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For anyone with even a passing knowledge of hip-hop, Nas' debut album Illmatic—which dropped 20 years ago this Saturday (Apr. 19)—is a landmark, a stepping stone for the genre, and easily one of the greatest albums of all time. Beginning to end, in 10 songs that stretch barely 40 minutes, Queensbridge's finest laid out his life story, from his days as a kid pissin' in the projects' elevator to gun fights and stick ups with corner kids and homies from the block, to snagging mic time in the booth when the legends who walked before him didn't show up. In short, it's as close to perfect as anyone has come before or since to capturing the lifestyle, energy and emotion that comes from growing up in the projects of New York City.

But like any album, the product doesn't create, package and sell itself; there's a team of people outside of Nas, Large Professor, DJ Premier and the team of phenomenal producers that helped craft the sound and tone of the album. One of the most instrumental on that team was MC Serch, the former rapper from 3rd Bass who had just put out a song called "Back To The Grill," featuring a young Nas in one of his earliest performances on wax. Believing in the young Queens spitter, Serch agreed to help Nas secure a record deal, shopping his demo before finding him a home with Faith Newman, a new A&R at Columbia who had just moved over from her early days at Def Jam.

Together, Serch and Newman helped helm Illmatic, handling the A&R duties, making sure samples cleared, smoothing out the legalities and tracking down the bootlegs that began to appear almost everywhere in the weeks leading up to the album's release. With the album's anniversary on Saturday, XXL has spoken to a number of people who were instrumental in helping turn Illmatic from a budding idea from a rising MC into a full-blown reality that would change the face of hip-hop forever. Here is MC Serch's story. —Dan Rys
For anyone with even a passing knowledge of hip-hop, Nas' debut album Illmatic—which dropped 20 years ago this Saturday (Apr. 19)—is a landmark, a stepping stone for the genre, and easily one of the greatest albums of all time. Beginning to end, in 10 songs that stretch barely 40 minutes, Queensbridge's finest laid out his life story, from his days as a kid pissin' in the projects' elevator to gun fights and stick ups with corner kids and homies from the block, to snagging mic time in the booth when the legends who walked before him didn't show up. In short, it's as close to perfect as anyone has come before or since to capturing the lifestyle, energy and emotion that comes from growing up in the projects of New York City.

But like any album, the product doesn't create, package and sell itself; there's a team of people outside of Nas, Large Professor, DJ Premier and the team of phenomenal producers that helped craft the sound and tone of the album. One of the most instrumental on that team was MC Serch, the former rapper from 3rd Bass who had just put out a song called "Back To The Grill," featuring a young Nas in one of his earliest performances on wax. Believing in the young Queens spitter, Serch agreed to help Nas secure a record deal, shopping his demo before finding him a home with Faith Newman, a new A&R at Columbia who had just moved over from her early days at Def Jam.

Together, Serch and Newman helped helm Illmatic, handling the A&R duties, making sure samples cleared, smoothing out the legalities and tracking down the bootlegs that began to appear almost everywhere in the weeks leading up to the album's release. With the album's anniversary on Saturday, XXL has spoken to a number of people who were instrumental in helping turn Illmatic from a budding idea from a rising MC into a full-blown reality that would change the face of hip-hop forever. Here is MC Serch's story. Dan Rys

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MC Serch Always Knew Nas’ ‘Illmatic’ Was The Greatest Album Of All Time

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