There are times when hip-hop can make those of us who chronicle it very proud. For me, someone who has been in the game since the days of Grandmaster Flash, the most recent occasion was this past Wednesday when the annual Tribeca Film Festival unveiled the much-anticipated documentary Time Is Illmatic. A stunning film that devolves deep into the creative grittiness of Nas’ debut masterpiece, the film rates, at least for me, beside the greatness of Wild Style.
Sitting in an audience that included legends Kool Herc, Marley Marl, Pete Rock and many others, the film opened the festival. Directed by Washington, D.C. native One9, who began his career in graphic design and fine art, Time Is Illmatic takes the viewer on a wonderful back in the day journey that examines the life, art and history of one of rap’s greatest MCs.
Raised in the battlegrounds known as the Queensbridge Housing Projects, Nas was reared in a caring home by a loving mother and his jazz musician father Olu Dara. From early on, Nas had a balance to the dark side that many of his friends didn’t share. Even when Nas’ father deserted the family, leaving behind countless books (The Autobiography of Malcolm X, From Superman To Man) that the budding lyricist read constantly, he knew, “I didn’t want to be nothing.”