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Best album of 2002 | The rest of the Best of 2002
NAS, Stillmatic, Columbia
Despite dismissing those who "thought I'd make another Illmatic" on the intro, Nas later references his 1994 classic and declares that "this is the rebirth." By the time the music fades on the last track, it's obvious that he reached back for more than just the title on this album. Nasty Nas is back. Whether it was his public battle with Jay-Z or his own pride that inspired him, it doesn't matter. The important thing is that this sleeping giant has been awakened. Speaking of beef, Nas gets right to it by placing "Ether" as the first full track on the album. His response to Jigga's "Takeover" systematically dismantles the current king of New York and his ongoing obsession with Notorious B.I.G.: "First Biggie's your man / then you got the nerve to say that you better than Big / d--- sucking lips, why won't you let the late, great veteran live?" and "Is he Dame Diddy, Dame Daddy or Dame Dummy? / Oh I get it, you Biggie and he's Puffy," as well as "How much of Biggie's rhymes is gonna come out your fat lips? / Wanted to be on every last one of my classics." Now there are those that will dispute that I Am and Nastradamus were anything close to classics and still others that will challenge you to dig deeper than the surface on those albums and try to say that they're not, but Nas leaves nothing to debate on Stillmatic. At times the beats seem overly simple, but that just allows the rhymes to shine. And Nas can more than hold his own when it comes to carrying a track with lyrics alone. More often than not, hits are made by the beats, and Nas is operating in reverse. In fact, on "Rewind" he literally tells the tale of a day in the life completely backwards. The next track, "One Mic," finds Nas exploring yet another vocal device, as the beat and his demeanor start out calm and gradually become enraged before settling back down at the end. Nas lets everyone know on "Destroy & Rebuild" that he takes issue with more than just one MC. In fact, he attacks Cormega, Prodigy and Nature for not representing the QB properly. Fortunately, Nas managed to squash it with at least one former collaborator -- AZ. The "Life's A B----" duo reunites for "The Flyest." On the other hand, he also remembered to bring his new crew along for a "Braveheart Party." We'll pretend we weren't invited and won't let it count against the album as a whole. On "Rule," Nas carries on his '80s pop sample theme with a snippet of Tears for Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World." A curious choice since "If I Ruled the World" is probably his best known single, but Nas uses it to address war and the events of Sept. 11. A little more politics in hip-hop can't hurt, and Nas chooses to take a stand and call for peace. Then he keeps the intellectual vibe going on "My Country" and "What Goes Around." Sure, he still has his pop tendencies and glaring infatuations with mobsters -- real and fictional -- but with Stillmatic, Nas has reached heights he hasn't seen since he was christened the second coming of Rakim.
Click here to find out how to buy this album.

-- West Coast

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