Time Is Illmatic, a new documentary by One9 and Erik Parker, celebrates Nas's groundbreaking 1994 hip hop album Illmatic. The film examines the impact of the LP at the time it was released and in the twenty years since.
Now, the rap icon himself sits down with BET.com to talk about the film, the state of hip hop today and the changing demographics of the city that influenced him, and that he still calls home. "This film is about me, the music, my journey and an American story," says Nas. "It's about a time period when most of the audience [today] were kids."
Nas also reflects on the changing game of hip hop, but maintains that one thing remains true from 1994 to today. "Hip hop is a rough place, and you're going to get punched around" he says, talking about the backlash faced by contemporary artists like Iggy Azalea. "I think [she] knows that. She's a really intelligent woman and she loves hip hop. You need tough skin, no matter what color your skin is."
The rap legend also talks about the impact BET had on him over the years. "I grew up on BET, as most of America did. BET has been a big influence on my career," he says. "The network gave us everything we needed to see, things we couldn't see anywhere else. Without BET, lots of careers would have had a real hard time."
To hear more of Nas's thoughts on Time Is Illmatic, his early influences — from Marley Marl to Roxanne Shanté — and gentrification in New York City, watch our exclusive interview below.
Time Is Illmatic is in theaters in select cities now and will be available on VOD everywhere starting Friday.
(Photo: Tribeca Film)