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Feb 11, 2008

Deconstructing Illmatic · by Dan Love

Nas Illmatic

Although I’m not a big one for New Year’s resolutions, I did make a promise to myself to up my commitment to Oh Word and increase my frequency of posting in ‘08. Of course, given Rafi’s recent unveiling of future plans for the site it seems like my days of venting hip hop geekery upon you at this particular corner of the wild and treacherous internet are now numbered: that’ll teach me for breaking with tradition and actually setting myself some goals at the turn of the year.

Anyways, what better way to celebrate the end of an era at Oh Word than by celebrating the greatest hip hop album of all time? What follows is a breakdown of all the key samples that went into the making of Illmatic, beat by beat. It’s not entirely exhaustive, but all the key grooves and some drum breaks are included in the following deconstructions. And yes, you’re right, this took a while…

Grand Wizard Theodore – Subway Theme
Main Source – Live At The BBQ

Given that this post is intended to purely deconstruct the samples used in the making of Illmatic, this brief note on ‘The Genesis’ is really just for the sake of pedantic completism. If you didn’t already know, which I assume you do, ‘The Genesis’ is comprised of Nas’s first appearance on wax with the Main Source crew on the classic posse cut ‘Live At The BBQ’ and excerpts from the equally classic and genre-defining film Wild Style. With Grand Wizard Theodore’s ‘Subway Theme’ reverberating throughout what seems like the whole of the borough of Queens, Nas takes the opportunity to remind us that, “niggaz don’t listen man, representin’, it’s Illmatic.” It’s on…

NY State Of Mind
Donald Byrd – Flight Time
Joe Chambers – Mind Rain

The first of the three Premo produced cuts, ‘NY State Of Mind’ is the darkest and most chilling of his contributions to the album, aptly setting the grimy yet melodic tone that permeates the LP. The harrowing high-pitched guitar notes that open up the track are lifted from Donald Byrd’s ‘Flight Time’ from his 1972 release on Blue Note, Black Byrd. This is of course just one small instance of Byrd’s work finding a home in a hip hop context, and his legacy as an artist still burns brightly in part due to the amount of sample fodder he provided for a wide range of legendary producers over the last two decades or so. It’s only a small touch in ‘NY State Of Mind’, but it’s a detail that complements the vibe of the track perfectly.

The more prominent groove of piano notes is taken from the 1.08 mark of Joe Chambers’s song ‘Mind Rain’ from his Double Exposure LP. I know very little about Chambers as an artist, but from brief research on the net it seems that he played a prominent role in the mid-’60s Blue Note releases as well as playing backup to many of the more prominent figures in jazz of the day and beyond. It’s a fantastic discovery on Premo’s part, an almost perfect one bar sample that is rounded off by the flurry of two higher notes at the end of the bar.

Throw in some heavy drums and it’s done: one of the greatest openers, if not the greatest opener, of any album in the history of the genre.

Life’s A Bitch
The Gap Band – Yearning For Your Love

‘Life’s A Bitch’ has always stood as an anomaly for me on Illmatic. Not only is it the sole track that features a guest MC spot, it is also by far the smoothest beat to be found anywhere on the album. This is of course in no small part a result of the sample source, lifted by L.E.S. from The Gap Band’s rather self-explanatory titled Gap Band III (although I believe that there may have been two albums that preceded this numbered series during the band’s formative years). The LP spawned several hits as the group began making steady progress into the charts, including ‘Yearning For Your Love’ which peaked at #60 on the Billboard Hot 100 in June of ’81 and forms the backbone of Nas and AZ’s classic collaboration.

The sample doesn’t take much spotting as it’s essentially a two bar loop with a little EQ tweaking, found after the intro to the track at the 0.22 mark. L.E.S. doesn’t leave it completely alone though, placing a few extra kick drums into the groove and layering over a more prominent rimshot/snare hit for that extra dose of flava. Beyond that there really isn’t much to it, although ‘Life’s A Bitch’ is special for one final reason, as it’s the only example of live instrumentation to be found on the album. The trumpet solo that brings the cut to a close is in fact played by Nas’s father Olu Dara (born Charles Jones III), and it provides a beautifully wistful end to a track that feels drenched in the dying rays of a crimson sunset over the city.

