Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Nas Talks Illmatic

nas2.jpg
nas3.jpg
nas1.jpg

As Nas’ classic debut Illmatic turns 20, the man himself talks us through its making

HIGH EXPECTATIONS

“At the time [1994], Dr Dre’s The Chronic and Snoop’s Doggstyle were changing the game. You didn’t want to put out any garbage after those. We were the generation that saw Scarface, saw the drug deals being done, saw that politicians never came into our communities, so we took a harder approach to hip hop music. Some of the greatest hip hop came from my neighbourhood, too [Queensbridge, New York], so that was heavy in my heart. I had a big job to do.”

WORKING WITH GIANTS

“I’m not comparing myself to Michael Jackson, but it must have been how he felt when he went to Motown to work with their biggest producers. I made Illmatic with three of the greatest producers of the time: Pete Rock, DJ Premier and Q-Tip. It was a dream come true, but I wouldn’t have done the album any other way. I even mentioned in the studio about the cover being me putting Jesus in a headlock. They thought I was crazy. I wasn’t upset with Jesus, I was upset with the world. It would never have really been the cover; it was just some sh*t I was saying.”

SLOW BURNING CLASSIC

“I’d heard of the Billboard charts back then, but I didn’t understand the significance. I was just happy that Illmatic would get released in stores. But after that Notorious BIG had this humongous set-up for his record [debut Ready To Die], and it hit me; a gold, [or] platinum, record was something you need. A point of status. I thought it’d still be a good record in 20 years, but I didn’t think about celebrating the way I’m celebrating it now.”

ENDURING APPEAL

“I’ve met so many celebrities who tell me it’s their favourite album. I see these kids at my shows and I forget that Illmatic is 20 years old. I hear a new energy in hip hop now. [Artists] are growing, telling different stories. There’s a fresh music they’re bringing to the world, I enjoy that.”

llmatic XX – the special 20th anniversary edition – is out 14 April

(Images: Rex)

Related

hip-hop-hero.jpg

The 30 greatest hip hop albums ever

hero1.jpg

25 Most Iconic Music Stage Outfits

hero_coolestalbums.jpg

The 50 Coolest Albums ever

1-velvet.jpg

50 Coolest Album Covers

snoop-money-supermarket.jpg

9 reasons hip hop is dead

cool_covers.jpg

30 Coolest Alternative Album Covers

Comments

More

American rapper records brutal diss track... about himself

He's gone in hard

by Dave Fawbert
28 Jun 2017

Glastonbury techno tent blares out Corbyn's speech at 4am

He won Glastonbury

by Alex Finnis
28 Jun 2017

First details of the Glastonbury spin-off festival emerge

It's sounding great already

by Dave Fawbert
27 Jun 2017

Watch Liam Gallagher perform 'Don't Look Back in Anger' for first time

Wonder what Noel thought of it...

by Tom Victor
26 Jun 2017

Tim Westwood accidentally sends credit card details to the internet

To be fair, he is nearly 60...

by Dave Fawbert
26 Jun 2017

Eminem has grown a beard and it's really unsettling

Will the real slim shavey please stand up?

by Carl Anka
26 Jun 2017

Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl dedicates 'My Hero' to naked man

And the BBC accidentally showed him on TV

by Alex Finnis
26 Jun 2017

DJ Legend Goldie just accidentally revealed Banksy's identity

That's one big slip up...

by Carl Anka
23 Jun 2017

"Ohhh Jeremy Corbyn!" chant breaks out at Glastonbury silent disco

He's the hottest act of the summer

by Tom Victor
23 Jun 2017

Johnny Depp goes on rant about assassinating Donald Trump at Glasto

Someone's getting in trouble

by Gary Ogden
23 Jun 2017