Nino Bless, a New York emcee who was influenced by Nas’ Illmatic, was recently asked to select the three best verses on Nas’ debut album, which celebrates its 20-year anniversary today (April 19). 

The first verse Nino Bless selects as the best on Illmatic is the first verse on “N.Y. State Of Mind,” a selection that begins with Nas saying he doesn’t know how begin. 

“Just the way he starts that verse off,” Nino says. “When I heard he one-taked this and that’s the version on the album, I almost quit trying to rap. That entire intro and all that was real and he was in the booth just not knowing when to rap and he just destroys that [DJ Premier] loop with that energy and flow.” 

Nas’ second verse on “Memory Lane (Sittin’ In Da Park)” is another verse that stands out to Bless, who references the start of the verse when discussing its strength.

“I think it’s amazing how he’s talking about going blank once he starts rhyming while creatively reverting to the things he’s seeing or witnessing around him,” Bless says. “Then he talks about overcoming all of this with his intellect while trying to build the weak into a strong minded individual like he is. I think he was 18 or 19 when he wrote this and if you think about this 20 or 21 years ago or so, he elevated how people approached their pen game. He definitely was the start of the [New York] revival that led to [The Notorious B.I.G.], Jay [Z], [Big] Pun and all of that.” 

The third verse Bless selects is the first on “The World Is Yours.” “Just the vibe you get when listening to this verse is incredible,” Bless says. “This is one of those songs that truly holds the test of time. Obviously the ‘Dead Presidents’ line is one of the most memorable lines, especially since Jay used it on Reasonable Doubt. I think this joint is powerful. You can’t start a song any better. One thing I love about Nas is although he’s always focused on lyrical content. He knows how to make sure it fits on a song more than anything. Most of what he did on Illmatic was showing other people the door. A lot has been done since then and people have taken it to new heights but this was the index that most emcees have to be able to even reach as high as they have.” 

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