The World Is Yours
Ahmad Jamal – I Love Music

I can’t remember exactly where I sourced this titbit of information, but apparently when Premier listened to Pete Rock’s lone contribution to Illmatic, he went back to the lab, scrapped what he already had and started over. Whether this is true or not is open to debate, but it is a pleasingly romantic vision of the creative process that went into the construction of the album and a tale that confirms what you already know: ‘The World Is Yours’ is one of the Chocolate Boy Wonder’s finest moments on wax.

Rock sources his pianos from Ahmad Jamal’s ‘I Love Music’, the second song from his heavily-mined LP The Awakening. It’s a deft act of chopping from Mt. Vernon’s Finest, jacking a sequence from the 5.00 mark and subtly rearranging it to create the loop that forms the backbone of one of my favourite cuts from the album. ‘I Love Music’ is of note for those interested in Premier’s digging habits as well, as it also provides the sample for Jeru’s exceptional ‘Me Or The Papes’ from his sophomore outing Wrath Of The Math.

Although I’m not sure where Pete Rock sourced the drums for ‘The World Is Yours’, there’s one detail to the programming that I feel compelled to point out. The cowbell hits that are laid over each snare and immediately follow on the eighth of a bar are an incredibly subtle touch, but their inclusion is masterful: attention to detail is undoubtedly where it’s at.

Average White Band – Schoolboy Crush
Gary Byrd – Soul Travellin’ Pt. I
Hair OST (Japanese Release) – ‘Dead End’

Average White Band’s impact on hip hop culture is significant, with a handful of extremely significant breaks that have at times transcended the genre and made it into the popular consciousness via artists such as Janet Jackson, TLC and Color Me Badd. In the case of ‘Halftime’, it’s ‘Schoolboy Crush’ that receives the sample treatment at the hands of Large Pro, and it’s those inimitable sleigh bells that help give the cut its undeniable swagger. Check the vocal at 4.25 as well to complete the picture: you’ll know it when you hear it.

For the horns Extra P gets his fingers dusty on a copy of Gary Byrd’s ‘Soul Travellin’ Pt. I’, an artist whose presence on the internet is extremely limited (and as such, so is my knowledge). You only have to listen to the first few seconds of the track to feel in familiar territory, although there’s some nice reverb on display here from Large Pro, effectively playing on the first couple of notes from the slammin’ horn track to be found in the original song. From what I can garner, Byrd eventually went on to form the group named Gary Byrd & The G.B. Experience who released a few records on Motown in the ‘80s, but that’s about all I can tell you. Brother of Donald? Who knows: speak ya clout and drop some knowledge on my ignorant ass.

The final element to note in Large Pro’s composition is the filtered bass line lifted from the Japanese version of the Hair OST. ‘Dead End’ was originally cut from the run and only added at a later date, hence its inclusion on the Japanese edition and its omission from versions released elsewhere. Extra P’s innovation is astonishing here, completely transforming the break that occurs at the 0.14 mark, and I particularly like the fact that small traces of the vocal manage to endure, giving the groove a sense of space that is truly remarkable given its otherwise simplistic aesthetic.

Memory Lane
Reuben Wilson – We’re In Love
Lee Dorsey – Get Out My Life Woman

Although ‘N.Y. State Of Mind’ is probably the more highly revered cut, and ‘Represent’ demonstrates the more innovative use of a sample, ‘Memory Lane’ ranks as my favourite Premier production on the album. Backed by the ubiquitous Lee Dorsey drum break, there is a brilliance to this song that allows it to peep its head over the shoulders of the other giants on the LP. Those _drums_…

For the main groove Premo grabs a chunk of Reuben Wilson’s ‘We’re In Love’ from his 1971 album Set Us Free, the final chapter in his Blue Note odyssey that saw him release five albums in the space of three years. The two bars in question drop at the 0.20 mark, a fantastic break comprised of Wilson’s Hammond organ, guitar, vocals and percussion, and although Preem slows the groove down a little, this is essentially a straight loop with absolutely no fiddling. The adage ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ has rarely seemed as pertinent, and it is the sheer bangin’ simplicity of ‘Memory Lane’ that makes it so incredibly captivating. Man, they just don’t make ‘em like they used to…

