So, a lot of people were talking about how they liked It was written better than Illmatic, so I figured I'd cover Illmatic.
In 1994, gangsta rap had firmly established its grip on mainstream hip hop. The b-boy freestyle raps of Rakim, A Tribe Called Quest, and CL Smooth, among others, was dying out. Rap music was knee-deep in gangsta mentality and materialism, and that mentality only sinking deeper into the genre. The music also started to change - specifically, the emphasis moved from the rhythm of the vocals (the flow), to the beats and hooks.
Illmatic was released right at the end of that transition, and you can hear it in the music. In a lot of ways, Illmatic is the perfect bridge between those two eras. It's the last great 90's freestyle album - the focus is clearly on how Nas approaches the music, not so much the music itself. But thematically, Illmatic was a 90's gangsta album through and through: Nas was mainly concerned with money, drugs, prison and the struggle to get ahead. It's easy to see how the diferrent creative influences in hip hop affected Nas' musical mindset, and Illmatic is the perfect bridge between two completely separate eras in rap music.
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