It's difficult to say anything that hasn't already been said before, as we've had exactly 20 years to process the greatness that is Nas' 1994 debut, Illmatic. Basically everything that needs to be said has already been said. Without even hearing a single beat, sample or rhyme from the album, you already know what Illmatic is. And with 20 years under its (championship) belt the acknowledgement of its greatness is brought right back up on its anniversary, including the release of director one9's Nas: Time Is Illmatic, a documentary film that chronicles the circumstances leading up to the groundbreaking record. And we here at iHipHop thought we would honor Nas' Illmatic in the only way we see fit: counting down the album's 20 absolute best lyrics. Of course, this was quite a daunting task for us seeing as there's easily more than 20 incredible, groundbreaking lyrics on Illmatic. But we tried our best. After the jump!
1. “Rappers, I monkey flip 'em with the funky rhythm I be kickin'/ Musician, inflictin' composition of pain/ I'm like Scarface sniffin' cocaine/ Holding an M16, see with the pen I'm extreme, now/ Bullet holes left in my peepholes/ I'm suited up in street clothes, hand me a nine and I'll defeat foes” - “N.Y. State of Mind”
2. “Time to start the revolution, catch a body, head for Houston/ Once they caught us off-guard, the Mac-10 was in the grass and I ran like a cheetah with thoughts of an assassin/ Pick the Mac up, told brothers, "Back up," the Mac spit/ Lead was hittin' n***as, one ran – I made him backflip” - “N.Y. State of Mind”
3. “Be having dreams that I'm a gangsta, drinking Moets, holding Tecs/ Making sure the cash came correct, then I stepped/ Investments in stocks, sewing up the blocks to sell rocks/ Winning gunfights with mega-cops/ But just a n***a walking with his finger on the trigger/ Make enough figures until my pockets get bigger” - “N.Y. State of Mind”
4. “The city never sleeps, full of villains and creeps/ That's where I learned to do my hustle, had to scuffle with freaks/ I'm an addict for sneakers, 20's of buddha and bit*hes with beepers/ In the streets I can greet ya, about blunts I teach ya/ Inhale deep like the words of my breath/ I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death” - “N.Y. State of Mind”
5. “I woke up early on my born day; I'm 20, it's a blessing/ The essence of adolescence leaves my body, now I'm fresh and/ My physical frame is celebrated cause I made it/ One quarter through life some Godly-like thing created” - “Life's a Bit*h”
6. “Got rhymes 365 days annual plus some/ Load up the mic and bust one, cuss while I pus from/ My skull cause it's pain in my brain vein, money maintain/ Don't go against the grain, simple and plain” - “Life's a Bit*h”
7. “I switched my motto; instead of saying "fu*k tomorrow"/ That buck that bought a bottle could've struck the lotto/ Once I stood on the block, loose cracks produce stacks/ I cooked up and cut small pieces to get my loot back/ Time is Illmatic, keep static like wool fabric/ Pack a 4-matic to crack your whole cabbage” - “Life's a Bit*h”
8. “I sip the Dom P, watching Gandhi til I'm charged/ Then writing in my book of rhymes, all the words past the margin/ To hold the mic I'm throbbin', mechanical movement/ Understandable smooth sh*t that murderers move with” - “The World Is Yours”
9. “I'm the young city bandit hold myself down single-handed/ For murder raps - I kick my thoughts alone, get remanded/ Born alone, die alone, no crew to keep my crown or throne/ I'm deep by sound alone, caved inside, 1,000 miles from home” - “The World Is Yours”
10. “Before I blunt, I take out my fronts/ Then I start to front; matter of fact, I be on a manhunt/ You couldn't catch me in the streets without a ton of reefer/ That's like Malcolm X catching the Jungle Fever” - “Halftime”
11. “Now wait, another dose and you might be dead/ And I'm a Nike-head, I wear chains that excite the Feds/ And ain't a damn thing gonna change/ I'mma performer strange, so the mic warmer was born to gain” - “Halftime”
12. “It's like that, you know it's like that/ I got it hemmed, now you never get the mic back/ When I attack, there ain't an army that could strike back/ So I react never calmly on a hype track” - “Halftime”
13. “I got to have it, I miss Mr. Magic/ Versatile, my style switches like a f***ot/ But not bisexual, I'm an intellectual/ Of rap I'm a professional and that's no question, yo” - “Halftime”
14. “I rap for listeners, bluntheads, fly ladies and prisoners/ Henessey-holders and old-school n***as, then I be dissing/ A unofficial that smoke Woolie Thai/ I dropped out of Cooley High, gassed up by a cokehead cutie pie/ Jungle survivor, fu*k who's the live-er/ My man put the battery in my back, a difference from Energizer” - “Memory Lane (Sittin' in Da Park)”
15. “Poetry, that's a part of me, retardedly bop/ I drop the ancient manifested hip-hop straight off the block/ I reminisce on park jams, my man was shot for his sheep coat/ Chocolate blunts make me see him drop in my weed smoke/ It's real, grew up in trife life, the times of white lines/ The hype pipes, murderous nighttimes and knife fights invite crimes” - “Memory Lane (Sittin' in Da Park)”
16. “What up kid? I know sh*t is rough doing your bid/ When the cops came you should have slid to my crib/ Fu*k it, black, no time for looking back it's done/ Plus congratulations, you know you got a son/ I heard he looks like ya, why don't your lady write ya?/ Told her she should visit, that's when she got hyper/ Flipping, talking 'bout he acts too rough/ He didn't listen he be riffing while I'm telling him stuff” - “One Love”
17. “Dear Born, you'll be out soon, stay strong/ Out in New York the same sh*t is going on/ The crackheads stalking, loudmouths is talking/ Hold, check out the story yesterday when I was walking/ That n***a you shot last year tried to appear/ Like he hurting something, word to mother, I heard him fronting/ And he be pumping on your block, your man gave him your Glock/ And now they run together, what up son, whatever” - “One Love”
18. “I'm new on the rap scene, brothers never heard of me/ Yet I'm a menace, yo, police wanna murder me/ Heini Dark drinker, represent the thinker/ My pen rides the paper, it even has blinkers/ Think I'll dim the lights then inhale, it stimulates/ Floating like I'm on the North 95 Interstate/ Never plan to stop, when I write my hand is hot/ And expand a lot from the Wiz to Camelot” - “One Time 4 Your Mind”
19. “Straight up shit is real and any day could be your last in the jungle/ Get murdered on a humble, guns'll blast, n***as tumble/ The corners is the hot spot, full of mad criminals/ Who don't care, guzzling beers, we all stare/ At the out-of-towners, they better break North/ Before we get the four pounders and take their face off” - “Represent”

It’s difficult to say anything that hasn’t already been said before, as we’ve had exactly 20 years to process the greatness that is Nas’ 1994 debut, Illmatic. Basically everything that needs to be said has already been said. Without even hearing a single beat, sample or rhyme from the album, you already know what Illmatic is. And with 20 years under its (championship) belt the acknowledgement of its greatness is brought right back up on its anniversary, including the release of director one9’s Nas: Time Is Illmatic, a documentary film that chronicles the circumstances leading up to the groundbreaking record.

And we here at iHipHop thought we would honor Nas’ Illmatic in the only way we see fit: counting down the album’s 20 absolute best lyrics. Of course, this was quite a daunting task for us seeing as there’s easily more than 20 incredible, groundbreaking lyrics on Illmatic. But we tried our best. After the jump!