One Love
Heath Brothers – Smiling Billy Pt. II
Parliament – Come In Out The Rain

What I really dig about the Abstract’s production style on ‘One Love’ is that he resists the temptation to chop up samples too heavily, thereby keeping the sound fluid and warm. This cut is a case in point, with Tip jacking the first 23 seconds of the Heath Brothers’ ‘Smilin’ Billy Suite Part II’ from their 1975 release Marchin’ On and doing very little with it beyond the addition of drums and volume changes as the sample is introduced. This introductory section really is masterful, with Mtume Heath’s percussion part from the original source gradually building into the mix before its complete introduction after the initial eight bar sequence which brings with it the unveiling of double bass and piano tracks. From here on in there really are very few changes, the different musical elements of the track creating a mystical and hypnotic platform for Nas’s musings that simply doesn’t require too much fiddling around with. No extra loop at the chorus, no bridge section, only a handful of breakdowns: it’s a veritable lesson in measured, instinctive and thoroughly considered hip hop production techniques.

For the drum track Tip turns to Parliament’s song ‘Come In Out The Rain’ from their first official LP entitled Osmium, released on Invictus in 1970. The break crops up right at the beginning of the track, and although The Abstract’s skilfully executed chops disguise the original sample source, there’s no mistaking the kicks and snares that form the bangin’ percussion that drives ‘One Love’. Of course, Parliament themselves need little introduction in hip hop circles given that George Clinton’s legendary group are rightfully regarded amongst the godfathers of funk and have acted as a sample source for a list of acts that reads like a who’s who of golden era hip hop, particularly for artists based on the West Coast. Crazy hair and breaks: it’s a legacy made in heaven.

One Time 4 Your Mind
Jimmy Gordon – Walter L

Although the liner notes of Illmatic state Gary Burton’s ‘Walter L’ as the principle sample source contained within ‘One Time For Your Mind,’ things ain’t quite that straightforward. It transpires that it is Jimmy Gordon’s version of the ‘Walter L’ song that finds its way into Large Pro’s composition, a straight one bar loop jacked from the section beginning at the 0.20 mark made up of guitar and ascending bass notes. In real terms it is the simplest beat that Extra P contributes to the album, with both ‘Halftime’ and ‘It Ain’t Hard To Tell’ both featuring a wider range of sample sources and more complex production techniques.

However, trying to find out the origins of the Jimmy Gordon song is challenging to say the least (particularly when you are limited to internet-based research). With no listing on Discogs or any mention on Wikipedia, the song seems to have been swallowed somewhat by the sands of time. The chief contender appears to be Jim Gordon, a prolific session drummer who recorded for a myriad of artists during the ‘60s and ‘70s before being incarcerated for bludgeoning and stabbing his mother to death (I think it’s fair to say the man may have experienced some ‘issues’). As the rights to the song clearly belong to Gary Burton, I would think that it’s safe to assume that the version that gets jacked for ‘One Time 4 Your Mind’ was recorded after 1966, and the vibe of the Gordon track is certainly in keeping with this timeframe. This is further consolidated by the fact that he did also appear in the Scorsese directed documentary The Last Waltz playing the sax as part of The Band, and was also the drummer for The Incredible Bongo Band on their Bongo Rock LP, the home of the legendary ‘Apache’. These various pieces of evidence suggest that it is a cover performed by Gordon, although there is no information available that confirms a release date or in fact the existence of his version of ‘Walter L’, so a definitive answer eludes me.

Whatever the case may be, I opened a can of worms with this one. Just goes to show that there are still holes in the substantial knowledge base that is the world wide web…

Lee Erwin – Thief Of Baghdad

(Shouts to Scholar @ Souled On for the hook up)

‘Represent’ is the result of undoubtedly the most innovative piece of crate diggin’ on display on Illmatic. Whilst the majority of hip hop jams are comprised of small chunks of funk, soul and jazz from the ‘60s and ‘70s, Premier eschews this trend for something completely different on the album’s penultimate track. Thief Of Baghdad is a silent film that starred Douglas Fairbanks and featured a soundtrack composed by organist Lee Erwin that was released in 1924. That’s right: 1924. If ever you needed the beat diggin’ capabilities of DJ Premier confirmed, this would surely be the break to do it with.

The original song is a haunting piece of music that sounds almost oriental in places, and its filmic nature is clear from the high drama of the opening section. However, when this is stripped away at the 0.55 mark, a remarkably familiar beast emerges. What amazes me about this sample is how well it works in its new context, and its not only a demonstration of Preem’s sophisticated musical ear, but also of the organic and time-bending nature of hip hop itself. I think there’s something incredibly beautiful about the way in which this song gels together seemingly disparate elements: an organ from 1924; drums that draw their influence from the funk and soul of the ‘60s and ‘70s; the words of a young kid from Queensbridge from the ‘90s. I’m guessing that you feel the same way.

