"Illmatic" by Nas
Track 1 - “The Genesis”We kick off our tasty adventure with a fitting opening track. It begins with a clip from Nas’ fantastic verse on Main Source’s “Live at the Barbecue". Next a little slice-of-life dialogue between him and his scene partners Jungle and AZ. Pair this track with dry sherry apertif to whet the appetite. Perhaps a small glass of Hennessy. Nas does command AZ to “take this Hennessy!”
Track 2 - “NY State of Mind”This piano heavy DJ Premier-penned beat creeps along like a late-night L train. Nas’ lyrics slowly unfold, hearkening bleak images of violent street life. It sets the gritty, yet head-nodding tone for the remainder of the album. Pair with a hearty soup, i.e. beef and barley or goulash.
Track 3 - “Life’s a Bitch”This track features a funky, breezy sample of the Gap Band’s 1980 hit “Yearning For Your Love”. It also includes guest vocals from cohort AZ. This track succeeds in juxtaposing a harsh refrain of “life’s a bitch and then ya die!” against a highly palatable smooth jazz foundation. Pair with a vinegary, garlicky olive and hummus platter.
Track 4 - “The World Is Yours”A grandiose, Scarface-inspired declaration of independence over an anvil heavy boom-bap groove. This track brings us to our main course. Don’s feast of roast goose with all the fixings and a fine bottle of vintage Pinot Noir to wash it down. Possible substitution: a mountain of cocaine.
Track 5 - “Halftime”It’s half time! Pair with a light lemon sorbet to cleanse your palate, or maybe just chill for a minute.
Track 6 - “Memory Lane (Sittin’ In da Park)”A smooth electric piano bubbles underneath Nas’ quick, nostalgic bars in this next chapter of the Illmatic story. Pair with a familiar comfort food i.e. baked mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy.
Track 7 - “One Love”A Tribe Called Quest superstar Q-Tip lends a breathy guest vocal over a crisp backbeat. He laments the state of the neighborhood to Nas’ friends in lockdown. Pair with buttery sautéed asparagus and a lemon wedge.
Track 8 - “One Time For Your Mind”Act three of the Illmatic saga kicks off with a slow burner of a beat. Our humble narrator speaks on his leisure activities of smokin’, drinkin’ and (protected) sex. Dinner is now complete. Break out the perk pot and the demitasse. Time for coffee.
Track 9 - “Represent”The penultimate track shows Nas’ reasserting his position as the crowned king of Queensbridge. The tempo perks back up and the lyrics become razor sharp. It’s a lyrical just-dessert for Nas’ detractors. Pair with rainbow cookies, biscotti and coffee cake.
Track 10 - “It Ain’t Hard to Tell”Crisp shaker and saxophone samples sit atop a smooth vocal delivery. On this grandiose final declaration of Nas’ position in the rap Parthenon. Pair with creme brûlée. And we’re out. Peace.
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