5 reasons why hip-hop fans should watch Nas: Time Is Illmatic on Netflix

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 19: Nas performs at The Fox Theater on October 19, 2014 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for Hennessy)
OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 19: Nas performs at The Fox Theater on October 19, 2014 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for Hennessy) /

Nasier Jones’ 1994 debut classic, Illmatic, will forever be remembered for its vivid storytelling and masterful production. Illmatic took the listener into a world of harsh reality combined with a direction of hope and progress.

Many fans remember hearing Illmatic for the first time and being amazed how smooth the album ran because Nas could get beats from Q-Tip, D.J. Premier, Large Professor, Pete Rock, and L.E.S. Back in the ’90s, it was rare for an emcee to use multiple producers and have an album that just felt like everyone was on the same page.

The documentary Nas: Time is Illmatic documents a young man’s life coming up in Queens, NYC. We learn about his path to creating the legendary hip-hop album, and One9 and Erik Parker did a great job of creating a documentary of what many people consider the most influential rap album ever. Below we share the five reasons you should watch Nas: Time Is Illmatic on Netflix.

Why you should watch Nas: Time Is Illmatic on Netflix

The story of Ill Will’s murder

Long before Nas dropped out of high school with his father’s blessing and began recording one of the greatest debut albums, he had been shaped by what he was experiencing growing up in the Queensbridge Housing Projects. Growing up, Nas’s best friend, Ill Will, got killed after an altercation standing right next to Nas’s younger brother, Jungle.

During the shooting, Nas was in an apartment nearby and afterward began to think that life did not feel valuable, leading Nas to be more focused on his music. When Ill Will died, it changed Nas’s life and how he viewed life forever. The experience made Nas want to immortalize Ill Will in his music and helped Nas create songs that came from his heart.

Nas’s relationship with his brother Jungle

Nas younger brother Jungle made sure his presence was felt throughout the documentary by being the comic relief when things got sad. Jungle, throughout the documentary, can be seen telling stories about his brother’s coming up and how proud he was of Nas for overcoming everything that they went through growing up in Queens, NY. The relationship that Jungle and Nas have should remind us how it is crucial to try to influence your younger family members when you are the oldest sibling.

Q-Tip explains the importance of “One Love”

Illmatic is considered one of the best hip-hop albums because of its fantastic songwriting. Instead of promoting the gangster lifestyle like an N.W.A. or going the radical political route like a Public Enemy, Nas decided to take his own route with his lyrics and give a profoundly personal and realistic perspective on life in New York City in the early ’90s.

While there are references to getting high, getting drunk, and a unique Scarface line, Nas’s lyrics showed that he was wise beyond the years of a 20-year-old at the time. Legendary producer Q-Tip, who produced “One Love,” goes on a deep dive on how the lyrics have a deeper meaning than what people may think the first time they listen to the song. The first verse says, “I heard he looks like ya/Why don’t your lady write ya?”

From that line alone, Q-Tip delves into the devastating, double-pronged impact of the prison-industrial complex. He explains how incarceration emasculates and imprisons the person doing time while also destroying the family structure and poisoning the hope of loved ones on the outside. It’s one of many moments that help you to realize that Illmatic is more than just an album. It is a visual painting of what many African American families were going through and still today.

The impact of Nas’s father

Nas’s father, Olu Dara, is an interesting person with his musical background. Olu Dara was an essential element in Nas’s life. Nas: Time is Illmatic shared the stories of how the famous jazz musician’s name means “God is Good” and that he was born in Natchez, Mississippi, during segregation and the height of the Ku Klux Klan.

Nas’s father went into the family’s musical roots and explained how they had a family member in the group called The Millerettes. He also discussed his love for books and how that helped shape his sons. The books included The Egyptian Book of the Dead, Tutankhamen, Psychology of the Modern Man, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Sun Tzu, Eastern Facts About the World, A History of Chinese Philosophy, They Came Before Columbus, and many others. It was not a surprise that Nas continued his education at home despite dropping out of school in the eighth grade.

Nas’s influence on the kids in Queensbridge

The love that Nas receives when he returns to his old Queensbridge stomping grounds is the type of love that some celebrities wish they could get. In the documentary, a little boy reveals that his middle name is Nasier. The hometown hero slaps him five and tells the little boy that anyone who bears their name is a king. The little boy’s appearance an essential part of the documentary because Nas is important to Queens, NY.

Don’t miss Nas: Time Is Illmatic while it’s on Netflix.

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