This week is the 20th anniversary of two New York City game-changers. April 1994 was the month that saw both the opening of the first SUPREME skate shop on Lafayette Street as well as the release of ILLMATIC, the debut record from East Coast Renaissance king NAS.
Regarded as one of the best hip hop albums of all time, the rapper from Crown Heights, Queens was just 20 when Illmatic hit the market. Gothamist‘s Scott Heins writes of the release:
“It was one of the most-anticipated and powerful debuts that rap had ever seen…. The critical recognition was instant: this was a genre-elevating masterpiece from an improbably young source. The Source awarded it “5 Mics,” the highest rating ever doled out by the magazine at that time. Commercial rewards lagged, though. It took almost two years for the record to reach the RIAA’s gold certification of 500,000 units sold and didn’t reach the prestigious platinum level until 2001. In the 20 years since its arrival, though, Illmatic‘s timeless status has been secured. With nine tracks (plus an introduction) Nas set the bar for rhyme pyrotechnics, thematic development, and the fearless bearing of self—all of the qualities that artful MCs strive for—impossibly high. So high, in fact, that it’s a fair argument that not even Nas himself has been able to reach it again.”
Incidentally, rumors of a collaboration between Supreme and Nas sprang up last summer after the street wear brand posted a pair of portraits of the rapper sporting its apparel, but in the meantime the label is celebrating its birthday with a set of limited edition re-releases. Two of its initial offerings – the Box Logo Tee and the Taxi Driver tee – will be made available in-store and online on April 24th, both of which will also be sold as skate decks.