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nas time is illmatic queens
Tonight, the premiere of Time Is Illmatic, the documentary by producer/writer Erik Parker and director One9 which explores the making of Nas' classic debut LP, will take place at the TriBeCa Film Festival. The documentary, which comes the week of the album's 20th anniversary and the day after the re-release of Nas' IllmaticXX, has been a decade in the making, with work beginning in 2004 around the 10th anniversary of the album. As time went on, One9 and Parker were able to, piece by piece and step by step, speak to as many people involved in the making of the album—as well as Nas' early life—to paint a full picture of what, exactly, went into crafting this album.

"The film gives you a guide to making the album, not just musically, but also a social and political context of what was going on while he was making that album," Parker says. "There are many things we want people to take away from this film, but the one thing for sure that we want people to take away is that Illmatic was much bigger than just Nas and the great poet that he is; he was telling the story of a people, and everyone who wasn't as good at articulating that story, he did that for them."

With the doc premiering tonight, XXL spoke with both One9 and Parker about the decade-long process of putting together the film, Nas' reaction to the production, and what the legacy of Illmatic really is. Dan Rys

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Nas’ ‘Time Is Illmatic’ Documentary Has Been In The Works For 10 Years

nas illmatic 20 years memory lane

“Memory Lane (Sittin’ In Da Park)”

Producer: DJ Premier
Lyric: “I reminisce on park jams, my man was shot for his sheep coat/Childhood lesson make me see him drop in my weed smoke/It’s real, grew up in trife life, the times of white lines/The hype pipes, murderous nighttimes and knife fights invite crimes”
Why It’s Dope: We can see here how hard lessons learned at too young of an age shaped Nas’ worldview. Every time he gets high, he remembers the night he lost one of his friends to the violence that overtook major American cities in the 1980s.

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The Making Of Nas’ ‘Illmatic’ — XXL Issue 112

Still Ill
In spring 1994, a chip-tooth kid outta Queensbridge released a 10-song debut album that set a new standard for hip-hop lyricism...

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nas the world is yours illmatic

“The World Is Yours”

Producer: Pete Rock
Lyric: “While all the old folks pray to Jesus, soakin’ their sins in trays/Of holy water, odds against Nas are slaughter/Thinkin' a word best describing my life/To name my daughter my strength/My son the star will be my resurrection/Born in correction, all the wrong shit I did, he’ll lead a right direction”
Why It’s Dope: These lines endorse a vision of the world in which Nas plays the roles of both God and sinner, only capable of being saved by the goodness of his children. This line used to sound like wishful thinking on the part of Nas and his guilty conscience, but as you get older, the concept of becoming a better person through your children, or them being your resurrection, begins to resonate.

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Nas’ 20 Best Lines On ‘Illmatic’

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nas illmatic 20 years represent

“Represent”

Producer: DJ Premier
Lyric: “The brutalizer, crew de-sizer, accelerator/The type of nigga who be pissin' in your elevator/Somehow the rap game reminds me of the crack game/Used to sport Bally's and Gazelle's with black frames/Now I'm into fat chains, sex and tecs/Fly new chicks and new kicks, Heine's and Beck's”
Why It’s Dope: It's a perfect reference to the type of degenerate who pisses in elevators; everybody knows who that type of person is, and a simple line encapsulates the entire idea. Then there's the rap game/crack game comparison, which is one of the most commonly-used tropes in the genre.

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Made You Look: The 20 Most Stylish Looks From Nas

nas represent suit

“Represent”

Producer: DJ Premier
Lyric: “Nas is a rebel of the street corner/Pulling a Tec out the dresser/Police got me under pressure”
Why It’s Dope: Nas is explaining the overwhelming sense of fear and paranoia when you’re in the drug game and how that fear can drive you to arming yourself with semi-automatic weapons. He’s proud of his status as a rebel but is also condemning the gangsta lifestyle as not being worth it.

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Nas Did Not Put Together The Tracklist For ‘Illmatic’

For the upcoming 20th anniversary of Nas’ classic album Illmatic, God's Son sat down with Spotify for their Landmark series and discussed stories from the making of the album...

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illmaticxx
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Stream Nas’ “Illmatic XX’ Album

To celebrate the upcoming anniversary of Nas' iconic debut album Illmatic, God's Son officially released Illmatic XX, a special 20th Anniversary Edition of the widely debated hip-hop classic via SONY Legacy...

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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

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Watch Nas’ ‘Time Is Illmatic’ Trailer

The 20th anniversary of Illmatic is proving to be a landmark event in hip-hop history. After making numerous media appearances in the past two weeks, Nas— Nas as a brand ambassador for Hennessy—will be performing at Coachella this weekend before heading back to New York for the release of Time Is 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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