'Illmatic' at 20: Nas Reflects on His Landmark Debut (1)
The 'Illmatic' Origins
Though officially released on April 19th, 1994, Illmatic's own genesis can be traced
back to almost three years earlier. It was the summer of 1991 and Queens-based
hip hop trio Main Source released its acclaimed debut LP, Breaking Atoms. Buoyed by the dual talents of the group's emcee and
in-house production wizard Large Professor, Breaking
Atoms' penultimate track was "Live at the Barbeque" – a propulsive posse
cut featuring one of the Professor's young protégés, a raw, 17-year-old then-unknown
calling himself Nasty Nas. His obscurity would be short-lived.
When I heard 'Live at the Barbeque' I and I heard the way
Nas spit I was just so blown away. No one was saying the crazy stuff that he
was sayin' - DJ Premier
Imbued with indelibly nihilistic imagery, Nas' verse
was delivered with a command and effortlessness that belied his newcomer
status. His was the voice of a new rap generation for whom disaffection with
any and all traditional social institutions fueled memorably outrageous boasts. But he was also savvy enough to avoid the
novelty of mere shock value and acknowledge the currency of creativity.
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