In the world of Hip-Hop production, Illmatic is highly acclaimed as the ultimate work to feature big league Hip-Hop producers. Pete Rock, DJ Premier, and Large Professor? The gem speaks for itself. Hip-hop enthusiasts have always played with the idea of hearing other classic beatmakers on Illmatic including RZA, Easy Mo Bee, and Erick Sermon.
Erick Sermon could have killed that noise, but he did not see it coming. In a recent sit down with Doggie Diamonds TV, the EPMD rapper revealed why he, one of the ’90s’ most influential producers, did not produce a track for Nas’ Illmatic. According to Sermon, in 1991, during the early stages of the making of Illmatic, he turned the opportunity down because of style differences.
“So he comes and sits down, I give him c-list beats Doggy,” he said. “Don’t forget all my rappers is ‘wiggity wow’ and when I ‘S-P-E-L-L’ and I got Redman, I have these others. So that street content, I couldn’t really get with that. I know it sounds crazy.”
It was a 1991 studio session featuring the two hitmakers. Sermon admitted that Nas was not his style of rap at the time. The “street content” he is referring to is Nas’ storytelling knack which is distinct from the Diggity Das EFX and a funked-up Redman.
“I’m sitting here thinking that again is a kid that is from Queens that is just rhyming again but I don’t understand,” said Sermon.
The “You Gots To Chill” rapper says he ended up making three songs with Nas that night. Songs we will never hear because the studio they recorded in that night has since been set aflame. However, Sermon’s gesture set the tone for Illmatic. Sermon says Nas went to Pete Rock after and thus, “The World Is Yours.” He admits not realizing how impactful Illmatic was until years later when it was culturally deemed a classic. He was too busy enjoying the fruit of EPMD and the success of Def Squad.
“I’m not gonna lie to you, I didn’t look at it like that at that time then. I was a star,” he said. “Business As Usual was out and now we getting ready to drop ‘Crossover’ and ‘Headbanger’ and I got Redman coming out. Don’t forget, that wasn’t my style of rap.”
Erick Sermon is not in denial about the success of Illmatic. He mentioned the DJ Premier touched classic “New York State of Mind” as an example and praised his fellow big-league producers. The beauty of Sermon’s story is how the unpredictable, Illmatic, brought Hip-Hop to a safe place and refined the culture popularity all over the globe.