Born to Use Mics

Reading Nas's Illmatic


Edited by Michael Eric Dyson

Edited by Sohail Daulatzai

Foreword by Common

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At the age of nineteen, Nasir "Nas" Jones began recording tracks for his debut album — and changed the music world forever. Released in 1994, Illmatic was hailed as an instant masterpiece and has proven one of the most influential albums in hip-hop history. With its close attention to beats and lyricism, and riveting first-person explorations of the isolation and desolation of urban poverty, Illmatic was pivotal in the evolution of the genre.

In Born to Use Mics, Michael Eric Dyson and Sohail Daulatzai have brought together the best and brightest writers of the hip hop generation to confront Illmatic song by song, with each scholar assessing an individual track from the album. The result is a brilliant engagement with and commentary upon one of the most incisive sets of songs ever laid down on wax.


Adilifu Nama • Guthrie P. Ramsey Jr. • James Braxton Peterson • Marc Lamont Hill • Mark Anthony Neal • Kyra D. Gaunt • Eddie S. Glaude Jr. • Imani Perry • Jon Shecter • Matt Life • Bobbito the Barber • Greg Tate • Dream Hampton • Adam Mansbach • Kevin Coval • Jon Caramanica • Charlie Ahearn • Suheir Hammad 
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  • Booklist
    “A vital book for readers eager to understand the history of the genre.”

On Sale
Dec 29, 2009
Page Count
320 pages
Civitas Books