Columbia Records

On April 19, 1994, 20-year-old, Nasir Jones, better known by his rap name Nas, released his critically acclaimed debut album, Illmatic.

The classic 10-track album is widely celebrated as one of the greatest— if not, the greatest —hip hop albums of all time, not only because of Nas’ unique and sophisticated lyricism but also because of its musical influence on hip hop culture.

Illmatic, which repeatedly reminds listeners that “The World is Yours,” was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America two years after its release, then went on to reach Platinum status by 2001 and two-times Platinum in 2019, for sales of two million units.

Since its release 28 years ago, the album “so good that scholars have studied it,” according to GQ magazine, has influenced many rap artists including Killer MikeJ. Cole and Wale and Kendrick Lamar.

“You hear it in my music what’s surrounded me, and just to be able to elevate your mind a little bit further past that through writing is bigger than one song,” Lamar said in an interview with Google Play for the album’s 20th anniversary in 2014. “In order to do that and craft that, it’s on another plane, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that if it wasn’t for that album, truthfully.”

“I did mine my way. And in me doing mine my way, I think it encouraged a lot more people in the state of rap at that time and now, even, to feel free to speak about whatever you feeling, without feeling like they gone come down on you, cus’ you’re not tough,” Nas went on, adding, “Even a gangster cries.”

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