DAR Hip Hop: Nas' Stillmatic

By @TrueGodImmortal 

1. Stillmatic (The Intro)
2. Ether 
3. Got Urself A Gun 
4. Smokin 
5. You're Da Man 
6. Rewind 
7. One Mic 
8. 2nd Childhood 
9. Destroy and Rebuild 
10. The Flyest 
11. Braveheart Party 
12. Rule 
13. My Country 
14. What Goes Around 
15. Every Ghetto 

I'm sure by now you've seen a ton of mentions and possible articles about Stillmatic since it recently celebrated its 15th anniversary. I'm aware of that, first off. However, this doesn't necessarily stop my desire to write about the album that brought Nas back from the proverbial dead and I wanted to wait until the hoopla died down from the anniversary a bit before I spoke on this album, in my own personal way. This won't be your usual DAR album review, instead this will be a little different as we break the album down into different sections from producers on the album to the best songs to a brief track by track rating of each song, the best verses, the mistakes made on this album (if any), followed by a final rating at the end. Let's get into this recognized classic album from one of the premier artists in hip hop history.

The Background
After Nastradamus dropped and was met with less than favorable reviews and opinions, Nas found himself in quite the oddest position: with his back slightly against the wall. At a time in hip hop where you were only as good as your last project, Nas would end up being seen as falling off, especially given his appearance on the Bravehearts hit "Oochie Wally", and for the Timbaland produced and Ginuwine featured "You Owe Me" song off his last album. Though history revisionists will try to say many had wrote Nas off, I don't think this was completely true. Nas was coming off of a platinum album, a big hit in "You Owe Me", and commercially was having a solid year in 1999. Where Nas began to suffer a little bit was that he was slowly alienating his core fanbase, the ones that loves Illmatic, It Was Written, and the bootlegged version of I Am...., but they couldn't get with the Nastradamus sound.

Nas began working on songs here and there preparing for his next album, but at the same time, his mother would take ill, and in the midst of that, a long rumored beef with Jay-Z would finally come to the forefront when Jay uttered a line that will be etched in hip hop history on the Summer Jam stage, "Ask Nas, he don't want it with Hov", and set the world on fire. Long before Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat, word traveled through magazines, publications, and radio stations, so when the hip hop world caught wind of what Jay had said, all eyes were on Nas. Nas responded with a quick freestyle titled "Stillmatic" that took the whole Roc-A-Fella crew on, and after Jay released the full version of his Mobb Deep and Nas diss "Takeover", Nas responded with a scathing diss called "Ether". This would change everything and put Nas back on the forefront of hip hop. With a perceived battle victory over Jay, Nas would gear up to release his fifth solo album, and in an ode to his first album, he would call it "Stillmatic". Smart marketing and risky labeling, as Nas would have to live up to hefty expectations based on the album title. Does the album live up to the expectations? Well, let's examine.

The Cast Of Producers
One thing about a Nas album is that you can expect him to utilize some of the same producers he always has. However, this would be the final album of his to use a DJ Premier beat, something that bothers me a bit to this day. Regardless, DJ Premier would make an appearance on this album as a producer, providing one of my personal favorite tracks on the entire album. The Trackmasters, the architects who helped shape the direction of my favorite Nas album, It Was Written, are also present on this album for a track, though I don't really enjoy the cheesy production they brought to the table this go round. L.E.S, a producer that Nas had worked with on just about every album, was also in play here, as he would lend two tracks to this album, 2 of which were very vital.

From lesser known producers like Precision and Lofey, we get key contributions as well, and the same could also be said a producer who would gain more fame off his production here and christen himself "Ether Boy", and I'm talking about Ron Browz. However, for me, two of the best moments on this album production wise, come from Large Professor, a producer who had been around since the early Illmatic days and of course, Salaam Remi, who would become a frequent collaborator with Nas after this album. All in all, including Megahertz, Baby Paul, Swizz Beatz, and Chucky Thompson, Nas puts together a solid cast of producers that would lead him to create something we likely won't forget.

