Dear Nas, Happy Anniversary “Illmatic”

Hip Hop

Dear Nas,


Happy 30th Illmatic Anniversary! Today marks three decades since the release of your iconic album, Illmatic. It really hit me today, as he and DJ Premier dropped a new song, the impact this album had on me back in 1994. I’m reminded of the timeless influence it continues to wield over Hip-Hop culture.

Hip-Hop has produced an almost endless number of albums, but Illmatic wasn’t just an album. The opus was a cultural phenomenon, a watershed moment and a movement. It was crafted with a mere 10 tracks (9 if you exclude the intro track “The Genesis”), but a stellar lineup of the best New York-based producers of the day. DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Large Professor, Q-Tip, and L.E.S. crafted a new standard of excellence and Nas upped the bar on lyricism and story-telling in the 90s, as the Golden Era rolled on. Nas, were not the “Second Coming of Rakim” as some dubbed you, but as the first “Nas.” You were a unique voice that we had been waiting for ever since the most classic introduction on “Live At The BBQ.



Each track on Illmatic is a masterpiece, but “New York State of Mind” (produced by Preemo) is my absolute favorite song. You can almost smell that song, and for me, it was a mindset I would assume in my day to day. I had not even moved to New York yet, but “I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death” became a mantra. (Oddly, Kool G Rap’s song “Streets of New York” was the biggest influence on this track.) But “New York State of Mind” embodied goals, ambitions and the rugged individualism many of us had. Nothing would stop me. And nothing would stop Nas either.

The album had numerous other songs that have resonated through the years. “Halftime,” “It Ain’t Hard to Tell,” “Life’s a B#### (featuring AZ),” “Memory Lane,” and “The World Is Yours” all have a special place in my heart. It’s fitting that on this 30th anniversary, you and DJ Premier have announced your long-awaited joint album. The anticipation is palpable and, after 18 long years, we are ready.

At 50, with over three decades in the game, you continue to defy stereotypes and elevate the art form. Your recent 6-project run with Hit-Boy only reaffirms your status as one of the greatest to ever grace the mic. While in Los Angeles, we got to chat during Grammy Week. Make no mistake, I was at this event because I was told you would be there. When we talked, I did not try to tell you about AllHipHop’s moves or about our 25th year. I just gave you the flowers, told you you were our emcee of the year and thanked you over and over for continuing to represent with the enthusiasm you had 30 years ago.

Half Man – Half Amazing. How that must feel at this age and stage. For the record, AllHipHop has interviewed you several times through the years, but this just feels so different. As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Illmatic, I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to you, Nas. Thank you for your unparalleled – seriously unmatched – contribution to Hip-Hop, for your timeless artistry, and for continuing to inspire us all.

Here’s to Illmatic, to three decades of greatness, and to you, Nas — the King of Queens, the poet laureate of Hip-Hop and an example for future generations.

With respect and admiration,

Chuck “Jigsaw” Creekmur

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