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‘Illmatic’ A&R Faith Newman On Nas’ Wild Early Days

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

2. Nas Illmatic


"It’s only 10 tracks, but for me there is no skipping with tracks, every track is a banger."
2. Nas Illmatic

"It’s only 10 tracks, but for me there is no skipping with tracks, every track is a banger."

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Kendrick Lamar, Tech N9ne And Many More Talk ‘Illmatic’

Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Tech N9ne, Peter Rosenburg and many more talk to Google Play and reflect on Nas' iconic debut album Illmatic...

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Nas Illmatic Album Art
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Nas Wants Fans To Make Their ‘Illmatic’ Cover

Nas’ classic debut album Illmatic turn 20 this year on April 19 and Nas is set to release Illmatic XX which will feature a host of remixes of the original’s legendary cuts...

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Nas Says New York City Wrote ‘Illmatic’

Nas joined BBC Radio 1’s Zane Lowe for an in-depth interview about the making of and the impact of Illmatic, as it nears its 20th anniversary...

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NAs Illmatic In the Road
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Nas’ New Documentary Will Premiere At The Tribeca Film Festival

Time is Illmatic, the documentary that explores the legacy of Nasir Jones' iconic album Illmatic 20 years after its debut, will world premiere at the opening of the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival...

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By The Numbers: Nas’ First Six Platinum Albums

Nas is credited for dropping arguably the best debut album in hip-hop history with Illmatic. After his classic 1994 release, the Queensbridge storyteller followed up with five more platinum solo albums in a ten-year span, pioneering a run that only Jay Z, Kanye West and Snoop Dogg have matched as the only rappers to claim such an impressive consistent stint, with 'Ye recently joining the ranks after the platinum success of Yeezus...

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Nas Is Planning A Special Show For Next Year’s ‘Illmatic’ Anniversary

Nas gave an interview to The Huffington Post today, where he discussed the delay regarding his followup to last year's XXL-rated Life Is Good, as well as some plans to put together a special concert next year in honor of the 20th anniversary of his seminal debut Illmatic...

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Gunplay Reveals His Five Favorite Street Albums

Richard Morales, better known as Gunplay, has been a part of Rick Ross' superstar Maybach Music Group crew since virtually the beginning...

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AZ “Genesis”

Love Sosa? The Visualiza returns with this brand new freestyle over Nas' classic joint on Illmatic...

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Category: New Music Tags: , , ,

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