Many rap artists say their debut album is “the album they’ve been writing their whole life,” an autobiographical and celebratory piece of work summed up in 65 minutes of audio. More often than not the quote is more cliche than actual substance when the listener hears the final product. While most projects of said ilk aren’t a autobiographical or a seminal piece of work, it really shows how influential ONE rap album has been to artists over the past 20 years. Many have attempted to mimic, re-interpret, and recapture that one album, but very few albums can stand next to Illmatic.
Time is Illmatic, the story behind Nas’ classic debut album Illmatic, was released earlier last month. I consider myself a fan of Nas and was interested in seeing what story was painted in this 74 minute film. I came in jaded, yet with an open mind when watching this, because it’s quite easy to brush off stale rehashes of stories you already know. Couple that with disappointments of previous rap documentaries and it led to me approaching the documentary like I knew nothing about Nas or Illmatic.
The angle the documentary makers took telling the story was pretty interesting and kept me quite engaged. The film juxtaposed the history of the Nas’ family, New York City, and rap with overarching themes that would become subject matter for his 1994 debut. I was thoroughly satisfied with the back stories on the frequently mentioned Ill Will, his parents’ influence on he and his brother’s lives, and what others saw in him. Illmatic was more than music, it was Nas’ life, his experiences growing up in Queensbridge, and most importantly a start to a legendary career.
Definitely worth the time to watch and money to purchase!