Track By Track Rating
A look at every track briefly and rating them on a scale of 1 to 10. The rating of each song takes into account the lyricism, the hook, the beat, and basically each component that makes the song the finished product that it is.

*Stillmatic (The Intro)
This was really one of my all time favorite intros honestly. Listening to the triumphant beat play as it starts is still one of my favorite Nas moments in his career. Lyrically, Nas is at his best. Flawless intro.

I don't think this song is as classic as it is given credit for, but it's one of the most stinging disses in hip hop for sure. The validity of what was said by Nas to Jay has also come into question, to which I can't dispute or fully agree with. The disses Nas hit with are sharp, and he rapidly fires each shot, and the song has just the right menacing production.

*Got Urself A Gun
The production is booming, lyrics are solid, and the sample works, it just pales in comparison to the other tracks on this album.

A lot of people don't like this track, but I'm a huge fan of it. I like the moody yet calm beat, and the way Nas delivers his verses is superb. The hook is the only thing that takes it down slightly a notch, but that's about it

*You're Da Man
This is probably my favorite song on the entire album. The production is beyond amazing, the lyrics are top notch and might be two of Nas' best verses ever, and the overall feel speaks to Nas finding himself at some of his darkest times. Without a doubt, a classic track.

Personally, this track is one of the craziest songs I've ever heard. He raps a story backwards. I mean, that in itself is amazing alone before hearing the song, which flows in a very dope old school manner.

*One Mic
This track builds to a fever pitch before finding a calm each verse, and does the reverse on the final verse, with Nas telling yet another journey of finding himself throughout the track. I've always felt this song represents balance and the way it is structured and delivered justifies that thought.

*2nd Childhood
Nas is in storyteller mode telling three separate stories of people who refuse to grow. Each verse really can hit home if you know or know of someone that fits that description. One of his best tracks on this album.

*Destroy And Rebuild
The second diss on the album is a hilarious thinly veiled back handed call for unity, that attacks his fellow Queens brothers Prodigy, Nature, and Cormega and hopes for reconciliation (not so much for Cormega, but I mean... yeah). Lyrically, this song is solid, the beat works well, but it's not one of my favorites on the album.

*The Flyest
Anytime AZ and Nas get together on a track, it's bound to be epic. This track is no different as both MCs bring their best over a very smooth production. This isn't better than their collaboration on Illmatic, but it doesn't have to be. It stands as its own track and is a near classic.

*Braveheart Party
The less said about this the song the better. Seriously. None of the verses here are good. Not even Nas. None of the Bravehearts are good here. The beat is atrocious. Mary and her hook are cringeworthy. Might be the worst Nas song ever. Might be.

Lyrically, Nas is amazing here, but this song falls a bit flat. The production can be mostly to blame for that however, as the Tears For Fears sample is too blatant and just doesn't fit right. I get the purpose of it, this song could have done without it however. Still, Nas lyrically does his job and Amerie has a nice voice on the hook.

*My Country
I could do without this track at times, but Nas really tells some intricate stories in his lyrics here and he really delivered on the lyrical side, I just find the hook and the beat to be a bit lackluster, but he lyrically engages the listener.

*What Goes Around
One of his best displays from a lyrical standpoint, one of my favorite Salaam Remi tracks, and one of my personal favorite Nas tracks as well. This track is flawless and to make it even better, Nas is utilizing his storytelling once again.

*Every Ghetto
One of his best verses ever comes in the final verse of the song, but the beat has moments where I find it a little dull. And Blitz, the featured artist doesn't really have that great of a flow. Otherwise, this is a superb track.

The Best Songs
For me, my favorite songs on this album center more around Nas' growth as an artist and a man than anything else. The disses aren't my favorite songs here. The collaboration with AZ isn't one of my favorites either, though the song is actually quite amazing. I wouldn't even consider "Rewind" one of my favorites, despite it revolving around Nas telling a story backwards. The songs that stand as my favorite here feature him at his most focused, like the momentum building and lyrically sound "One Mic", the reflective "2nd Childhood", and the slight storytelling and conscious karmic anthem "What Goes Around", which showcases Nas at his very best. The intro is one of his most reflective tracks to start an album off and the lyricism is as profound as any Nas song we've heard before. I think what makes these particular songs stick out to me the most is the differing content of them all.

