On this day in 2001, the self-crowned “King of New York” released his fifth studio LP, Stillmatic. During Nas’ musical absence the power in New York had shifted and JAY-Z had stepped up and eclipsed Nas as the best MC in New York. The title itself shows that Nas had a chip on his shoulder and used this album to show the world who was STILL the best rapper alive out of the five boroughs.
Nas and JAY-Z were in the midst of one of the biggest feuds in rap. With this being the theme of the time, the lyrics of this album carried a malicious flavor. This new side to Nas’ sound is most prominent on the track Ether that is one of the most straightforward diss tracks in rap. The disrespect that was put on on this record makes the Drake/Meek Mill conflict look like a childhood dispute. Throughout the album Nas continues to showcase his no-holds-barred style of lyricism, dropping names of those he feels have disrespected him left and right and setting records straight about his spot in Hip Hop. With every bar, you can feel Nas attacking the game and making sure his place is felt by everyone listening. This album is also a lot less openly righteous than his previous work. Nas is a righteous individual so there will always be undertones of positivity in his work, but on this album, the focus was on the cold and darker side to Hip Hop and New York City in general.
Released on Columbia Records, the album debuted at #8 on the Billboard 200 chart and sold 342,600 albums in its first week. Within a month, the album claimed the #5 spot and was certified platinum January 16, 2002. By July 2008, the album had sold 2,026,000 copies. This “comeback” album received majority positive reviews from critics. Nas was praised by critics from Rolling Stone, AllMusic and The Source, who gave this album the coveted 5 Mics.
After this project, Nas went on to put out five full-length studio albums, a compilation album and a collaborative project with Damian Marley. Today, Nas is a spokesperson for Hennessy and still tours performing hits from one of his many classic albums. He has grown to be a titan of the Hip Hop industry and a lot of this success wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for the pop culture revival that was Stillmatic.