Illmatic is fine. A hardass young upstart rapper plays an old pro over dusty, eerie (read: “cinematic”) beats with samples that never fully conjoin and keeps it all under 40 minutes. It's an ideal debut. What it's not is a finishing point. It's in fact so idealized that it's not absurd to suggest rappers liked it so much because it provided an easy-to-imitate template of cool. It would be much harder to imitate the Memento-biting “Rewind” or the Maltese Falcon-inspired “Who Killed It?” Forget cinematic, those would require acting lessons. Ahead of Nas' show tonight at the Fox Oakland, here are five Nas albums that are at least as good as, if not better than, his debut.
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