Illmatic

EP93: Art of Sampling #2 with Thes One on Nas's Illmatic (1994)

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Show: 
Heat Rocks
Guests: 
Thes One

The Album: Nas Illmatic (1994)

In our first episode from our four-part Art of Sampling series, we focused on one of the classic sources of samples from the mid-80s: the James Brown anthology, In the Jungle Groove. For #2, we wanted to turn our attention to an album whose use of samples helped influences sampling culture and for that, we went with a giant celebrating its 25th anniversary this year: Nas's debut album, Illmatic.

So much has been said about this LP over the years, we shouldn’t need to make a case for it but here’s the short version: it’s not simply considered one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time but it’s universally lauded as one of the greatest debut albums in any genre, least of all given the intense hype around Nas leading up to it. Befitting that anticipation, Illmatic drew, really for the first time, a Dream Team-esque assemblage of some of New York’s finest producers including Q-Tip, DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Large Professor and L.E.S. Their production decisions, including the samples that powered their now iconic tracks, marked one peak in hip-hop’s golden era of sample-based production.

To help us break all this down, we invited one of Los Angeles’s finest: Thes One, half of People Under the Stairs (and composer of our theme song!) While Thes generally doesn’t like talking about other producers’ work, as a 16 year old hip-hop head hyped for Illmatic when it dropped in ’94, Thes brought his insights as both a producer and fan, and we touched on everything from the use of nostalgia in sample choices, how Nas’s flow worked with different beats, and why DJ Premier’s “bubba chip” drum programming was a game changer.

More on Thes One

More on Illmatic

Show Tracklisting (all songs from Illmatic unless indicated otherwise):

  • The Genesis
  • N.Y. State of Mind
  • Michael Jackson: Human Nature
  • It Ain't Hard to Tell
  • It Ain't Hard to Tell (Demo)
  • DJ Day: It Ain't Hard to Tell (Remix)
  • Large Professor: It Ain't Hard to Tell (Remix)
  • Common: Resurrection
  • Memory Lane (Sittin' in da Park)
  • Parliament: Come in Out of the Rain
  • One Love
  • One Time 4 Your Mind
  • The Gap Band: Yearning for Your Love
  • Life's a Bitch
  • A Tribe Called Quest: Lyrics to Go
  • Represent
  • Lee Erwin: Thief of Bagdad
  • Represent
  • Cameo: Hanging Downtown
  • Group Home: Supa Star
  • The Heath Brothers: Smilin' Billy Suite Pt. II
  • One Love
  • The World Is Yours
  • Ahmad Jamal: I Love Music
  • The World Is Yours
  • Monty Alexander: Love and Happiness
  • Apache: Gangsta Bitch
  • The Beatnuts: Let Off A Couple
  • Reuben Wilson: We're In Love
  • Memory Lane (Sittin' in da Park)
  • N.Y. State of Mind
  • Halftime
  • Milly and Silly: Gettin' Down for Xmas
  • Long Red: Mountain (Live)
  • Pete Rock and CL Smooth: Good Life
  • Represent
  • Jay-Z: Feelin' It
  • Main Source: Looking at the Front Door

Here is the Spotify playlist of as many songs as we can find there

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Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: RuPaul and Terry Crews

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Show: 
Bullseye
Guests: 
RuPaul
Guests: 
Terry Crews
Guests: 
My Brother, My Brother and Me
Guests: 
Carolyn Kellogg

New to Bullseye? Subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher to make sure you automatically get the newest episode every week.

And if you're looking for a particular segment to listen to or share, check us out on Soundcloud.


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RuPaul on the Many Shades of Drag

Before he was the world's most famous drag queen, RuPaul was just a kid growing up in San Diego, California. But he knew something was different about him. He noticed things that other people didn't. He found joy in the irreverence of characters like Bugs Bunny, and TV shows like Monty Python's Flying Circus. When he was still in his teens, he packed his bags and followed his sister to Atlanta. He attended performing arts high school, and a brief stint as a car salesman, he started performing with a couple of underground bands. They were searching for a way to be subversive, and decided to perform in drag. RuPaul found that something clicked -- both for himself, and for the audience.

He spent years performing and appearing on public access TV, but he became an international star with his 1992 hit single, "Supermodel".

One of his most recent projects is RuPaul's Drag Race, a reality competition series, featuring RuPaul as host and mentor to the contestants as they participate challenges in search for America's next drag superstar. Drag Race is now in its sixth season on LOGO TV.

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Carolyn Kellogg Recommends New Books: Cryonics and Gangsters

We're joined by Carolyn Kellogg, book critic for the Los Angeles Times, to talk about two new books that recently hit the shelves.

Her first recommendation is a memoir about a TV repairman's obsession with immortality that leads to his professional pursuit of cryonics -- the art of freezing people. It's called Freezing People Is (Not) Easy: My Adventures in Cryonics by Bob Nelson, Kenneth Bly and Sally Magana.

Her second recommendation is a twining novel about the legendary gangster Meyer Lansky and a murder investigation in Israel, called Jacket Copy.

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My Brother My Brother and Me Solve Your Cultural Quandaries

The hosts of the podcast My Brother, My Brother and Me won't hesitate to give their advice, though they don't always suggest you follow it.

Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy and Griffin McElroy stop by Bullseye to answer some of our listeners' cultural quandaries. Here are their takes on dealing with your parents' (terrible) TV recommendations, what it means to hog a game at a barcade, and how comedians should respond to hecklers in the crowd.

If you’ve still got questions that need answers, the McElroy brothers host a weekly advice show for the modern era called My Brother, My Brother, and Me. You can subscribe wherever you download podcasts, and send your queries to mbmbam@maximumfun.org.

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine's Terry Crews on Art, Athletics, and Comedy

Terry Crews has taken a pretty unconventional path. He played football in college, but he didn't go on scholarship, and joined the team as a walk on. He played in the NFL for years as a linebacker with the Rams and the Chargers, but when he was done, he didn't become a sports commentator.

Instead, Crews went back to one of his first loves -- the arts. And while he continues his devotion to his workout regimen, he now uses his physicality in his work as an actor. He's worked steadily in a string of movies like The Longest Yard and The Expendables, and adds a tough-but-caring element to his characters in TV shows like Everybody Hates Chris and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

You can see him now as an essential part of Brooklyn Nine-Nine's ensemble as the police detective and family man, Sergeant Terry Jeffords. The show's finale airs tonight, Tuesday March 25th on FOX.

Crews is also the author of a new memoir out in May, called Manhood: How to Be a Better Man - or Just Live with One.

This week, Crews tells us about growing up in Flint, Michigan, discovering his love of both art and physical fitness, the difficulty of ending an NFL career, and the joys of working on Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

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The Outshot: Nas' Illmatic

Jesse shares the greatest hip-hop album ever recorded, Nas' Illmatic. A bold claim? Yes. A true claim? Also yes.

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