Review: Nas — Illmatic XX

Editorial, Music, Review



By Kassie Junkeer

Twenty  years ago Illmatic became an essential reference; one which all hip-hop heads must be well educated on — and rightly so. Nas’s Illmatic is one of the most influential and celebrated albums in all of hip-hop history.

2014 marks the 20 year anniversary of Illmatic, proving the timelessness of this game-changing album. Nas was only 20-years-old when he first recorded Illmatic, and now — 20 years later, listeners are still in awe of the power and precision of his sound and lyrical content.

Fans pass on the weight of this album to new listeners because of its credibility and those who once scoffed at hip-hop’s raw beats and flow are converted to appreciate the integrity of not only this album, but rap as a form of poetry, and hip-hop as more than a genre of music, but a deep culture. If there is one album you need to teach you how to appreciate hip-hop — Illmatic is probably the best ‘gateway’.

It’s hard to believe that 20 years have passed and this sound is still so relevant. This album has become almost a sacred aspect of the evolution of hip-hop.

“Illmatic XX pays homage to the significance of Illmatic as a movement, but also as an artistic piece of music.”

Nas raised the standards in an inspiring and ground breaking fashion. With greats such as DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Large Professor and Q-Tip producing for him; it’s no wonder the outcome was so momentous. Each producer retains their distinct sound while they hold and complement the significance of Nas’s shiver-generating words.

DJ Spell: "Illmatic is a perfect album....Because every song is good. It's only 39 minutes long. Easy to listen to 5 times in a row. The production is like... The illest 1993/94 production. It's perfect. If you wanna know what 1994 in NY was like, listen to Illmatic."

DJ Spell: “Illmatic is a perfect album….Because every song is good. It’s only 39 minutes long. The production is like… The illest 1993/94 production. It’s perfect. If you wanna know what 1994 in NY was like, listen to Illmatic.”

Kev Brown: "Illmatic is Nas' best album."

Kev Brown: “Illmatic is Nas’ best album.”

Each remix adds a new flavour without compromising the original genre of the song. While the remixes in many instances change the tone of the initial tracks, they maintain a balance with the iconic lyrics in a way that is not jarring. With lyrics that have become so familiar, it seems almost blasphemous to pull the lines away from their comfortable drum patterns, however, each remix manages to enhance the lyrics in an accessible and interesting manor. The Stink Mix of ‘It Ain’t Hard to Tell’ adds a certain groove to the track which otherwise used to be triumphant. While the ‘Laidback Mix’ is as the name suggests — much calmer; it provides a different context for listening. Each remix celebrates the ongoing success of Nas’s enduring poetry. Illmatic is invincible, and Illmatic XX is a testament to the eternal art form that is hip-hop.

P-Money said: "I remember buying Illmatic on cassette in 94. Right from the intro it felt like something special. Then when 'NY state of mind' came on my mind was blown. Every cut is a classic. That tape stayed on repeat for years."

P-Money: “I remember buying Illmatic on cassette in 94′. Right from the intro it felt like something special. Then when ‘NY State Of Mind’ came on, my mind was blown. Every cut is a classic. That tape stayed on repeat for years.”

Illmatic XX pays homage to the significance of Illmatic as a movement, but also as an artistic piece of music. ‘I’m a Villain’ leads fittingly on from the original album in that many of the lines in this track can be identified as Illmatic-style lyrics. Having remained unreleased until now, this track proves to be just as ageless. Similarly, the second track is a rare piece of recording from The Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show from 1993. This untouched and special piece of history is a raw and vital moment that is now shared with listeners world-wide. To be able to listen to something so meaningful is enchanting, and on top of this, style and flow in this track is on point (as expected). What makes this track so special though is actually being able to hear the reactions of Stretch and Bobbito, the radio show hosts.

New: P.R — Next Destination (Remix) feat Awon

Download, Newness

By Kassie Junkeer

P.R., a producer from Sydney, brings us a diverse range of refreshing beats. He is gaining recognition for his musical composition on a global scale, having collaborated with artists from around the world. His most recent solo EP, Moment in Time was via Cult Classic Records, based in the UK.

