Born to the world as Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones in September of 1973. Birthed into the rap world 18 years later in 1991 as Kid Wave before becoming the living legend; we have grown to know as Nasty Nas, NaS, Nas the Villain.
Consistent persistence by A&R representatives, word of mouth and hype, Nas solidified his position in the rap world in 1994 with the critically acclaimed LP Illmatic under Columbia Records under the watchful eye of Mc Serch. It was the untold story of a young black male growing up in Queensbridge, New York. Mellow beats with cutting lyrics, peppered occasional glimpses of the adult he was becoming, Nasir proved that he was more than another rapper vying for fame. Every track on the album delved into the darker side of the streets he had grown up on. Into a young man who wasn’t afraid to express to the world, who he was. Creating vivid images of a life many could relate to.
Lyrically inclined, he painted pictures of violence, death, and hardship in ways unachieved by rappers to precede him. A true griot, there was no filter to his tales; just honesty and the standard of seemingly insincere rappers begun shatter with his emergence. Still new to the rap game, they had already accepted him as one of their own. Branded the “new Rakim” amongst many other accolades, the Villain had settled comfortably into the world of hip-hop. Illmatic however didn’t go platinum until 2001, proving that great music remains relevant no matter how many years it’s been on the shelves. Illmatic was an opening door for hip hop and for Nasir’s lucrative career.
Many to follow would attempt to mimic Nas, but could never touch his level of excellence on Illmatic, and still strive and fail, to achieve what he had achieved in one album in their entire careers. Rappers have come and gone but Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones continues to stand tall and shines amongst his peers. Regular consumers and hip-hop heads alike agree that Illmatic is one of the best albums of our hip hop generation. It has been almost two decades since the debut of Illmatic, and beginners are still choosing the idolized LP as their opening lesson. It is a definite keep for any album collection for any hip hop collection.
One of the top ten reasons to fall in love with the greatest art to ever grace our headphones.