Nas: Time is Illmatic, 10 years in the making and 20 years of greatness

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“Nas: Time is Illmatic” takes an in-depth look at  the life of  Nasir Jones leading up to “Illmatic” and the impact he had on a generation of music. Growing up in Queensbridge wasn’t always easy, but Nas’ love for his humble beginnings helped mold him into the rap legend he is today. This documentary takes a retrospective look at how Nas’ perseverance and lyrical talent helped him transcend the struggles of his neighborhood. From seeing his best friend die to saying goodbye to those who were incarcerated, Nas matured at a much earlier age than most of us.

The Source Magazine was on the red carpet for the New York premiere. Read our exclusive interviews below:


When we asked director One9 , Why Nas?

He said, ” Nas represents our culture, our generation, our history, our film is more than a hip-hop story, our film is an American story. Growing up in Queensbridge was reflective of what was going on around the world. Queensbridge also represents Detroit, it represents Chicago, it represents Ferguson, Nas’ story is an inspiration for the younger generation to see that you can use different tools to make it out of there.”

When comparing today’s generation to that of “Illmatic’s,” one question had a somewhat unanimous answer:

Is there any album or mixtape from today’s generation of Hip-Hop that has had as strong of an impact as “Illmatic” did during its era, or at least comes close to it?

Marley Marl said, “I couldn’t really put my finger on it because you know the music has changed a lot, the genre has changed, the reason why Nas was groundbreaking is because he was the first, I don’t think anybody could follow him because he was the first one to do it. ”

La La Anthony: “No, the answer is none.”

Jabari “Jungle” Jones: No way, nobody out there can compare to “Illmatic.”

Fab 5 Freddy: “It’s apples and oranges, there’s so many artist that it would be unfair to try and compare because the music and culture evolves over time ”

Erik Parker: “It’s difficult for me to say because it not my generation, 20 years ago I was able to make that call”

The only person who seemed to have more faith in today’s generation was Pete Rock.

Pete Rock: “Probably Kendrick Lamar, I love Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q and the whole TDE crew, I think they’re the closest to what Illmatic did. ”

(Photo Credit: Nishat Baig)

We spoke more with Nas’ brother about their childhood and the impact of “Illmatic:”

Back when you were growing up did you ever expect Nas and Illmatic to blow up the way they  did?

Jabari “Jungle” Jones: “no I thought it would be just something for the neighborhood and we’d have a little bit of props in the neighborhood and that’s about it, I didn’t think it would lead to 2o years of longevity and still be doin’ it now”

We also asked Faith Newman, the person who signed Nas to Columbia Records in 1991, about Nas’ evolution:

Tell us about watching him grow into this icon.

Faith: He’s matured into this incredible man, he was 18 when I signed him, he’s 41 now. I’ve watched him evolve and grow and become a father, but he’s still at his core the same person, always humble, always real.

Nas did more than represent one part of New York he was able to express and capture the voice of an entire generation. He transformed a musical art form into a mode of storytelling with his unparalleled verses and lyricism. So of course we had to ask the voice of one generation who the voice of today’s generation is:

Who is the best lyricist of today’s generation?

Nas: Still yet to see, they’re just getting started.

With no clear voice of today’s generation according to Nas, rappers must rise to the challenge and reflect on the greatness that was and still is Illmatic.

After the screeninng at MoMA, guests headed to a vibrant after-party hosted by Hennessy V.S, of which Nas is the face. The Tribeca Film documentary will be released on demand on Oct. 3.

-Nishat Baig

Below are photos from the premiere courtesy of