It Ain’t Hard To Tell
Michael Jackson – Human Nature
Kool & The Gang – NT
Stanley Clarke – Slow Dance

And so it is that we arrive at the album closer and one of my personal favourites from Illmatic. ‘It Ain’t Hard To Tell’ seems to be a song that splits opinion somewhat, and although it was arguably a strange choice for a 12’’ release, I don’t really see how anybody can overlook the sumptuous nature of the production to be found on the final chapter of the LP. There are actually more samples involved in the composition than I present to you here, but these are the most easily identifiable and obvious a part of ‘It Ain’t Hard To Tell’.

‘Human Nature’ needs little introduction. One of Michael Jackson’s finest ever slow grooves, the guitars and synths of the opening couple of bars make up the loop for the main verse sections, but Large Pro takes the time to fuck with Jackson’s vocals as well for the intro and chorus sections of ‘It Ain’t Hard To Tell’, taking four descending notes from the final section of ‘Human Nature’ that arrive around the 3.29 mark. From here there are several more layers to account for, the most prominent of which comes from Kool & The Gang’s heavily used ‘N.T.’ song, found on their relatively sought after album Live At P.J.’s. The sax loop is lifted from a section of the track that feels almost like a veritable journey through a sample odyssey, such was the popularity of the break amongst proprietors of that good ol’ boom bap, although the section in question here can be found at the 3.11 mark.

Other than that it’s just the drums, and these can be found on Stanley Clarke’s ‘Slow Dance’ from his 1978 album Modern Man. In some ways it surprises me that this break hasn’t seen a little more use, as its clear kick and snare pattern seems tailor made for hip hop production, but to my knowledge it never seemed to gain particular favour with the producing elite during the early to mid ‘90s. Go figure…

Hope you enjoyed this level of nostalgic indulgence: I know I did. After all, who wouldn’t grab the chance to revel in the joys of Illmatic? If you wouldn’t, the only question that remains is simple: what the hell are you doing here?

Check more Dan Love at his blog From Da Bricks.

Comments for "Deconstructing Illmatic"

  1. nice one! always a geek for these kinds of posts.

    khal    Feb 11, 02:01 PM   
  2. Props on this post..much props.

    Big Homie    Feb 11, 02:14 PM   
  3. that was a wonderful read

    wes    Feb 11, 02:23 PM   
  4. Damn Dan, amazing work.
    Agree with Big Homie: you’ve outdone yourself.

    AaronM    Feb 11, 02:35 PM   
  5. excellent

    wax    Feb 11, 03:25 PM   
  6. This was really appreciated. Many blessings to you.

    M.C. SNEB    Feb 11, 03:36 PM   
  7. This is awesome! Great Job!!!!!

    klo    Feb 11, 04:23 PM   
  8. Abso-Freakin’-Lootly! One of the best pieces of writing I’ve seen in all long time regarding “Illmatic” and in blogosphere in general

    Eric    Feb 11, 04:33 PM   
  9. you dont hear the sample for one time 4 your mind because you found the wrong version of the walter l song.

    stevej    Feb 11, 04:42 PM   
  10. Absolute quality!. Massive respect for posting this. From one Hip-Hop nerd to another!

    — DJ Si    Feb 11, 04:48 PM   
  11. Stevej,

    I wondered if that might me the case. Any chance of posting hitting us up with an mp3 to complete the picture?



    Dan Love    Feb 11, 04:55 PM   
  12. Great post…best album of all time!

    Nightclubberlang    Feb 11, 05:11 PM   
  13. Great Post. That tidbit about premier redoing his cut after hearing rock’s is backed up here, in an amazing interview of Nas and all the producers after the album dropped by The Source.

    — trainwithnodough    Feb 11, 05:48 PM   
  14. I always like these moments

    nation    Feb 11, 05:55 PM   
  15. incredible post, dan. might be one of my favorite things to ever come from this site when all is said and done.

    agent b    Feb 11, 06:00 PM   
  16. I think I remember reading in the Source the story about Preemo running back to his lab after he heard PR’s beat.

    Fantastic post.

    the cousin of death    Feb 11, 06:40 PM   
  17. that redid cover is dope!!!

    Rotterdamn    Feb 11, 07:08 PM   
  18. Great insight into a great work.

