Nas is marking the 20th anniversary this year of his game-changing debut 'Illmatic'

Nas is marking the 20th anniversary of his debut, "Illmatic," with a special reissue and plans to perform the landmark album in its entirety at Coachella and elsewhere. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

At age 20, Nas issued his game-changing debut album, "Illmatic." Twenty years, and several additional acclaimed albums later, the prolific rapper is returning to his debut. Widely considered one of the greatest rap records of all time, the album is being reissued as a special 20th anniversary edition.

“Illmatic XX” will boast remastered versions of the album's original tracks and a disc of rare remixes, unreleased demos and freestyles. The 20-track double-disc  special edition will be released April 15, via Sony Legacy. The album will also be made available on vinyl.

“With ‘Illmatic,’ I didn't think about it. I just did it. I believe everybody has good instincts. Now I’m a man from that past and I'm supremely grateful,” Nas said in a statement on his website. “There's a Nigerian proverb ‘What is past is prologue.’  I'm here today because of 'Illmatic.' ”

 

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Nas also plans to perform the landmark album in its entirety to mark the anniversary. The rapper will tackle it from front-to-back on a spring tour that includes performances at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Indio, Calif., in April. Additional details on the tour will be announced soon.

The album will also get the documentary treatment:  “Time Is Illmatic” will trace the making of the album and will explore how growing up in New York's drug-fueled, poverty-stricken Queensbridge projects fueled Nas and the influence of his father, celebrated jazz musician Olu Dara. The movie, from first-time filmmakers One9 (director-producer) and Erik Parker (writer-producer), is expected to be released sometime this year.  

Twenty years into his prolific career, Nas is still enjoying game-changing success. On his most recent album, 2012’s "Life Is Good," the rapper known for his sharp wit and biting social commentary tapped into some of his most honest and compelling subject matter yet: himself.

In 2012, I profiled Nas and asked him whether the pressure of delivering albums often heralded as “classics” (including “Illmatic”) made him uncomfortable. He took a puff of his Cuban cigar and flatly said, “Not anymore.”

“People throw that word -- ‘classic’ -- around too much. No one knows what a hip-hop classic is, especially hip-hop fans,” he told me. “There’s a small percentage, maybe 10%, who knows what a real hip-hop classic is. So no, that stuff doesn’t bother me.”

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