Ahead of “Illmatic’s” twentieth anniversary, Nas also reflects on artists copying the album’s iconic cover.

Nas visited REVOLT Live yesterday [April 10] and discussed the twentieth anniversary of his debut album, Illmatic. In an interview with hosts Sibley and DJ Damage, Nas admitted to playing a role in leaking the then highly anticipated project.

“I heard a lot of stories, but I feel guilty too because I was making tapes for my friends,” he said. “I didn’t think about it like, ‘My album’s gonna come out,’ but I made a few copies for my boys. Everybody wanted a copy so I just gave them a copy. It was playing in the neighborhood, so I thought it was cool that the neighborhood had the copies first until I heard [that] it was in [Los Angeles], Chicago, and all these different places. I was messed up for a minute. It was dope, too, at the same time because I knew people liked it. It was cool.”

The Queens, New York-native also explained that he initially felt nervous once he realized several emcees were using similar rhyme techniques as the one he displayed on Illmatic. He said he never expressed those feelings publicly because “that’s sucker shit.”

“I had a little nervousness because I felt like just when I was starting to get going, it’s about to be taken from me,” Nas said. “One thing I never did was went public with that because that’s sucker shit. I would say every time a new artist comes into the business you want to inspire everybody. If you get nervous about it, that’s cool…but that means the challenge is on now. What are you made of? You can’t be crying and complaining that, ‘This one got my style.’

He continued: “I know I was inspired by those before me, too. So there’s stuff I took from them naturally. It’s a give and take thing. We’re supposed to do that. I wouldn’t do anything where it’s too much of copying somebody. I try to stay original, but we all feed off each other and we’re supposed to do that. So that’s why I say don’t complain about it because if someone took my thing, I got something from somebody else and it goes on. Just don’t’ complain about it. Just get to work.”

When asked about the influx of Hip Hop album covers featuring an image of the artist as a child following Illmatic, Nas said simply, “That’s love.”

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