Imagine a rap crowd not knowing Illmatic lyrics. Madness, blasphemy, Sparta! But in the above clip, released by Tony Touch in promotion for his upcoming Piece Maker 3 album, Nas takes the stage at The Fever in the Bronx, and the audience doesn’t even shout out “sleep is the cousin of death” in unison. Now, the year 1993 is attached to the clip and Illmatic was released in 1994, so you could cut the crowd some slack, but at the 7:05 mark, Nas, who would have been roughly 20 at the time, says “My mothafuckin’ album’s out — Illmatic,” so the chronological placement of the performance is questionable.
No matter though, as the unearthed footage features plenty of nostalgia for rap fans. Nas runs through “One Love,” “New York State of Mind,” and “Who’s World Is This.” There’s the super plain (read: old school) Hot 97 banner hanging in the back. But the apex may be when a hype man says “Y’all may not know who the fuck it is, but y’all gonna know” when AZ comes out for “Life’s A Bitch,” taking you back to that unfathomable time when neither artist was instantly recognizable. Back before Nas was an OG passing the crown down.
Peep the clip above and take a trip down memory lane. With his extensive to-date catalog, you’re unlikely to find Nas running through Illmatic like this again.