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

Liam Gallagher's first solo gig will be in aid of Manchester victims

He's also announced the name of the first song from his album

by Dave Fawbert
26 May 2017

The music world has united in response to the Manchester attack

Here are the reactions from musicians on social media

by Dave Fawbert
23 May 2017

11 forgotten indie bands that shaped your '00s teenage years

And what are they up to now?

by Tayler Willson
22 May 2017

This Harvard student dropped a rap album as his final dissertation

Now I feel like a mug for writing a 20,000-word essay

by Gary Ogden
22 May 2017

UK music festivals are going to start testing your drugs for purity

It has the potential to save lives

by Gary Ogden
22 May 2017

The 7 most important UK festival sets of the millennium

The musical moments in a field that changed everything

by David Hillier
19 May 2017

These modern albums redesigned with retro covers are glorious

We wish these were the real thing

by Dave Fawbert
19 May 2017

Chris Cornell's isolated vocals to 'Black Hole Sun' are amazing

A reminder of the sheer talent of the Soundgarden frontman

by Dave Fawbert
19 May 2017

Check out the exclusive new Nothing But Thieves video

'Amsterdam' was filmed in a Ukranian industrial warehouse

by Dave Fawbert
18 May 2017

Paying tribute to Chris Cornell, one of the greatest voices in music

And here are six songs from him that you need to listen to immediately

by Dave Fawbert
18 May 2017