We’ve been in Illmatic 25th anniversary mode all day — peep our Today In Hip-Hop History feature for a breakdown of Esco’s monumental debut album! — but nobody is reveling in the moment more than the man himself. That’s why last night made for an extra special occasion, as Nas returned home to NYC to unveil a new pop-up experience currently on display at Sony Square.

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An original copy of The Source Issue No. 55 (April 1994), where Nas gets a perfect Five-Mic rating, sits on display at the ‘Illmatic XXV: Memory Lane’ NYC pop-up.
Image: Keenan Higgins / The Source


Made possible by the good people over at Hennessy, The Pop Up Agency and Certified Classics, the ‘Illmatic XXV: Memory Lane’ experience kicked off Thursday night (4/18) to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Illmatic and the rap icon who made it all happen. Nas was on the floor to greet industry insiders, guests and familiar faces from his past, all there equally as fans of his most groundbreaking work of musical art. Joining him in the celebration included Vashtie, Pro Era rapper CJ Fly, Dave East, Rox Brown, Illmatic photographer Danny Clinch, 88 Keys, Ruben Rivera, his brother Jungle and a room-full of other supporters of the Queens-bred Hip-Hop legend. However, the one guest in attendance that probably garnered almost as much fanfare as Nas himself was none other than his The Firm partner in rhyme AZ. Both fellas hung out the entire night side by side, showing a rap unity that brought nothing but positive vibes to the room.

Speaking of said room, the pop-up itself was completely designed to replicate a Queensbridge circa ’94 setting that is just as important to the story of Illmatic as the words on wax. From a photo booth that let attendees recreate the album cover, to a live painting of it by artist Andre Trenier, everything about the space felt like a time capsule of a moment that many look back on with fond memories.

‘Illmatic XXV: Memory Lane’ at Sony Square NYC (25 Madison Avenue) will see a lot of exciting events for fans in the upcoming weeks. The pop-up itself will be open for eight days, starting today (April 19) and ending Saturday, April 27. On April 23, there will be a special fan screening of Mass Appeal’s 2018 concert film Nas Live From the Kennedy Center: Classical Hip-Hop, which should gear up rap heads for his Illmatic 25th Anniversary performance with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Filene Theater/Wolf Trap on July 14. You’ll also be able to shop Illmatic XXV merch — hoodies, tees and headwear are included — in addition to Bleacher Report’s B/R Rewind campaign with Nas, which is also available online.

Take a look at a recap of the ‘Illmatic XXV: Memory Lane’ NYC pop-up launch event below, and stream Illmatic today, tomorrow and all this week:

Images: Madison McGaw/BFA