On Sunday, April 13, Nas and Hennessy V.S hosted a private poolside brunch to give a guest-list of celebs, journalists, and artists an exclusive sneak peak at his new documentary “Time is Illimatic”. EBONY caught up with the rap icon at the Coachella weekend event to learn more about the documentary as he celebrated the 20th anniversary of his debut masterpiece.
Nas is in his second year as the brand spokesperson of Hennessy’s Wild Rabbit campaign; "Time Is Illmatic' takes a look at the creation of the rapper's game-changing ILLmatic and the 'Wild Rabbit' spirit that led him to create the genre defining work.
EBONY: How did the timing of everything come to fruition? You just performed at Coachella, and you’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of Illmatic with this new documentary premiering at Tribeca.
Nas: I just felt like it was the right time, right place. It’s really new, but we’ve developing things going on two years, I think. As far as the timing, it just felt right.
EBONY: When you watch the documentary, did anything surprise you about yourself or give you new perspective about making the album?
Nas: Definitely showed me this world I was living in back then. There’s a lot of footage with people I grew up with, people who I knew and looked up to from my neighborhood. My family, of course, and their whole history. Once you see something like that, it connects the dots for you.
EBONY: What other albums out there do you think deserve a documentary?
Nas: I think most albums deserve a documentary because [an album] is a visual book. You don’t have to read up on it because you can listen and watch the whole story. I would love to see lots of albums [become films.]
EBONY: Did you realize Illmatic was a classic while you were working on it or was it after the release and reviews started coming back?
Nas: Working on it, I knew. My whole approach it was you had to do it crazy, you had to do it right.
EBONY: How does your relationship with Hennessy connect with the film?
Nas: I’m a brand ambassador. How it connects to the documentary is that on my first album I talked about this drink, because I was talking about everything real. So as far me talking about it on the album and its branding for the documentary, it’s just part of the journey.
EBONY: There were many great albums from Hip Hop’s “Golden Era,” but it seems like Illmatic has remained the most relevant to the present-day culture. Why do you think it was able to stand the test of time?
Nas: It depends on what kind of rap fan it is. But the people who liked mine really loved it because they could really relate to me, and we relate to each other. The documentary shows people why what I was talking about in the album is still so relevant. Illmatic talks about the same things going on today… from “One Love” to “New York State Of Mind” to me rapping with different styles and different flows. It was one of the game-changers of that time. I kinda came in at a good place, at a good time, and just rocked sh*t.
EBONY: Is there an album that was released in the last 5 years that you think people will be talking about 20 years from now the way we are talking about Illmatic?
Nas: I didn’t even think of that…but you know, it’s gotta be one. One thing that’s different from when I put out mine though is that there’s a lot of albums out right now, so it’s harder to say. But there has to be one out there…You kinda got me on that one, I gotta think about that.
EBONY: Well the reason I asked was because when you were coming out, there is no Twitter, or blogs, or social media. On one hand, albums coming out have a bigger chance of being overhyped or overly critiqued, but on the other, there’s a bigger platform for the standout, innovative music to spread and be appreciated by the masses. Do you think it’s harder to make a classic now?
Nas: I think it’s harder to make a classic now, not because of what people say, but because artists now are so concerned with what people say. When your so focused on what people say, how can your really be focused on the music? If you’re concerned with what someone says, you aren’t working on a real record. You’re working on something that’s just for now, to please people this very second…because you don’t believe in yourself. If you really believe in yourself and your music that much, you’re gonna do your thing, regardless what people say.
EBONY: Would you say that the absence of the blogosphere helped you stay focused, and make the art more pure?
Nas: Yeah, it wasn’t as easy as it is today to get into the game. Not to say that it’s really too easy today, but it’s night and day compared to how it was back then. You couldn’t get into rap unless it was just 100% crazy and dope, so a lot of people weren’t let in. So of course I had to approach the record like that. I needed it to mean everything.