Nas – Illmatic (1994)
“The other was Illmatic, That’s a one hot album every ten year average”
– Jay Z, Takeover
Now that’s a backhanded compliment. That’s also as close as Jay Z came to ‘constructive’ criticism of Nas, the rest of the Takeover lyrics were considerably less complimentary!
Years after hearing the semi-complimentary line, I believe it’s potentially an even more harsh diss than if he’d issued a flat-out insult. Instead of just saying Nas has no talent, Jay Z’s saying Nas is misusing his talents, or worse, has simply lost whatever talent he once had.
It wasn’t the best flattering insult I’ve heard (that would be Bill Murray’s mid-fist fight assessment of Chevy Chase as a “medium talent”) but I’ve been looking forward to hearing Nas’s “one hot album” ever since.
After a couple spins on my Windsor trek, I think Jay Z was wise to serve his insults with a hint of flattery: Illmatic delivers.
The #1 Life reference above might also be the best hip-hop hook of the 90s.
Though it seems like a pretty pessimistic outlook, there’s another quote from that track that is more of a half-full approach:
It’s probably that balance, those hints of optimism amid the violence/substances/poverty struggles, that makes Illmatic a compelling listen.
And he released this debut after only 2 decades on the planet.
A “hot” album to be sure.
But considering it’s been 22 years since Illmatic, according to Jay Z’s calculations, Nas should have released another 2 hot albums by now.
My question to Nas fans of the world: does Jay Z’s math add up?
Or was he too optimistic/pessimistic?