For example, the stories told in "2nd Childhood" really paint a picture of the neighborhood, the people in them, and some of their refusal to grow. Nas is at his best when he's vivid and make no mistake about it, this was his most vivid moment on the album from a storytelling point. On "What Goes Around", Nas is in full conscious mode, but also remorseful in a way about the imaging and perception that hip hop gives off. I'd pick a top 5 of "You're Da Man", "2nd Childhood", "What Goes Around", "One Mic", and "Stillmatic (The Intro) for the best songs on this album.

The Mistakes
There aren't many mistakes on a Nas album. Despite what some fans will tell you, it really is seldom that you get a huge mistake from Nas on an album outside of one or two songs with an unnecessary feature and maybe a beat or two. Interestingly enough, I believe the only mistakes Nas made on this project are essentially the same mistakes he's made on every project. There is a pitiful and unnecessary Bravehearts track and as usual, some questionable production. Nas has a tendency to go for more cheesy production on his more uplifting songs as his career progressed, and look no further than the Tears For Fears sample on "Rule" for that evidence. Now, don't get me wrong. I still appreciate the lyrics here on that track, but the simple and pretty bland hook provided by the beautiful Amerie doesn't help to aid the already dragging production.

The other big mistake?? Well, if I told you that a Swizz Beatz produced and Mary J. Blige featured track would be a huge disappointment in 2001, you might not believe me, but the less said about "Braveheart Party", the better. I nominate it as one of the absolute WORST Nas songs ever, and it's certainly in my top 5, right next to "Who Killed It" and "Dr. Knockboot". Seriously. For the most part, this album avoids mistakes, but this "Braveheart Party" stops me from calling Stillmatic an undisputed classic. It's THAT BAD.

Best Verses
A look at the best constructed and most lyrical verses on the album. Nas is one of the most gifted lyricists ever and this album has plenty of great verses honestly, so it's tough to narrow it down to a few of the best, but let's see what makes this particular list.

*Stillmatic (The Intro)
"Ayo, the brother is Stillmatic/
I crawled up out of that grave, wiping the dirt, cleaning my shirt
They thought I'll make another Illmatic/
But it's always forward I'm moving, never backwards stupid here's another classic/
C-Notes is falling from the sky/
By now the credits roll starring Nas executive poet, produced, directed by/
The Kid slash Escobar
Narration describes/
The lives and lost tribes in the ghetto trying to survive/
The feature opens with this young black child, finger scratch, cigarette burns on the sofa, turning the TV down/
Mary Jane girls, 45's playing, soft in the background/
Food from C-Town's/
Mornings was hash browns/
Stepped over dope fiends, walking out the door, all of us poor/
I learned the difference between the snitches, the real ones, and who's soft/
And the murderous, hungriest crews/
People jumping from roofs/ Shotguns pumping made it through my youth/
Walking very thin lines/
Ages seven and nine
That's the age I was on my album cover, this is the rebirth/
I know the streets thirst/
Water like Moses, Walking through the hot desert searching to be free/
This is my ending/
And my new beginning/
Nostalgia, Alpha and Omega places/
It's like a glitch in the matrix/
I seen it at all, did it all/
Most of y'all pop for a minute, spit a sentence and the game get rid of y'all/
Y'all got there but y'all didn't get it all/
I want my style back, hate to cease y'all plan/
It's the rap repo-man/
To them double up hustlers, bidders, niggas who real/
Professionals, stick up kids dreaming for mills/
Let my words guide you, get inside you/
From Crips to Pirus this is survival/"

