Not many rappers get books written about them, especially in a good light. NaS falls into the good light this time. At the age of nineteen, he recorded his debut album, Illmatic. 16 years later, a book about the album is released. It is written by many well-known names in Hip Hop and academia. The book Born to Use Mics: Reading Nas's Illmatic runs like the album itself with an essay for each track, but it includes a few bonuses which are essays, an interview and the famous five mic review from The Source.
Each essay is written by a different person. Every writer had their own format. The records from the album were used as jump off points. Those writers used the theme of the records to talk about larger concepts. Some of them connected to other Rap records. This showed the impact the album had.
The book started off with a great breakdown of “The Genesis” by Adilifu Nama. NaS isn't rapping on the record, but there is a lot going on. The author of the essay catches it all and shows what people missed from a track that just sounds random to them. Sohail Daulatzai's essay followed by talking about the next record, “N.Y. State of Mind.” He connected the record with how things got to be so horrible on the streets of New York City. Michael Eric Dyson and Guthrie P. Ramsey Jr.'s personal connection to the records they wrote about made their essays really enjoyable to read. Some of the writers didn't do such a great job with their essays. They pushed away from the records they were tasked to write about. An example of this would be the essay on “One Time 4 Your Mind.”
I think the book would've been a lot better if the editors, Sohail Daulatzai and Michael Eric Dyson, had guidelines for the writers. The guidelines would've made the book seemed more like an album, instead of each essay seeming like a bunch of singles.
The lack of guidelines can make the book less understandable to the typical Hip Hop head. The book seems to be more geared towards educated people who are curious about Rap's influence and impact. The book helps Rap to be considered as a serious field of study. A few of the essays can show up in any American Studies class.