N.Y. State of Mind

“Mind of State N.Y.” By Nas is listed at spot #9 on Complex’s Greatest 100 Hip-Hop Beats of All-Time list. The song features verses from Rakim and Nas, who are both from New York. DJ Premier used Alicia Keys’ beats from the streets of New York for the album “I Am….”, Which is Nas’ third album. The duo produced a sequel to this album five years later and one of the greatest tracks from Nas is considered to be “The”. This track samples a chorus from Rakim and is fitting since Nas is hailed as the second coming of the MC God. The track “Mahogany” samples a line from Rakim and showcases Nas’ complex lyricism over DJ Premier’s Gang track in “Mind of State N.Y.”.

Nas made the following statement about the song.

The music just spoke to the people that needed to know what was in my head and what it was like in the minds of everybody in New York at that time—that’s what I thought. I thought the sound sounded like what was in everyone’s head at some point, or that sound represents a certain section of your mind. […] There was a lot going on in New York, especially in the ‘90s, same as today. That song—I think it’s timeless in a lot of ways.

During an interview with XXL, DJ Premier provided some background details about “N.Y. State of Mind”.

That was actually the second beat that I did [for Illmatic]. The first one was ‘Represent.’ I just had the drum pattern going with the funny little—it sounds almost like an astronaut signal at the beginning…I found that Joe Chambers sample [‘Mind Rain’], which is where that’s from. I usually don’t disclose my samples, but I cleared it, so it’s all good. Found the sample, and when they heard that melody, Nas and them was in agreement, like, ‘Yo, hook that up, that’s hot.’ So I hooked it up, and Nas started writing.

Right at the beginning of the record, when he says, ‘Straight out the dungeons of rap, where fake niggas don’t make it back.’ And then there’s kind of like a silence, where the music is building up, and you hear Nas go, ‘I don’t know how to start this shit.’ He just wrote it, and he was trying to figure out how to format it, like when to come in. I’m waving at him in the control room like, ‘Look at me, go in for the count.’ So right when he looks up and sees me counting, he just jumps in. He did the whole first verse in one take, and I remember when he finished the first verse, he stopped and said, ‘Does that sound cool?’ And we were all like, ‘Oh my God!’ It was like, I don’t even care what else you write.

He also commended Nas for adjusting to the sound of New York.

On ‘New York State of Mind’ it was literally him watch[ing] me drop the needle. ‘What you think of that, you like that?’ And I’m [like,] ‘It’s alright.’ ‘Okay, keep going.’ You know it’s a record so I’m like bringing it to that point where I think it needs to start. Boom, I said, ‘Oooh, let me hook that up.’ The sound that ran hip-hop was our sound [and] Nas matched that. He wasn’t like ‘unh uh, shorty, get your sound up,’ know what I’m saying? It wasn’t ‘get your sound up,’ it’s like he blends right in.

Large Professor, the well-known music producer, revealed that “N.Y. State of Mind” occupies a unique position as his most treasured song on the legendary album Illmatic.

The intensity and just the pureness, like, it captured the whole New York perfectly. As a fan of Nas, as a fan of Preem, as a fan of hip-hop, like, it was just like, ‘Yo, this is crazy.’

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