Elzhi "It Ain't Hard to Tell" (from Elmatic, 2011)
While you cannot repeat the greatness of a hip-hop classic verbatim, you sure can pay homage to it. Case in point is the fantastic new Elizhi tribute to Nas' timeless "It Ain't Hard To Tell" from the hip-hop legend's critically acclaimed 1994 debut album Illmatic. The inspired tribute track by the underrated gifted Detroit emcee Elzhi (video above directed by Michael Castelaz) appears on his new 10-track mixtape CD Elmatic which, in conjunction with XXL magazine is available for free download here. It was produced entirely by Will Sessions with guest spots from both Illmatic beatmaker Pete Rock and Detroit rapper Royce da 5’9” (who this month will be dropping the Eminem collab Bad Meets Evil's Hell The Sequel EP on Shady Records)
It is now 20 years since Nas first appeared on record when in 1991, then known as Nasty Nas, the teenaged MC made a memorable cameo on Main Source's single "Live At The BBQ." from the album Breaking Atoms. The following year he made another great guest spot on 3rd Bass' MC Serch's "Back To The Grill Again" single. Serch became Nas' manager and was instrumental in him signing with Columbia Records and hence in launching the career of one of hip-hop's greatest lyricists. The single "Halftime" from Serch's soundtrack for the 1992 movie Zebrahead was Nas' official solo debut. The song would also appear on Nas' debut album Illmatic which would not be released until two years later, in 1994.
When Illmatic dropped it was unlike anything else before it, and it helped shape the New York hip-hop sound from that point on. And while the album's carefully crafted music, which utilized a perfect balance of hip-hop and soul/funk/jazz samples and perfectly complimented Nas' multi-syllabic flow, was shared by numerous producers including Pete Rock, DJ Premier, Large Professor, Q-Tip, and L.E.S., with the exception of a single guest emcee (AZ on the track "Life's A Beach"), Nas handled all of the mic duties himself. And this he more than ably did on the album's ten tracks that included such now hip-hop classics as "The World Is Yours," "One Time 4 Your Mind", "N.Y. State of Mind," and of course "It Ain't Hard to Tell" with Nas spitting rhymes like, "So analyze me, surprise me, but can't magnetize me. Scannin' while you're plannin' ways to sabotage me. I leave em froze like her-on in your nose. Nas'll rock well, it ain't hard to tell." Below is the video for the influential song.
Nas "It Ain't Hard To Tell" (from Illmatic, 1994)