Nas

Stillmatic [Expanded]

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Review

Back on the hardcore block and with plenty to prove after two years without a record under his own name, Nas designed Stillmatic as a response: to the rap cognoscenti who thought he'd become a relic, and most of all to Jay-Z, the East Coast kingpin who wounded his pride and largely replaced him as the best rapper in hip-hop. The saga started back in the summer of 2001 with the mixtape freestyle "Stillmatic," Nas' answer track to an on-stage dis by Jay-Z. A few months after Jay-Z countered with the devastating "Takeover," Nas dropped the comeback single "Ether" and the full album Stillmatic; tellingly, Jay-Z had already released his response to "Ether" (titled "Super Ugly") before Stillmatic even came out. Dropping many of the mainstream hooks and featured performers in order to focus his rapping, Nas proves he's still a world-class rhymer. "Ether" relies on a deep-throat vocal repeating the phrase, "Fck Jay-Z," while "You're da Man" hits the heights of arrogance with a looped vocal sample repeating the title over and over. "Destroy Rebuild" is a solid defense of his Queensbridge home, and "Got Ur Self A..." is an outstanding track, the best here, complete with chant-along chorus. [The expanded version of this album includes the bonus track "Every Ghetto" plus a disc featuring "No Idea's Original" and excerpts of "U Gotta Love It," "My Way," "Make It Last," and "Doo Rags."] ~ John Bush, Rovi