Nas - Illmatic
Published in 1994
iPod warning. Written on an iPod so any mistakes are its fault and not mine. I am absolved!
I hate New York.
Really, I do. I'm jealous of their popularty, I think the city is rightfully the center of the world, and I think their culture is amazing. I'm sure that at some point I'm going to have to live there at some point just because t is the center ofthe world, but I will always hate New York.
There are several reasons for this. One, New York is the quintessential place that knows exactly how fucking cool it is, and takes a lot of pride in that fact. Two, New yorkers treat the world as if the east coast consists of NYC and other. But of course, there is an even better reason.
Three, New York is the home of the New York Yankees. While this should be an obvious reason to hate New York and their stupid smug faces, I will explain. I'm from a small town directly between Baltimore and Washington if you know one thing about this area, it is that our sportsteams glory days have been out of style since the late 80's. Actually, I've always maintained several team loyalties because that was the only way to survive. Here is a list of my local teams and their alternates.
1. The Washington Capitals (who are finally good, but have had no success in the playoffs) - The Detroit Red Wings (family is from Michigan and they are the greatest sports team in history)
2. The Washington Bullets (wizards) - No real alternate, I'd rather watch college ball, but I am currently loving he evil that is the Miami Sith.
3. The Washigton Redskins (to know this teams MO, all you need to know is that their general managers nickname is "chainsaw" Dan Snyder. They are going to the playoffs at the beginning of the season, and by week three, they are back to a rebuilding year.) - once again, college is an option which is why I love Michigan but they have been sucking too. If the skins get Favre, I might defect to the raiders who have always treated me right and are one of my best friends teams.
4. The Baltimore Orioles
And here we come to the true worst. The lowest of the low. I am not the biggest baseball fan in the world, but I must be a masochist because I love the Orioles. They are the pinnicle of teams that you wish you could quit. They are consistantly having a bad year, aren't doing anything big and try to remind you of the good old days.
I'm twenty four. I can reasonably expect to live another fifty years or so. I don't smoke, I don't drink to excess anymore, and yet, I have a feeling that Peter Angelos will outlive me and the orioles will never go to the playoffs again. There is one good reason for this. That reason is that we are in the most consistantly brutal division in the league. We play against the Red Sox, the Rays and the Fucking New York Yankees.
(I know that this is a music blog and a lot or you don't care about this biut I think it gives a good context for my feelings about Nas.)
I was a younger man once. I had no television in my house except for huge sports events. Thinking about it now it is really strange that we even watched those, because other than my grandfather, we weren't big sports fans. However we watched the olympics over the antenna, we saw Ripkin's 2131, watched Jordan's bulls go buckwild on people, and watched baseball playoff games, but only the O's and the world series. So, one of my most vivid sports memories is when that little yankees fan shit deflected the ball over the wall to turn a 3-2 win for the o's into a 4-3 loss for them. I remember that moment as the moment that I knew the O's were screwed because god hated them and by extetion loved the living avatars of Satan that are the New York Yankees.
Obviously, this shit is emotional for me still. It's one of those ments that can only happen in sports, where your heart is ripped out over something that only matters in your heart. But, if sports has taught me anything, if you want a community to band together and to become something connected and real, give them a sports team, let them make a run for greatness and then either let them win, or rip their hearts out. Steal their team in the night, then make them do it to another city. Give them a taste of collective greatness and you will bind them together.
This is why this album is hard for me. It is deservedly a classic rap album, and it is a totally incredible album. But, it wears it's New York credibility on it's sleeve. And as a hater of New York this is tantamount to worshipping at the temple of Ba'al to Moses.
I love this album. Nas is rightfully called a game changer, and his ability to create flow and wordplay is incredible. Everything he says is in the service of driving the action and his words are quick moving and selected. He rhymes well, powers through when power is needed and hacks off the mic when appropriate.
His beats are as strong as his words are too. In the grand scheme of beats, I would say that his are in general well sampled and are good about getting out of the way of the action. However, they give a great flavor to the words and work wonders with their simplicity.
If I were to talk to Nas, I'd probably be star struck and be unable to talk, but if I summoned the courage, I'd ask him what he loves about New York. I have a feeling that the reasons I love Baltimore and Washington are in many respects the same and that he is just showing appreciation to the place that was important to him in his youth. But, of course, that doesn't make him right about NYC, because as any decent human being knows, that town Is evil.
Kind of a weird album project, I know, but when I heard this one, I knew exactly what I needed to talk about. No thanks this week except maybe to the AV club, who's suggestions make me expand my horizions. So keep it up, you guys.
April is the cruellest month
PS. Next week - Oasis - (what's the story) Morning Glory