Film Review: 'Time Is Illmatic'
It proves a minor shortcoming when you allow yourself to revel in the raw energy of Time Is Illmatic's (2014) predictably perfect soundtrack. One9's amorous directorial style may be a little hackneyed, but his debut release acts as an exemplary Easter egg for the extensive Illmatic anniversary programme. Nuggets of Queensbridge's history voiced over archival footage of a young Nas with the likes of MC Serch and T-Ray, provide the brief yet much required background info. Studies of the Bridge from past to present are reported beautifully by Cornel West, one of the most important philosophical thinkers of our time. Beyond that, it's the Nas show. Hip-hop contemporaries weigh in their ovations - Busta Rhymes, Swizz Beats, Q-Tip, Alicia Keys, Pete Rock - however these all tread on similar grounds with hardly any insight other than infinite praise. One9's technique is tidy, compact and succinct. It's a thumbnail or a footer rather than a thesis, the crisp, inoffensive accolade Illmatic deserves. Analysis is light, but Nas' lyrics are as dark and bullish as they were twenty years ago.
This review of Time is Illmatic was originally published on 9 October 2014 as part of our London Film Festival coverage.