*Ether (2nd Verse)
"I've been fucked over, left for dead, dissed and forgotten/
Luck ran out, they hoped that I'd be gone, stiff and rotten/
Y'all just piss on me, shit on me, spit on my grave/
Talk about me, laugh behind my back but in my face/
Y'all some "well wishers," friendly acting, envy hiding snakes/
With your hands out for my money, man, how much can I take?/
When these streets keep calling, heard it when I was sleep/
That this Gay-Z and Cockafella Records wanted beef/
Started cocking up my weapon, slowly loading up this ammo/
To explode it on a camel/
And his soldiers, I can handle/
This for dolo and it's manuscript, just sound stupid/
When KRS already made an album called Blueprint/
First, Biggie's ya man, then you got the nerve to say that you better than Big/
Dick sucking lips, won't you let the late, great veteran live/"

*You're Da Man (2nd Verse)
"Now wait a sec, give me time to explain, women and fast cars/
And diamond rings can poison a rap star/
We’re suicidal, high, smoking so much lye/
I saw a dead bird flying through a broken sky/
Wish I could flap wings and fly away/
To where black kings in Ghana stay/
So I could get old, my flesh rot away/
But that'll be the day/
When it's peace, when my gat don't need to spray/
When these streets are safe to play/
Sex with death, indulge in these women/
Envision my own skeleton swimming in eternal fire/
Broads play with pentagrams in they vagina/
Like the Exorcist, then they gave birth to my seeds/
I beg for God's help, why they love hurting me?/
I'm your disciple, a thug certainly/
I'm the N, the A to the S-I-R/
If I wasn't, I must have been Escobar/
Forty-five in my waist, starin at my reflection/
In the mirror, sittin still in the chair like my conception/
When everything around me got cloudy/
The chair became a king's throne, my destiny found me/
It was clear why the struggle was so painful/
Metamorphisis, this is what I changed to/
And God I'm so thankful/"

*One Mic (2nd and 3rd Verses)
"All I need is one blunt, one page, and one pen/
One prayer - tell God forgive for one sin/
Matter fact maybe more than one/
Look back at all the hatred against me, fuck alla them/
Jesus died at age 33, there's thirty-three shots/
From twin glocks/
There's sixteen apiece, that's thirty-two/
Which means/
One of my guns was holding 17/
Twenty-seven hit your crew/
Six went into you/
Everybody gotta die sometime, hope your funeral/
Never gets shot up, bullets tear through the innocent/
Nothing is fair, niggas roll up, shootin from wheelchairs/
My heart is racing, tastin revenge in the air/
I let the shit slide for too many years, too many times/
Now I'm strapped with a couple of macs, too many nines/
If y'all niggas really wit me get busy load up the semis/
Do more than just hold it explode the clip until you empty/
There's nothin in our way - they bust, we bust, they rush, we rush/
Led flyin, feel it? I feel it in my gut/

Or wanna see me on top, too egotistical/
Talking all that slick shit, the same way these bitches do/
Wonder what my secrets is/ Niggas'll move on you
only if they know, what your weakness is/
I have none/
Too late to grab guns/
I'm blasting cause I'm a cool nigga/
Thought I wouldn't have that ass done? Fooled you niggas/
What you call a infinite brawl, eternal souls clashing/
War gets deep, some beef is everlasting/
Complete with thick scars/ Brothers knifin each other
up in prison yards/
Drama, where does it start?/
You know the block was ill as a youngster/
Every night it was like a, cop would get killed body found in the dumpster/
For real a hustler, purchased my Range/
Niggas throwin dirt on my name/
Jealous cause fiends got they work and complained/
Bitches left me cause they thought I was finished/
Shoulda knew she wasn't true, she came to me when her man caught a sentence/
Diamonds are blindin, I never make the same mistakes/
Movin with a change of pace/ Lighter load, see now the king is straight/
Swelling my melon cause none of these niggaz real/
Heard he was, tellin police, how can a kingpin squeal?/
This is crazy, I'm on the right track I'm finally found/
You need some soul searchin, the time is now/"