    — OmegaSupreme    Feb 11, 07:27 PM   
  19. That was a great research and analysis of my favorite album. Illmatic inspired me so much i still remember going to the store to cop it, it was the first cd I ever bought, the rest were tapes. Thanks for putting the songs along with it. Great Job!

    THA KID MD    Feb 11, 08:10 PM   
  20. That’s the wrong version of Walter L. You’re looking for the Jimmy Gordon version.

    — Dark0    Feb 11, 08:17 PM   

    PACMAN P    Feb 11, 09:52 PM   
  22. The drums on One Love aren’t Clyde McPhatter. I forget the source, but they’re the same drums OutKast used on the remix to Elevators (De La Souls used them on Prince Paul telephone skit on Buhloone Mindstate as well. You can hear it looping in the background as he talks). Q-Tip chopped them up for One Love.

    RBI    Feb 11, 11:06 PM   
  23. good deconstruct below the heavens by blu & exile.

    some say it’s today’s illmatic..personally, i’m not far from disagreeing at this point. shit is dope

    — strangelove    Feb 11, 11:13 PM   
  24. Thanks for the id Dark0, the right song has been posted now. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dan comes through with a new blurb about the flip.

    Rafi    Feb 12, 12:01 AM   
  25. fuckin love it. good job.

    tucan sam ain't nuthin ta f' wit    Feb 12, 01:08 AM   
  26. *Tips cap, very nicely done my good man. I look forward to others

    Rellextra    Feb 12, 01:25 AM   
  27. Rafi,

    You’re not wrong: I’m gonna get on that today.

    Same with the drum break for One Love if we can identify it, somebody get on it and let’s complete this bitch properly!



    Dan Love    Feb 12, 03:16 AM   
  28. Good article – I’m only half way through at the moment but I just wanted to say the bassline for Halftime is from the Japanese Hair album and it’s called Dead End. I can send it to you on mp3 if you like…

    Also Gary Byrd co-wrote Village Ghetto Land on Songs in The Key of Life and I think his name is now Shatema Byrd. His early 80s rap single The Crown was produced by Stevie too.

    Terry Funk    Feb 12, 03:44 AM   
  29. Major props for this, nice work and very insightful.

    — STAINLESS STEEL    Feb 12, 04:46 AM   
  30. Easily the finest piece ever penned about one of the most talked-about LPs of all time. You really have outdone yourself here, Dan.

    floodwatch    Feb 12, 08:33 AM   
  31. dope!

    cOLD    Feb 12, 09:50 AM   
  32. good job Dan, check out this new rapper he’s going to change the game,

    carlos castillo    Feb 12, 10:08 AM   
  33. Thief of Baghdad?? Are you serious? Mothafucker Premo is fucking crazy. 1924?! Premo is a monster.

    Incilin    Feb 12, 11:20 AM   
  34. oh snap, premier is a beast.
    i mean i knew he was but damn @ “represent”
    DAMN DAMN!!!

    anu    Feb 12, 11:30 AM   
  35. DAMN!!!! Amazing Post.. Incilin.. i’m feeling that represent shit to.. Premo is the greatest.. HANDS DOWN!!!

    Cee pee    Feb 12, 12:11 PM   
  36. Very good write up. I hope many people check this out!

    Higher    Feb 12, 03:14 PM   
  37. Dope samples from a dope album..Nice 1

    — Mark    Feb 12, 04:48 PM   
  38. Just updated with edits from Dan and new audio for:

    One Time 4 Your Mind
    One Love

    Thanks to all the extra-sharp commenters for the tips and corrections.

    Rafi    Feb 12, 09:21 PM   
  39. Second that!

    Thanks to those who set the record straight on a few things: much appreciated.

    Dan Love    Feb 13, 03:30 AM   
  40. Dan – just wanted to say that this was an excellent piece of writing and should be linked in the Illmatic wikipedia page ASAP, hell, included in the liner notes of future re-releases. This is one of the best articles we’ve featured at OhWord, without a doubt.

    R.H.S.    Feb 13, 05:18 AM   
  41. Sick sick list, its not just the samples its how you yourself mold the samples together on paper almost as good as they did on tracks. Although don’t let premo read this after his “All you break record cats be putting out what we sampled” ish off of Moment of Truth ;)

    whats next Midnight Marauders?

