We are back with installment number three in our series Memory Lane, where we get personal perspectives on Hip Hop’s past. Today we offer up the NaS’ Stillmatic Freestyle through the eyes of BX emcee Jimmy ValenTime, who has worked with the likes of Static Selektah and French Montana, while being featured on XXL. Check it out below, and check out his music on Soundcloud and Spotify.
The “Stillmatic Freestyle” for a lot of people is just an artifact, the first direct shot in an epic war. To a fan of a certain age, Jay Z and Nas was the greatest rap battle of all time, their conflict provided hours of passionate arguments and two seminal albums. At one point and time Jay-Z was my favorite rapper; I loved his confidence and would listen to his music to psych myself up for any big event or challenge. As for Nas, I liked a song here or there, but wasn’t really moved by his albums. This article isn’t so much about them, but about a moment “Stillmatic Freestyle” captured in my life.
I was in a gifted program, in high school having received a lot of attention from my teachers as someone who had a lot of potential, but faced a lot of trouble in his home life. I got to college a week before 9/11 happened and can remember how much the city changed after that day. During that time a lot of my classmates who were from out of town, left the program and never came back. Having military solider posted in subway stations and fighter jets flying over the city in the weeks after didn’t feel like the city restoring order, but anticipating the next moment of chaos.
I contemplated dropping out of college and joining the military. I was no longer the smartest kid in the room or the one the teachers took instant interest in. There was girl I had meet a few months before the semester started, that coincidentally was also going to the same college. On my tribute to Nas, “Take It in Blood” I said one of my best days was 9/11, it was because I was with her. She was the reason I stayed in school that first semester, those four months even with all the uncertainty at school and within the city itself were some of the happiest times of my life.
Stillmatic drop at the end of that semester, the album really blew my mind the thing about listen to an album that has an impact on you, is you can recall that exact moment and place you were when you heard it. I remember I had gone to the movies that day and on the ride back on the bus, I started listening to the album. I can’t tell you what movie it was, but I remember how the album made me feel. I felt like I had found my artist, someone who captured how I felt inside and shared my views on life. Nas was someone like myself, who grew up poor, but was intelligent and perceptive. I spent a lot of my adolescences trying not to get engulfed in my family street bullshit. I grew up in The Bronx, but I didn’t want to be of The Bronx.
A month later I bought the After Ether mixtape, it was a best of Nas CD and included the Stillmatic Freestyle. I had never heard the “Paid in Full” remix and to me, it was a new song. I love the way Nas was veering between his own faults and getting at The Roc. “Out of luck, no constructive plans/My friends stay powdered up, I’m so drunk, can’t stand.” When you’re a teenager, it seems your only goal is to get so fucked up, you won’t remember the day before. “I see the world collapsing” I thought was a response to 9/11, the same way “Rule “on the album was, an even though I found the song was older than that, it still addressed how I felt.
The Second day I had gotten the mix-tape, me and the girl were going to meet up in my parent’s house to watch “Moulin Rouge.” This was Blockbuster and chill, forefather of Netflix and chill. I had the song on repeat, I remember the excitement I felt as I got myself ready to see her and her coming over. That sense that something amazing was about to happen. Listening to that record takes me back there and it makes the past never seem too far.