The album opens with “The Genesis” which uses music from the score of Wild Style as well as audio from the film’s opening scene. In 1994, few people outside of New York had even seen Wild Style to fully grasp the significance of the album’s intro. Wild Style wasn’t widely available for sale or rental on VHS at the time and the only places to purchase it were mail order ads in the back of The Source or from catalogs in imported graf magazines. This was not easily accessible music that catered to the listener, you had to take three steps towards it. Nas is the son of a Jazz musician & Bluesman, after all.
The reason so many heads of my generation fell in love with Illmatic is because it dredged up nostalgic feelings when music meant so much more to our lives, when we all huddled around the radio because it reflected the voice of our community and was genuinely invested in our well being. Back then records seemed to perfectly capture the spirit and flavor of the times they were made in. Illmatic drew directly from the classic albums of the past and in turn inspired many classic albums of the future.
Illmatic is praised today and regarded as a classic even though it was overshadowed by The Notorious B.I.G.’s classic debut Ready To Die, which was powered by the hit singles “Juicy” and “One More Chance” back in 1994. Nas and Illmatic also failed to receive any accolades at the 1995 Source Awards from the same magazine that the previous year regarded him as the “Second Coming of Rakim”. This week alone we’ve seen multiple think pieces, retrospectives, mini documentaries and the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of Time Is Illmatic. Amazing considering it took this same album more than two years to initially go gold and another 5 after that to go platinum. I can’t wait to see what they do for Ready To Die’s 20th anniversary!