Just Rankin’ Sh!t

All 9 Beats on Nas’ ‘Illmatic’ Album, Ranked

How do the instrumentals stack up on the perfect hip-hop LP?

LEVEL Editors
Published in
2 min readApr 17, 2020


Photo source: Columbia Records

Update 6/7/22: Level has a new home. You can read this article and other new articles by visiting LEVELMAN.com.

9. “One Time 4 Your Mind” (Large Professor)

This simple, yet effective string loop kind of putters along while Nas kicks some day-in-the-life raps. Yeah, whatever.

8. “Halftime” (Large Professor)

Extra P’s lo-fi scramble of bass, horn flurries, and vocal chops sounds dusty nearly 30 years after this song’s release, but gotdamn if this beat doesn’t still bump.

7. “Life’s a Bitch” (L.E.S.)

The premise of this list is a trap. To say that this pristine flip of The Gap Band’s “Yearning for Your Love” — and that luscious brass outro played by Nas’ pops, Olu Dara — belongs in the bottom third of this batch sounds ludicrous. But a nine-way tie is senseless, so here we are.

6. “One Love” (Q-Tip)

The Abstract’s lone contribution is worth every second of phone time and every dollar on the books. Jail mail has never sounded so ill.