Hear isolated vocals for Nas’ song ‘N.Y. State of Mind’
(Credit: Mikamote)

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Hear isolated vocals for Nas' song 'N.Y. State of Mind'

Nas‘ ‘N.Y. State Of Mind’ is undoubtedly one of the best songs of the 1990s when it comes to East Coast hip-hop. During the early 1990s, rap music saw a shift in the regional power dynamic of the genre that had been in place for over a decade.

New York, the mecca of hip-hop, was the hub and epicentre of the culture throughout the 1980s, and (aside from NWA) New York and Jersey were the key bearers and, more importantly, the gatekeepers of rap music.

However, this quickly changed when Death Row presented The Chronic and Doggystyle. It made the East Coast and New York, in particular, know that LA hip-hop was legitimate and here to stay.

The early ’90s saw all kinds of aesthetics and sonics emerge from New York. However, the gritty and grimy sound that we now associate with acts such as the Wu-Tang Clan, Lost Boyz, and Nas was what the East Coast was gravitating towards.

Nas was edgy, raw and unapologetically coarse in his music. The Queensbridge act told vivid stories and in-depth tales of growing up in poverty. Never afraid to highlight the uncomfortable realities, his music was hard-hitting, and Illmatic epitomises everything that makes him a legend.

The act (real name Nasir Jones) is widely considered one of the best MCs ever to touch a microphone. His 1994 debut album is regarded as one of the most remarkable bodies of work to ever come out of the genre, and he has solidified his status as one of the greatest.

Illmatic boasted several iconic songs, all of which are held in high regard. From ‘Halftime’ to ‘Life’s a Bitch’, the tracklist itself is timeless. However, one song, in particular, has become a hip-hop classic, and that is ‘N.Y. State Of Mind’. The aforementioned track is the album’s opening song and intro. He was hailed for his lyricism on the cut, and since its release, many artists have freestyled over the iconic beat.

On the beat, Jones raps about the violence of the Queensbridge housing projects, rapping lyrics such as, “I’m like Scarface sniffin’ cocaine / Holdin’ an M16, see, with the pen I’m extreme / Now, bullet holes left in my peepholes.” Speaking about illegal activities, Nas also spits, “I never sleep, ’cause sleep is the cousin of death / Beyond the walls of intelligence, life is defined / I think of crime when I’m in a New York State of Mind.”

You can hear ‘N.Y. State Of Mind’ in the video below.