Today in Hip-Hop History: January 17th, 1996
Nas’ Illmatic goes Gold
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the day Nas’ critically acclaimed debut album Illmatic went gold in 1996. Despite all the praise it receives from hip hop heads today, the album actually wasn’t a top seller at the time of its release, only receiving a gold certification from the RIAA two years after its initial release in 1994.
Now regarded as one of the best rap albums of all times for a plethora of reasons, it seems as if every rap album release post-Illmatic is held to its gold standard of genius. Nasir Jones’ unprecedented use of multiple producers on such a brief album is a quality that many have tried to reproduce, but no one seems to be able to do quite as successfully. Pete Rock, Q-Tip, DJ Premier, Large Professor, and L.E.S. all had a hand in producing the rich tracks that Nas would spit over. Like a Toyota to a Ford, the boom-bap instrumentals that these producers created still hold up to this day, retaining its polished quality over decades to come.
The production lends itself to the vivid depictions of Nas’ life growing up in New York City’s Queensbridge Projects that can be found in the albums lyrics. Songs like “NY State of Mind” and “Memory Lane (Sittin’ In Da Park)” offer verses with such incredible personal insights that it allows listeners to reminisce alongside him and proves that he is wise beyond his years.