Review #44: Illmatic, Nas

Karla Clifton
2 min readMar 1, 2021


#44: Illmatic, Nas

Let’s see. At this point I’m about four or five hours into my road trip. The Low End Theory, a rap album I had absolutely no prior experience with, was a joyful surprise. So I was optimistic going into Illmatic.

I’d heard of Nas but was not sure who he was — Wikipedia says that he is “regarded as one of the greatest rappers of all time,” and who am I to question Wikipedia?

However, sitting down to write this review, I didn’t remember a single song on this album. Not a single one. I remember noticing that Illmatic had come on, and then I remember listening to it, and all of the songs bleeding together.

I think there are any number of reasons for this, none of which are Nas’ fault. The main thing is that I was reaching my musical saturation point. I like to listen to the same songs over and over and over again, so you can imagine how overwhelming it was to listen to music I’d never heard before back to back to back. I was starting to crave blink-182. But I am nothing if not dedicated to my own harebrained ideas, and I had now committed to listening to every single one of these, so I settled in and listened to Nas.


“N.Y. State of Mind” — The piano/alarm backing track to this is so perfect.

“Life’s a Bitch (feat. AZ & Olu Dara)” — Wait, I do remember this one! Okay this song rules. Life IS a bitch and then you die.

“This World Is Yours” — Okay, no shade to Jay-Z, but I feel like this album sounds like a better Jay-Z album. It’s mine, it’s mine, it’s mine.

“Memory Lane (Sittin’ in da Park)” — Oh I love a good rap origin story.

“One Love (feat. Q-Tip)” — Oh look, it’s Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest! And is that a xylophone in the backtrack? Incredible.

“It Ain’t Hard to Tell” — This is a great closer.


“Halftime” — He gets +10 points for calling himself “Nasty Nas,” but gets -100 points for using the f****t word.


The further down the list we go, the less this question says about Rolling Stone and the more it says about me. “Should RS have included this album where it is?” is perhaps a better phrasing of this question, but it is definitely less punchy.

So should Illmatic be #44? Probably. I really just don’t know. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don’t. Oh well, maybe one day I’ll wake up to the genius of Nas.

Review #43: The Low End Theory, A Tribe Called Quest

Review #45: Sign O’ The Times, Prince