    Good looking Dan


    Dj Standfast    Feb 13, 01:20 PM   
  42. Thanks to all for the positive feedback: big up yourselves!

    DJ Standfast – I think it may be a little while before I take on another project like this.. at times I had myself questioning what I’d gotten myself into!

    Still, a seed has definitely been planted…

    Dan Love    Feb 13, 01:37 PM   
  43. One more for you Dan, the drums on ‘NY State of Mind’ are from Kool & the Gang’s NT (later in the song). Primo flipped them lovely.

    RBI    Feb 13, 02:25 PM   
  44. RBI,

    At this rate, we’re gonna cover all bases! Can’t face another amendment at this stage, might see if a few more bits and pieces crop up and go from there.

    The online hip hop community drops serious knowledge on suckas!

    Dan Love    Feb 13, 02:34 PM   
  45. cool beanz, i appreciate the work you put in on this. ohword is one of my favoritist (sic) sites of all hip hop time!

    RBI    Feb 13, 05:08 PM   
  46. bravo! this is really excellent work. great to hear some of these obscure originals and appreciate even more how the stellar producers on this project flipped them (or didn’t).

    would love to see more done along these lines. i’m still waiting for the big hip-hop sample wiki in the sky. current copyright won’t let it happen. but that would be something.

    thanks for sharing!

    w&w    Feb 13, 06:38 PM   
  47. great post! thanks for dropping the knowledge. that thief of baghdad sample is ridiculous!

    J.Pets    Feb 13, 06:48 PM   
  48. This is such a great post!

    Kate    Feb 14, 06:34 AM   
  49. Excellent. Thanks for the info…

    The walter mitty character    Feb 14, 12:39 PM   
  50. Dog this is one of the best breakdown’s ever mad props …can’t say enough

    Won B.    Feb 14, 12:44 PM   
  51. this page is fitting nicely into my favourites. and each joint got downloaded differentlty.

    im gonna get each joint in serato and get to those breaks like my car is about crash.

    u overdig that??

    stampeeder    Feb 14, 03:22 PM   
  52. Stampeeder,

    Unfortunately the quality of some of these mp3s is a little low, but as a concept, a mix with all of these breaks and the album cuts would be nothing short of sensational…

    Get on it!

    Dan Love    Feb 14, 05:08 PM   
  53. about Gary Byrd. He has 2 shows in nyc radio. He has the Global Black Experience on WBAI 99.5 FM Wednesday nights & hosts another show on WBLS 107.5FM.

    thanks for this piece & the audio samples.

    sosa    Feb 14, 06:13 PM   
  54. Great piece man!

    — Jalikyawindupyahip    Feb 14, 11:02 PM   
  55. this is without question one of the best blog posts of all time




    reef    Feb 15, 12:23 AM   
  56. that album artwork you got up there for illmatic is fresh. whered you find that? who did it?

    — Danny    Feb 15, 03:15 PM   
  57. Danny – the art, as well as 99% of the art on this site, comes courtesy of OhWord’s own Agent B. Check his other projects out at

    R.H.S.    Feb 15, 06:28 PM   
  58. you are going to heaven for this !!!!

    — yourconnexx    Feb 16, 05:34 PM   
  59. Wicked write up, absolutely top drawer mate. Major props for the Represent info, didn’t know that sample and i’m even more impressed with Premo after your info. Astounding!!

    Keep it up.

    — Bosshog    Feb 17, 11:23 AM   
  60. you should desconstuct talib’s classic album

    donmarcus    Feb 17, 07:54 PM   
  61. great fucking read

    stu -- top dude    Feb 18, 04:45 PM   
  62. Respect on this shit.

    Nas sounds more mature on this than he does 14 years older.

    Start Snitching    Feb 20, 02:33 AM   
  63. “One L to the O-V-E” there were a handful of incredible remixes that should be added to this post.

    thanks for this post

    d. b. cooper    Feb 21, 05:42 AM   
  64. Merveilleux! Formidable! Good Job! Je suis ton fan (I’m your fan) Dan Love. Merci!!!

    Nzinga Nkuvu    Feb 21, 08:36 PM   
  65. Excellent and thorough work, I’ll have to remember to check out that “Represent” sample when I get back to North American soil.

    Sach    Feb 23, 07:27 AM   
  66. Dope read. Just one thing that stanely clark break is pretty well know in diggin circles. Im pretty sure its been used more than just by large pro

    chris    Feb 25, 06:01 AM   
  67. Chris,

    It definitely has been used by others, just not particularly prolifically. It seems so ripe for sampling that it simply surprises me that its not in a significant number of jams.

