When it comes to classics, Illmatic is always mentioned! This is no different to the the film Time Is Illmatic. I was honoured to watch Nas: Time Is Illmatic the Monday after its UK release. Twenty years after the release of one of the greatest albums Nas takes us into the creation of Illmatic through stories of his life, Queens Bridge, growing up in the hip-hop culture and the struggles of being a male growing up in New York.
Time Is Illmatic interviews his ‘Illmatic’ producers Large Professor, Pete Rock, Q‑Tip, L.E.S., and DJ Premier. There are also interviews from musicians including Pharrell Williams and Alicia Keys, we see how Illmatic has changed and inspired other artist into making classics. The likes of Erykah Badu, Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole spoke during the documentary explaining how the stories Nas told via his raps, lyrics and imagery created the inspiration for them to create their art.
If you had never listened to Illmatic before this documentary would change your mind set. The album is portrayed as more than just an album. Those 10 tracks are more than just four minute expressions, they told stories of those who needed hope to thrive and turn their lives around. Watching the documentary you can tell the emotion which inspired Nas to become an artist and what success meant to himself, his family and Queens Bridge.
Although Nas’s life pre-Illmatic is well documented, there isn’t much about the direct creation of the album. But more on the life style of Nas as he grew up in Queens Bridge, New York as a young African American being clogged in the “system” and the start of his legendary rap career.
If you’re a fan of rap, hip-hop, Nas or even great documentaries this is a great educational tool to learn from. The documentary was shot so gracefully you never wanted it to end. As a Nas fan, I wanted the documentary to continue and see the immediate effect of Illmatic after it was released. But with the legacy it has created, we may not have needed to see it in the documentary.