosses this whole song. Regardless, AZ has earned unanimous acclaim for his verse simply annihilating L.E.S.’s jazz-tinged masterpiece. However, Nas answers back with an equally poignant lyrical performance. But, it’s Olu Dara who kills it on the cornet, when L.E.S. allows his instrumental to flow free.

The World Is Yours

To this day, Pete Rock has never bested this masterpiece. As a producer, Pete has an legacy of often outshining the artists that utilize his instrumentals. Not so here, it’s a purely synchronous sound that is made for each other, the hip hop version of peanut butter & jelly. It’s ironic how Nas changes subjects in the middle of the song. First verse is a dead-on Scarface impression that would make Brad Jordan blush, but the second verse is pure brilliance disguised as braggadocio.


Don’t ever doubt Large Professor! Who else has the audacity to sample Jaz-O in the presence of Average White Band? Nas, not to be bested, changes up the flow two or three times per verse. Word to Marcus Garvey. Those steely drums are just one of a kind, and are just begging to be sampled. More impressive, are all the cultural tidbits Nas manages to drop in four minute’s time, while addressing his own problems at the same time. Don’t plant that seed, if you can’t feed is the moral of this story.

Memory Lane

Nas changes up from a fast-slow, up-down flow to a consistent one, and simply unleashes a verbal tangent that will never be equaled. This sounds nothing like Primo though, doesn’t fit in with his catalogue by any means, nonetheless Primo comes through with some crazy samples on this one. That ever-present moaning on loop is Get out of My Life, Woman by Lee Dorsey, and perhaps the greatest sample DJ Premier ever used is Pickin’ Boogers by Biz Markie. That was good thinking. I still freeze up a little when I hear the last two bars of this song:

True in the game, as long as blood is blue in my veins
I pour my Heineken brew to my deceased crew on memory lane

One Love

The Abstract comes through with an instrumental of majestic proportions, not at all comparable to the work of Ali Shaheed Muhammad. It’s interesting to hear Q-Tip’s productions, since he could always hold his own on an MPC, but subsequently let Ali Shaheed Muhammad handle the work behind the breaks. On a linguistic tip, this song comes much weaker than the predecessing tracks, but Nas shows flashes of the indirect storytelling that would flesh out later with the ill-fated Firm. From 4:19 and onwards Nas bullies this instrumental lyrically.

One Time 4 Your Mind

A head-bopper in every sense of the word. That slow flow, the effortless rhyming that just simultaneously ensues from this immaculate blunt-head’s paradise. Large Pro comes through again with an deep bassline complemented by twangy drums that just slow everything down. Perfection in the form of audio marijuana ganja.


This marks the transition of Nas from a spiteful yet protagonistic emcee to an rapper with lyrical prowess nearly unmatched. This song sounds much less Illmatic and much more It Was Written, not in a negative sense, but moreso in terms of stylistics and delivery. Like a posse cut, minus the weed carriers and excess baggage. Did Nas really run with a crew called “The Shorty-Busters”? Let’s hope not for his sake, because that’s just embarassing. Also probably the first time I’ve ever seen Primo simply utilizing one sample.

It Ain’t Hard To Tell

This instrumental alone is all the imagery you need to envision the 90’s in one complete sound. One of those moving send-off’s that puts you in the right state of mind every time. A N.Y. State Of Mind!


It’s fair to say that Illmatic is the best hip hop album of all time, and therefore this review should be worthless to most people. If you don’t already own this album in any capacity, do yourself a favor.


Amazon Forest
Not sure why, but I thought it would be fitting to review this album. Maybe it's because Statik Selektah (did I spell your name right?) and pro-beef Saigon just made a whole album in one day. Well, it is because of that. Personally, I've got no problem with neither Statik or Saigon. I'm not sure how Saigon got to beefing Joe Budden and I could care less, beef is always about record sales. It's like artists make a mutual agreement to beef with each other to sell records and then pay each other back later. But I feel like this one day thing is a gimmick. How can you honestly say that you created the best product you can in one day? That's like how Swizz Beatz brags that he makes most of his beats in less than an hour. That's cool and all, but Swizzy: you still can't produce! With that in mind, Skyzoo and 9th Wonder created this composition in three days. The clever title would suggest they were fuckin' with some cannibus during the process. Like I said, clever. Anyway, the real reason I chose this is because it's only 12 tracks. So, here we go:

1. Bare Witness
There's nothing more pretentious than explaining the title of your album. Reminds me of when Biggie explained the "Two Pac's" joke on Brooklyn's Finest, 3:21 if you don't know. I also found it kind of funny how Skyzoo had to explain that he knew 9th and described how we acquired 9th's beat tapes. As for the song? It comes really weak. 9th tries his hand at a Primo impersonation, and Skyzoo just comes weak all around, on the hook, on the verses...

2. Way To Go
This the production we've all come to expect from 9th, just killing it with the samples. Once again Skyzoo does a little too much talking and sounds like a little bit of a jackass, but once the beat kicks he does his thing and rips this instrumental. Really impressed me with the flow and the rhymes.

3. A Day In The Life
I'm usually the first person to say that 9th Wonder needs to expirement more, or use something other than Fruity Loops, but he steps outside of his comfort zone here and the result is painful to listen to. Brave soldiers ready your ears. It's not that bad, but this track came really weak. Mostly because Skyzoo isn't one of those rappers that can take a bad beat and still kill it. And you already know the hook is wack.

4. Stop Fooling Yourself
These are those crazy samples that make 9th one of today's best crate-diggers! I just tuned out to this beautiful instrumental. Don't really remember what Skyzoo was talking about, ripping his acceptance letter or something. Oh well...

5. Comeback
Nah. This was a track for the ladies, and it was even softer than I expected. Definite skip/delete.

6. I'm On It
Did I mention that Skyzoo can't make a listenable hook to save his life? It's not a bad track, but the chorus is just so wack. Ruins whatever replay potential this song could have had.

7. The Bodega
Banger. All I can say is that all my previous criticism for Skyzoo and 9th is null and void on this one. Easily the best track so far.

8. You & Me
Another track for the ladies, but this one wasn't as bad as it's predecessor. The hook was weak as fuck again, but other than that it's another quality composition. Really starting to groove with 9th behind the boards right now.

9. Live And Direct
Very average, like I wanted to vibe with 9th's beat and what Skyzoo was saying, but I simply couldn't. You know the feeling.

10. The Spirit
Skyzoo outshines 9th here. Not a bad beat, but the lyrics were on point, and the whole track was ill.

11. Extreme Measures
Skyzoo tries his hand at Brenda's Got A Baby to little avail. Kind of a sleeper despite the vicious instrumental.

12. Mirror Mirror
Did you honestly expect much from this title? Just an average outro minus the interlude feel of an average outro.

Decent, not much more, not much less. I had been hearing a lot about Skyzoo and I found him to be super-average. 9th comes through as usual, although he sprays in a few wack beats here and there. Overall, it's a decent mixtape, but I don't see any reason to go out of your way to cop this.

0-20: Terrible listening experience
21-40: Maybe one good song
41-60: A few good songs
61-80: Half are good songs, half are weak
81-100: Great listening experience, almost all are great songs

I'd give this a 71.

Link here.