    Dan Love    Feb 25, 05:24 PM   
  68. very very dope work… loving the breakdown of Represent.

    Semantik    Feb 28, 02:31 AM   
  69. Great post Dan!

    — Krisch    Mar 3, 04:07 PM   
  70. A little addition:

    T La Rock – It’s Yours and Slick Rick – Hey Young World on The World Is Yours

    Biz Markie – Pickin Boogers and Marley Marl – Droppin Science on Memory Lane

    Eric B & Rakim – Mahogany on NY State Of Mind

    — Krisch    Mar 3, 04:52 PM   
  71. Krisch – thanks, I couldn’t remember for th elife of me where Craig G.‘s “coming out of Queensbridge” was excerpted from…

    R.H.S.    Mar 3, 06:30 PM   
  72. nice thanks for the droppin knowledge

    — mando    Mar 4, 01:03 AM   
  73. Nice work and excellent research!

    — R Lover    Mar 5, 01:14 AM   
  74. Unfuckinbelievable. Props for this.

    elmattic    Mar 10, 10:38 AM   
  75. Great article. Going back and listening to Illmatic for the 200th time gave me chills. i would have to say though, that while the “theif from Baghdad” movie may have been made in the 20’s, it doesn’t seem like Primo’s sample source was the original soundtrack made in the 20’s. It may be the MP3, but it sounds like there are synthesizers being used on the track you provided. It may have been a replaying of the original 20’s score. i believe sometimes they do that with re-releases of old movies.

    induce    Mar 11, 06:39 PM   
  76. Amazing article, but I still think Stillmatic was better than illmatic. Ah well…

    Roca La Famila    Mar 15, 04:15 PM   
  77. The single Album that changed my life. Speechless….your research is flawless sir, respect.

    - Executive Nick

    Executive Nick    Mar 16, 03:23 PM   
  78. Induce – it’s interesting you should say that because some of the sonic elements did puzzle me on first listen. In the end I concluded it must have just been some fly ’20s shit and moved on…



    PS – Roca: you’re kidding right…

    Dan Love    Mar 17, 04:13 PM   
  79. Very nice article Dan! Very nice…

    Kevin    Mar 17, 06:11 PM   
  80. Nice Article, Thief of Baghdad blew my mind great job Premo, I studied classic foreign films when i was in college and was crafting my musical knowledge at the same time, I always saw old films as a great sample source.

    Patrick King    Mar 22, 07:40 PM   
  81. Somebody should grab all these samples and put them in a rar and up it to megaupload. I’d love to be able to get at some of these.

    Patrick    Mar 27, 08:47 PM   
  82. Nevermind! With a little bit of searching I found it. Here’s the link for the rest of you:

    Patrick    Mar 27, 09:20 PM   
  83. goood stuff

    DJ Warren    Apr 4, 05:03 PM   
  84. Guys…there is a double vinyl (european release) called the Illmatic Samples. it has all of these plus other precious Nas gems…

    Dan    Apr 10, 03:30 PM   
  85. What about Chris Stein’s “Subway Theme.” It’s the original sample to “The Genesis.”

    Eric    Apr 13, 02:10 AM   
  86. Nice post, but best hip-hop album of all time? Hardly.

    — Julius    Apr 15, 10:31 AM   
  87. Julius if it is “hardly” the best, do you care to list the several dozen that you consider to be better? Double cool points if none of your choices are from white artists.

    R.H.S.    Apr 18, 02:17 PM   
  88. SIMILAR TOPIC posted on July 2007 !


    hiphopfanatik    Apr 23, 12:24 PM   
  89. Nerd time: Reuben Wilson — “this is essentially a straight loop with absolutely no fiddling.” Premier actually repeats the last sound of the “loop” twice so it loops properly.

    — Peter    Apr 25, 02:41 PM   
  90. Olu Dara is playing the cornet on life’s a bitch. Nice read.

    — jl    Apr 30, 03:40 AM   
  91. Wow…Incredible…that is all that needs to be said!!

    Dr. Mark    Jun 3, 06:30 PM   
  92. Awesome post! Illmatic is my favorite album of all time.

