nas illmatic

The Debut Album That’s Still Ill Twenty Years Later

02 June of 2014

By Ntombenhle Shezi (@NtombenhleShezi)

Over the years Ill-matic has been cited as an album that changed the face of hip hop, with references to it being found on the songs of both old and new school rappers. Post his beef with Nas, Jay Z pays homage to Illmatic on A Star is Born off the Blue Print 3 album rapping, “I had the Illmatic on bootleg/The shit was so ahead, thought we was all dead”. Eminem, Kanye West and Odd Future are just some of the several other rappers who do the same.

1994 was a good year for hip hop. Common Sense came through with his sophomore album Resurrection. Notorious BIG’s Ready To Die was also released the same year along with Outkast’s  Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. 1994 was also the year that 21 year old Nassir Jones introduced us to Ill-matic, which would go on to position him as one of the most important lyricists of the 20th century.

Released twenty years ago to critical acclaim, Illmatic is still one of those albums that sounds like it came out yesterday.  The album had some of the finest rap musicians of the early 90s working behind the scenes on the production that ended up contributing to its memorability, with the likes of A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip on the track ‘One Love’ and Pete Rock producing and providing lyrics on the epic ‘The World is Yours‘. Having produced big hits for Notorious BIG and later Jay Z, Kanye West and many more, the legendary DJ Premier also laid down beats on several songs on the album.

Over the years Illmatic has been cited as an album that changed the face of hip hop, with references to it being found on the songs of both old and new school rappers. Post his beef with Nas, Jay Z pays homage to Illmatic on A Star is Born off the Blue Print 3 album rapping, “I had the Ill-matic on bootleg/The shit was so ahead, thought we was all dead”. Eminem, Kanye West and Odd Future are just some of the several other rappers who do the same.

Seeing Nas and his ‘hype man’, Q-tip, performing recently on the Jimmy Fallon Show as part of the 20th anniversary of the album’s release reminded me why Illmatic was one of the first rap albums I fell in love with. Singing along to the words “It’s mine ..it’s mine… it’s mine”, not only made me want a pair of suede Timbs (“Suede Timbs on my feet…Make my cypher complete”- Nas), but it also made me feel (and still does make me feel) like “yes, the world is mine”.

Nas will be performing in South Africa on the 7th of June along Timberland and local artists at the Extra Cold Music Concert

FURTHER READING:

READ: NPR: Minya Oh: ‘I Was Never Gonna Not Want To Listen To This’

READ: Colourlines: New Documentary Celebrates 20 Years of “Ill-matic”

READ: MTV: Happy Anniversary, Ill-matic: 20 Surprising Facts About Nas’ Debut

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