Sitting with Zane Lowe (the journalist who got Kanye West to admit that he was the first to invent leather jogging pants), Nasty Nas revealed what it was like working with the team of super producers who backed the Queensbridge kid when he debuted in 1994 with the original Illmatic.
His new album is a commemoration project for the 20th anniversary of that first classic. After stopping by Real Time With Bill Maher and The Tonight Show to chat about this special time in hip hop, God's Son went to the United Kingdom to take a nostalgic approach to bridging the two Illmatics with Lowe.
Nas credits the "roaring '80s" in New York for feeding his creativity. "I always say that my environment wrote that [first] album," Nas told Lowe. "I was just an instrument in the middle."
In his apartment, Nas constructed a soundtrack to New York City, painting vivid pictures of life in the Gotham City during the crack era. But while his lyrics undoubtedly shaped the album, the beats and producers had a heavy hand in Illmatic’s success.
"I had a dream team behind me," Nas added, as he reminisced on being the "new guy" working alongside Large Professor, Q-Tip, DJ Premier and Pete Rock on his first album. "No one had seen nothing like it before, I can't tell you how lucky I am now and how lucky I was then to get them on the album."
He then dove into a story about his first time in Pete Rock's famous Mount Vernon recording studio. “It was really dark down there, there were records in crates," Nas said. "He had his beat machine and he had so many ideas, I was just happy to be there."
Pete Rock played Nas a bunch of beats that day, some of which he overlooked, an ongoing trend in the music business.
"I remember talking to Kanye about beats, and he was telling me which beat he gave — like 'All of the Lights,' he gave to Jeezy or he gave another beat to Common and Common didn't want it, and he heard it for his album and used it," Nas said. "These guys are giving us their A-1 stuff and sometimes we don't see their vision! But I tell you what, when he [Rock] gave me 'The World Is Yours,' I saw it right there, I knew what it was."
Nas's Illmatic XX drops April 15.
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