When Nas yells that it feels like the 90s in here, it’s because they look they’re having fun. The problem with most older rappers is that the music feels like a joyless exercise, a studied attempt to remember the adrenaline of their youth. Illmatic was nobody’s idea of a “fun” record and I’ve always thought of Nasir as the guy on the yacht complaining that the ocean waters a little too turbulent. But over the last few years, he’s been able to crack a smile and realize that being regarded as one of the top all-five isn’t the worst cross to bear. Q-Tip remains ageless, still in possession of the same weightless helium vocal chords but able to bench press a few plates more.
I wrote an Illmatic retrospective last year, so no need to revisit it’s importance in this space. You probably don’t need to reminded here. It’s just nice to see two legends still sharp, given a national television audience to celebrate an album that went overlooked outside of rap circles until the Internet brought everything within reach, having a good time and kicking the old project hallway flows. If you don’t enjoy these performances, your Internet connection must be too spotty.