The stems of his latest track release, ‘Next Destination ft. Awon’, come from this EP. The already delicious sixth track is combined with the slick flow of New York based MC, Awon.

“The flamboyant brass and subtle Latina vocal samples give the track a jazzy flavour, complementing the rhythm of Awon’s poetry.”

Since its release, 16 days ago, ‘Next Destination’ has gone seemingly viral. Already having been ‘liked’ by over 2000 SoundCloud followers, this beatstrumental is melodic and soulful. Additionally Awon’s lyrical content marks a newfound precision for the Australian. The opening of the track is a gentle filtered crescendo, reminiscent of that distinctive quality of audio you would hear from a distant passer by listening to their iPod on full blast. In conjunction with Awon’s opening line, the mood of the beat becomes choppy and playful. P.R effortlessly manipulates his original beat to suit the dynamic of Awon’s flow and the song becomes, well, something else. The flamboyant brass and subtle Latina vocal samples give the track a jazzy flavour, complementing the rhythm of Awon’s poetry. Already successfully reaching the ears of enthused hip hop heads; this track marks the beginning of many more neck snapping tracks to come.

Available for free download on P.R’s SoundCloud! (Link above).

Review: Rick Ross — Mastermind Is Gangsta Chic

Music, News, Review

By Kassie Junkeer

Most famous for his smash hit single ‘Hustlin’, Rick Ross’s name and all associated connotations are iconic in music culture. William Leonard Roberts II takes his name after ‘Freeway Rick Ross’, who is known to be a notorious drug-lord. With this acquired street credibility, Rick Ross entered the music scene in 2006 with his début album ‘Port of Miami’, after being signed to Slip-n-Slide Records (closely affiliated with Def Jam), Robert’s pursuit of success has been maintained since his first albums; taking him through to the birth of his own label, Maybach Music Group; founded in 2009 and home to artists like Wale and French Montana. Since then, Ross was given the 2012 ‘Hottest MC In The Game’ title by MTV, right before his release of ‘God Forgives, I Don’t’. In this time, he consistently met the high expectations of his fans and critics; his dominant quality being his idiosyncrasies that have lead him through his career and subsequent success to date. On top of that, he maintains the ability to mould his own dynamics over hip hop’s undulating trends, without sacrificing his individuality.

In 2013, however, following the release of the track ‘U.O.E.N.O’, Ross’s lyrical content crossed boundaries in a negative sense. His rhymes, which seemed to celebrate rape culture, were not received well by fans, understandably. He issued an apology for the lyrics after he was swiftly removed from his endorsement deal with Reebok. If that was not enough, the lines were also removed from the track. Ross, confident that this controversy will not leave a mark on what was so far a successful track record, bounces back with his latest album Mastermind.

Working on this sixth studio album since late 2012, Mastermind meets its triumphant expectations; it’s the Maybach CEO’s fifth #1 on the Billboard charts also. The introduction to the album features conversational samples of what sound like two Australian/New Zealand girls discussing “Maybach Music” (Ross’s label). The actual music starts in ‘Rich As Gangsta’; its cymbals and victorious brass features on beat make for a luxurious and almost celebratory opening track. Having said this, the overall tone of the album does not necessarily reflect this first song, given the variety of themes explored in the album; varying flavours from artists like Big Sean, The Weeknd, Meek Mill, Jay Z and more enhances the diversity of the album; considering this, Mastermind is palatable to an array of hip-hop lovers.

‘Sanctified’ has that jubilant use of filtered gospel vocals and biblical-imagery characteristics of Kanye West, who of course features on the song. Similarly, ‘In Vein’ features The Weeknd, who adds a chill-wave/trip-hop air to the track, as well as a nice mixture to the album. Ross also pays homage to the hip-hop classics whilst maintaining his modern sound. ‘Thug Cry’ samples the nostalgic ’93 til Infinity’ by Souls of Mischief but also includes trendy 808 percussion. ‘What A Shame’ also covers the timeless and recognizable Wu Tang hook; ‘shame on a n*gga, who try to run game on a n*gga.’

The 808 percussion, recurs in a majority of tracks and gives the album that catchy southern feel. After two years of hard work, Rick Ross’s return to the music scene is enjoyable; Mastermind is an album to throw bows and get turnt up to!