Sunday, August 16, 2009

Nas: The Illmatic Archives

In Memory of William "Ill Will" Graham

Whenever someone asks me what the greatest rap record of all time is, I throw ‘em three titles: Paid in Full, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, and of course… Illmatic. That, to me, is the holy grail – the trinity if you will – of the golden era’s finest albums. And Illmatic, in my opinion, is absolutely flawless, thus earning the top spot amongst the trio. Each track is densely filled with Nas’ clever poetry and wordplay, plus the production is handled by some of the greatest beatsmiths of our time. The short run time, however, always made me hungry for some more.

Over the years I’ve collected a whole bunch of singles, remixes, beats and acapellas by Nas. Of course, the alleged 1991 demo tape had been creeping around the internet for years as well, so I had to snatch that up too. And then last night, while I was wrapping up that Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg Collaborations compilation, I figured I’d do something similar for Nas. What started as a one disc release – originally dubbed The Illmatic B-Sides – soon grew to two. Then three. Then four. And then I decided “what the heck, I’ll throw the demo tape at the end for kicks”. All in all, this compilation is a 5-disc set chock full of b-sides, remixes, instrumentals, acapellas and other rarities from the Illmatic-era. And thus we traverse from The Illmatic B-Sides to The Illmatic Archives.

Allow me to explain how the discs are divided. Disc one contains b-sides and remixes, mostly taken from Illmatic single releases. Disc two is the full Illmatic album in instrumental form. Not all of the beats were released commercially, so some of these versions are DIY versions. Still, they’re the best you’re gonna find anywhere else! Disc three features the instrumentals from most of the b-side remixes featured on disc one. Disc four contains a few acapellas from the Illmatic album, as well as a pair of instrumentals of tracks from Nas’ demo tape. Disc five is Nas’ 1991 demo tape, including two bonus tracks. Standing at forty-six tracks deep, with a run time of just under three hours, this set is a keepsake for every Nas fan out there. Enjoy… and turn it up!!

Below is a clipped scan from the April '94 issue of The Source Magazine,
featuring a review for Illmatic (courtesy of Philaflava; written by Shortie a.k.a. Miss Info):

Further reading: Illmatic by Matthew Gasteier