Book Review: Illmatic by Matthew Gasteier


In an age where music journalism has come down to 140-word tweets and abbreviated blog posts, it’s refreshing to see someone take the time to write a complex literary analysis of a great work of hip-hop. Such is the case with Matthew Gasteier’s latest addition to the 33 1/3 book series: a collection of books focusing on one great album per book. Gasteier uses his contribution to the series to focus on Nas’ 1994 debut album Illmatic. Widely considered one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time, Illmatic is an album that both took account of where hip-hop was and where it was heading. A product of the Queensbridge housing projects in New York City , Nas raps of the pressure and stress that comes with living in the inner-city. His lyrics are a startling portrayal of a lifestyle previously ignored by the popular American media. Gasteier spends a great deal of time praising and evaluating Nas’ poetic talent and the message of his music. Additionally, Gasteier traces the development of Illmatic and the impact it has made; using excerpts from previous reviews and new conversations with those involved with the production of the album. Whether you are a fan of Nas or not, Matthew Gasteier’s Illmatic is a complex ode to a classic album that helped hip-hop transcend gangster stereotypes and juvenile lyrics, and be appreciated as an intellectual art form.  


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Filed under Book Review, Books, Music

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