Photo via @kasskills
Vancouver, BC - "Time Is Illmatic, keep static like wool fabric" - it's hard to believe that a 20 year-old Nas wrote one of the most prolific rap songs of our time, "Life's A Bitch" from the 1994 released album, Illmatic. 20 years later, the anniversary of the classic album has Nas celebrating with the release and tour of his documentary Time Is Illmatic where he also performs Illmatic in it's entirety.
There are few, if any, emcees that can ride the fame wave of their debut album for a solid two decades. Nas is a king in his trade and when he stepped foot into the city of Vancouver, the proof that a classic never dies was in the back-to-back sold-out shows at The Vogue Theatre.
An interesting set up had a showing of the documentary followed by a front to back performance of Illmatic. Vancouver was first brought back to the early nineties where Time Is Illmatic director One9 takes the viewer on a journey through a young Nas' neighborhood in Queensbridge, New York.
Even as a young man, Nas was ahead of his time. Time Is Illmatic shows the visionary emcee breaking down tracks like "Life's a Bitch", explaining the social issues that come with being a black male in the projects of America. The film hears memories from his family and friends, photos of the 'hood and stories from Illmatic collaborators such as Pete Rock, DJ Premier, Large Professor and Q-Tip. The film highlights Nas' struggle in losing friends to the streets, his passion and motivation to succeed as an artist and his fight against becoming a statistic while watching his peers fall victim to crime and violence in the projects.
During his performance, hearing Nasty Nas spit tracks like "The World Is Yours" after watching him break down the Pete Rock assisted and produced cut was worthy of goosebumps. Running through every single Illmatic favourite was enough to bring a warm nostalgia to any audience member who grew up with the album on repeat. The crowd religiously sang every lyric like they were attending hip-hop church while Nas remained as collected as ever expressing his love and gratitude to Vancouver.
Watching a legend like Nas perform every track from the archive of his best album was more than enough to suffice but encores that included tracks like "Made You Look" and "One Mic" set the energy to a higher level. For those who had a chance to bear witness to the illustrious emcee, it was an evening to remember. A masterpiece performed by one of our generation's most renowned street poets, from "The Genesis" to "It Ain't Hard To Tell" Illmatic has depth and lyrical substance to withstand the test of time.