*2nd Childhood (2nd Verse)
"Dude is 31, livin in his moms crib/
Ex-convict, was paroled there after his long bid/
Cornrows in his hair, still slingin, got a crew/
They break his moms furniture, watchin Comicview/
Got babies by different ladies high smokin L's/
In the same spot he stood since, eighty-five well/
When his stash slow, he be crazy/
Saved by his moms, hit her on her payday/
Junior high school dropout, teachers never cared
They was paid just to show up and leave/
No one succeeds/
So he moves with his peers/ Different blocks, different years/
Sittin on, different benches like it's musical chairs/
All his peoples moved on in life, he's on the corners at night/
With young dudes, it's them he wanna be like/
It's sad but it's fun to him right?/ He never grew up/
31 and can't give his youth up/ He's in his second childhood"

*What Goes Around (Verses 4 And 5)
"The China-men built the railroad
The Indians saved the Pilgrim/
And in return the Pilgrim killed em/
They call it it Thanksgiving, I call your holiday hellday/
Cause I'm from poverty, neglected by the wealthy/
Me and my niggas share gifts/ every day like Christmas/
Slay bitches/
And party everyday like this is the last/
I'm with my heckles connecting and we hitting the lab/
This is my level, fuck if it get you mad/
It's all poison, all of my words to enemies it is poison/
Rappers only talk about ki's, its all poison/
How could you call yourself emcees, you ain't poison/
Think about the kids you mislead, with the poison/
And any thoughts of taking me down is all poison/"

"This nigga Ike with the Iverson jersey/
Light skin with herpes/
Fuckin' sisters in Harlem, Brooklyn and D.C./
This is the problem cause he never tell em he got it from letting fags suck him off Rikers Island in nine-three/
Drives in Benz, hangs in all the parties/
All the concerts/
Backstage where the stars be/
Rocking their shirts in bitches faces like clockwork/
Whats your name, where you from/
Chain blinging, Thinking girls everywhere is dumb/
Taking pride in ruining their lives/
So they could never have babies, and they could never be wives/
He never used a condom, give him head he got ya/
Met the wrong bitch and now he dead from the monster/
AIDS, I contemplate, believing in karma/
Those on top could just break and wont be eating tomorrow/
I know some bitches who be sleeping on niggas dreams/
They leave when they nigga blow she the first bitch on her knees/
Knowing dudes thats neglecting their seeds/
Instead of taking care of em, they spending money on trees/
I pray for you deadbeat daddies, cause when them kids get grown/
It's too late for you, now you old and you getting shitted on/
Its all scientific, mystic, you know the Earth and the stars/
Don't hesitate to say you heard it from Nas/
What is destined shall be/
George Bush killer till George Bush kills me/
Much blessings be healthy/

*Every Ghetto (3rd Verse)
"My skin is a art gallery, right
With paintings of crucifixes/
Hopin' to save me from all the dangers in the music business/
Was once a young gangsta hangin' with youth offenders/
But since I tasted paper it started losin the friendships/
Watchin' kids freeze in winters, they still poor/
How could I tease them with Benz's and feel no remorse/
Drivin' past them in the lively fashion/
Diamond colors clashin'
Red stones, blue stones, red bones and black ones/
Fuck did I expect/
With bucket seats in a Lex/
And spendin' time in Chuck'E Cheese with Little Des/
Got guns when I'm with my daughter/
Hate to bring a violent aura/
In her presence/
She knows what daddy taught her, it's lessons/
Black princess it's a ugly world/
I put my life up for yours, see I love that girl/
Could you believe even my shadow's jealous
My skin is mad at my flesh, my flesh hates my own bones/
My brain hates my heart, my heart makes the songs/
Though my songs come from the Father/
I'm lonely...Hold me, it's gettin' darker/"

The Legacy
For many, this is one of the best albums Nas has released and they would be correct in that opinion. Is it flawless? No, but it served as a comeback album for an artist who made one or two missteps and got challenged by the top rapper in the game at the time. Nas answered the challenged and delivered an album that was arguably better than his rival's at the time, and one of his best albums ever. For that, Stillmatic will be recognized as a classic to many of us.

Overall Rating: 9/10



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