    Chris Franco    Jun 26, 02:32 PM   
  93. Powerful Shit. I just STUMBLED it.

    native sun    Jul 1, 12:26 AM   
  94. great post, after hearing Untitled i think ima go back and listen to this again, nas will never be as good as he was on Illmatic

    Nathangjj    Jul 4, 04:44 PM   

    MELO MALO PAULINO    Jul 12, 12:37 PM   
  96. Hey, Rafi —

    Where’s the mixtape with Illmatic and the original cuts? Feed the fans, man, feed the fans!

    Kevin L. Clark    Jul 14, 05:20 PM   
  97. Props to MC Serch for his contribution to this album.

    Chris Gee    Jul 16, 03:20 AM   
  98. Thank you!!

    El Perro    Jul 17, 03:23 AM   
  99. Kevin L. Clark – hold tight, I got another breaks and beats project under construction as we speak…

    Dan Love    Jul 18, 10:31 AM   
  100. Dan Love, may I first congratulate you on an outstanding work of writing and research! Listening to the samples of an album I revered so much brought back some essence that their still is a good future future hiphop. I myself grew up on the Illmatic and have been making music ever since. I create instrumentals, as well as scratch, write, record, and rap. I would love to send you a sneek peak copy of my album The High. I believe that you will find it interesting and possibly even worth a paragraph of your thoughts? Anyways, great work and keep it up!

    Dante Castro

    You can stream here, or I can send it by email at:

    Dante Castro    Aug 8, 03:09 AM   
  101. Nice! This is my first time on this site but posts like these will keep me coming back for more. Definitely one for the Hip-Hop nerds!

    Born Mav    Sep 20, 10:53 AM   
  102. right right, very nice work. Got to say man, illmatic is the best album out there. Got all nas’ albums hangin on a wall, framed:p (no kidding)

    Yorhymes    Nov 8, 10:14 AM   
  103. thanks

    — ramon    Dec 18, 04:29 PM   
  104. Is there anyone out there who can stand with Mr. Jones… god damn First song i ever heard was halftime, you could throw a dart at any nas album and get a sick track, inspired me to start writing, been writing for about 5 years now. I knew “Nas will rock” and nas would prevail, since iheard one syllable. Lates!

    Savage    Jan 22, 12:46 AM   
  105. WOW! one of the best articles i’ve ever read. Huge prop!

    RockEmRed    Jan 22, 03:37 PM   
  106. Wow thanks for this… Hearing the source for
    “Represent” was bananas.

    chief racka    Jan 29, 01:01 AM   
  107. nas is def the man for real, love his style of music, but lately ive been listening to souther memphis rap, project pat got some new shit out that will make your speakers bumb! go check out his shit

    — skaterfigga    Feb 2, 04:56 PM   
  108. This is dope. Good Shit!!! Thanks.

    Nifty Neil    Apr 9, 11:17 AM   
  109. this is great stuff mate. found it from google and it broke together some great elements of the album. props

    mark    May 3, 04:25 AM   
  110. This is so ill. So very ill.

    E. Parker    Jul 31, 10:47 AM   
  111. Much props on that. these up& coming cats dont do homework no more. they load up fruity loops & keep it moving.Illmatic was true compositons of classic music

    — Selasie's Son    Aug 4, 10:41 AM   
  112. One of the best hip-hop albums ever to have been made. Excellent post. Amazing tracks to have in your collection.


    Yuki Hoang    Sep 9, 06:05 PM   
  113. Incredible post…all the time I’m sure you put into this was worth it. You’re the first one to confirm what I knew I heard – the horns from Halftime are the same ones from 8 Iz Enuff off of Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous, thanks a ton.

    Refuse To Come Wack    Sep 27, 01:27 PM   
  114. Wow, been looking for these for the longest time.

    Sir, I thank you.

    Eurasian Sensation    Nov 24, 08:48 AM   
  115. Hey when I click your songs and listen to them, I can’t find a button or buy or download the tunes. Anyone know where exactly I can get them? I don’t want itunes because I’m still rocking an mp3 player and not an ipod. I specifically want kool n the gang- tn

    Btw these are great songs thanks for post :)

    beagle training    Dec 3, 06:04 AM   
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    ELISABETTAhR    Feb 7, 12:50 PM   
  117. This album is my most anticipated for sure! Dope samples from a dope album!

    Тотализатор    Apr 29, 06:59 AM   
  118. nicely done. NICE samples

    tsh    May 1, 07:27 AM   
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    Sir, I thank you.

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