Whether you consider Nas too be overrated or one of the best lyricists in hip hop history, Time Is Illmatic is a great documentary that captures a specific moment in hip hop history and how the artist and the album influenced so many who came after it.
The story proper begins with Nas’ father, who as many hip hop heads know, was a quality jazz musician in his own right. Olu Dara instilled his boys Nasir and Jabari with a deep respect for music, as well as a healthy library of books that clearly built the vocabulary of the young rapper in training.
Another great chapter of the documentary covers how Roxanne Shante is credited for putting Nas in his crew ‘on’ initially, in the middle of rap/New York’s early rap battles. Hearing the story of ‘The Bridge/South Bronx/The Bridge is Over’ from young Nas’ point of view provides good humor for the middle portion of the doc. One of the surprises of Time Is Illmatic is ‘Back to the Grill Again’ and MC Serch’s meeting with Nas comes at the halfway point: the album that gives the doc its name is really only the second half of the story.
But when we get there, man. The diehard Nas fans will go nuts; even if you only know the bigger hits (‘The World is Yours’), you’ll come alive when you relive those songs. And that producer list! Pete Rock! Q-Tip! Little wonder why the album is considered by many to be the first 5 star hip hop classic.
I’m giving you the broad strokes; the doc clocks in at little more than an hour and it’s worth your time if you’re a fan. Now streaming on iTunes.