Produced By: DJ Premier/DJ Premier
Nas "Represent (Original Mix by DJ Premier)"
Nas "I'm A Villain"
"Represent" does, in fact, rep one of the East Coast song-structure styles that at one juncture ruled. The rugged you-and-your-mans-barking-in-unison was a popular type of hook that reflected the harsh NYC elements, both the climate and the living. "Represent" also captures the mentality and customs of early '90s inner-city youth. You could say that this and every other song on Illmatic is about the New York state of mind. "When I dress it's never nothin' less than Guess/Cold be walkin' with a bop and my hat turned back." That's not just about style, it's about the attitude.
The unmistakable Premier beat immediately pulls you in, a pulsating rhythm that can heat up the coldest winter. Nasty Nas, in repping mode, informs listeners he keeps a razor under his tongue—even when he raps—and upholds tradition by closing out with a string of requisite shout-outs. Then, to show you the New York toughness, he can't resist adding, "Fuck y'all crab ass niggas, though." Reppin' like a NY cat is supposed to.
The original "Represent" was the first song Nas and Premier worked on together. It boogied with a busy bass line that gave the cut a whole different feel, but was replaced when Preemo heard Pete Rock's "The World Is Yours" and wanted to step up. However, there's also an early draft of the lyrics to "Represent" that can be heard on "I'm A Villain" which appeared on Nas' excellent demo, often dubbed Prematic. Although some may call it blasphemous to put a song from Illmatic so low on the list, its placement is the result of the song having one of the weaker hooks on the album, despite the amazing verses.