It’s been quite the week for hip-hop fans/historians who appreciate the greatness that is Nas’ Illmatic. With the re-released album Illmatic XX dropping on Tuesday (April 15) and the documentary, Time Is Illmatic, opening the Tribeca Film Festival the following evening, rap’s finest opus has been on repeat all week.
But just how well do you know the beats, rhymes and life that make up Nas’ debut? Take this quiz and count up your correct answers to find out if you’re fit to kick knowledge on Illmatic. —Jonathan Cruse and John Kennedy
1. How many songs appear on Illmatic?
Answer: b) 9
Trick question, here. Nine songs + One spoken intro = The greatest rap album of all time!
2. Who are the other two dudes talking with Nas on the “The Genesis?”
a) Large Professor and Jungle
b) AZ and Grand Wizard
c) Jungle and AZ
d) AZ and L.E.S.
Answer: c) Jungle and AZ
AZ is all about the money while Jungle is recklessly waving his gun around. Would someone please take Nas’ Hennessey?!
3. How many verses does Nas rap on “N.Y. State of Mind?”
Answer: b) 2
And they’re both perfect.
4. Which professional basketball player is referenced on Illmatic?
a) Michael Jordan
b) Magic Johnson
c) Patrick Ewing
d) Shaquille O’Neal
Answer: d) Shaquille O’Neal
“I kick a skill/like Shaquille/holds a pill” —Nas, “It Ain’t Hard To Tell”
5. How much money does Nas say he left in the commissary on “One Love?”
Answer: c) $50
“I left a half a hundred in your commissary” —Nas, “One Love”
Do the math.
6. Which Illmatic track features a trumpet solo from Nas’ father Olu Daru?
a) “The Genesis”
b) “Life’s a Bitch”
c) “Memory Lane (Sittin’ in da Park)”
d) “It Ain’t Hard To Tell”
Answer: b) “Life’s a Bitch”
As Olu Dara tells it in Time Is Illmatic, Nas asked his pops to play an original piece that reminds him of he and his brother, Jungle, when they were young.
7. Which of these people or crews did not receive a shout out on Illmatic?
a) The Vernon Posse
c) The Queensbridge Militia
d) Lakey Da Kid
Answer: c) The Queensbridge Militia
The Militia does get some love on It Was Written, though (“The Message”).
8. Who is the only rapper (not named Nas) to contribute a verse to Illmatic?
Answer: b) AZ
Whether AZ’s verse tops Nas’ on “Life’s A Bitch” is an eternal debate.
9. On which song did Nas receive a co-production credit?
a) “N.Y. State of Mind”
c) “It Ain’t Hard To Tell”
d) “Life’s A Bitch”
Answer: d) “Life’s A Bitch”
Peep the booklet, dun.
10. Which producer contributed the greatest number of instrumentals for Illmatic?
b) Pete Rock
c) DJ Premier
Answer: c) DJ Premier
Like Large Professor, Preemo from Gang Starr produced three records on Illmatic (“N.Y. State of Mind,” “Memory Lane (Sittin’ in da Park)” and “Represent”).
11. Which song samples “Pickin’ Boogers” by Biz Markie?
a) “One Time 4 Your Mind”
c) “It Ain’t Hard To Tell”
d) “Memory Lane (Sittin’ in da Park)”
Answer: d) “Memory Lane (Sittin’ in da Park)”
Some of the greatest art is, um, plucked from the most unexpected places.
12. True or false: “The World Is Yours” was inspired by the movie Scarface?
Answer: a) True
In the film, there’s an iconic scene in which a blimp reads THE WORLD IS YOURS.
13. How old is the “little bastard” that Nas advises in the final verse of “One Love”?
Answer: d) 12
“Shorty’s laugh was cold blooded as he spoke so foul/Only twelve trying to tell me that he liked my style” —Nas, “One Love”
0-4: You let Nas down, yo.
5-7: Listen to this one (more) time for your mind.
11 or more: You’re officially trapped in the ’90s. Nas salutes you!