Nas – Stillmatic (2001)


You could say that rap and hip-hop aren’t really my wheelhouse. We all have preferences and mine are pretty strongly in favor of rock in its harder varieties. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate and enjoy rap, and now and then there’s an album that brings me closer to the genre. Stillmatic is one of them.

Any true rap fans who are reading this will probably moan and groan at the notion that I chose Stillmatic as the Nas album to connect with when Illmatic is clearly so much better and blah-de-blah. Well, unfortunately, I’m not quite cool enough to have ever really heard Illmatic and I’m not totally jazzed about going out and buying it. I’m pretty ok with my love of Stillmatic. Seriously, it’s a good album.

I bought it because of a song I heard on the radio which was just trash-talking Jay-Z to a beat – Ether. But beyond a handful of choice rhymes that made me chuckle, “Put it together, I rock hos, y’all rock fellas,” the song was pretty strong and I liked the sound of his voice. The other song on the album that I really liked was what later went on to become it’s big single, One Mic. I remember once reading a play by Danny Hoch that I’m not sure ever made it to the stage about a hip-hop festival in Cuba, but one of the best monologues in it was one in which a rap producer recounts working with Nas and how he’s a totally different kind of rapper because his rhymes are in many ways very fantastical and rampant with religious imagery and a little acid-trippy for his genre and really it’s a much funnier monologue than I’m conveying here, but I think Mr. Hoch may have been listening to One Mic when he wrote it. In spite (because?) of that, it’s a really powerful love letter to his neighborhood and experiences. And the non-radio-friendly track I like best is Destroy and Rebuild, which is really kind of a combination of the things I like best from Ether and One Mic – trash talking and love for his neighborhood. The best part, though, is the video-game style music behind the rap – like old-school Nintendo.

The rest of the album is pretty good, but it falls into the trap that so many other rap albums seem to in that there’s a lot of junk gimmicky crap all over the album – most notably Rewind, a song written in reverse. Also not so much a fan of My Country, written in the wake of 9/11 and not what I’d consider a positive contribution.

I listen to this almost exclusively in the car, usually as somewhat of an auditory palate cleanser. It’s great for springtime, with windows down.

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