Nas' 'Illmatic' Album To Be Preserved By Library Of Congress' National Recording Registry
Earlier this month, the rapper won a Grammy for Best Rap Album after 13 nominations without an award.
March 25, 2021 at 2:22 pm
The Library of Congress announced on Wednesday that iconic New York rapper Nas will have his 1994 debut album Illmatic enshrined into the National Recording Registry.
"I'm very honored for the recognition and thankful for the Grammy award," Nas told Billboard. “My first album was meant to be a true soundtrack for life in Queensbridge so the global recognition has always been amazing to see."
In its announcement, Library officials praised Nas’ debut album as a transformative piece of art that inspires artists and their work today.
“When Nas released his 1994 hip hop album Illmatic, it was celebrated for its rhythmic originality and complexity, and its technique has been widely copied since,” the statement read. ”Characterized by the masterful use of multi-syllabic and internal rhyme, surprising line breaks and rhythmic complexity, the album’s technique has been widely copied and proven broadly influential.”
The Library of Congress’ statement added, “while the album pulls no punches about the danger, struggle and grit of Queensbridge, Nas recalls it as a musically rich environment that produced many significant rappers and [says] he ‘felt proud being from Queensbridge…. [W]e were dressed fly in Ballys and the whole building was like a family.’”
Earlier this month, Nas, 47, won his first Grammy for Best Rap Album for his 2020 release, King’s Disease, per Pitchfork. Prior to his breakout victory, he was nominated at the awards ceremony a total of 13 times, according to Complex.
Illmatic is one of 25 audio recordings honored with the designation issued by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. Hayden selected the finalists from nearly 1,000 submissions and the rap album joins Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814, “When the Saints Go Marching In” by Louis Armstrong, "Celebration" by Kool & The Gang, Kermit the Frog’s “The Rainbow Connection,” and several other popular recordings.
Jackson’s album was celebrated for its social empowerment messages as well as its songs protesting police brutality and racism, per the Library of Congress press release. The year 1814 is a reference to the creation of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which was supposed to signify a new societal shift toward a more diverse and inclusive nation.
Meanwhile, songwriter Paul Williams called the 1979 tune from the Muppet Movie "my favorite thing I've ever" composed.
"That song is so infused with the heart and soul, and the kindness and wisdom, of Jim Henson," Williams told Billboard. "Kermit is the Jimmy Stewart of frogs, so to be honored in this fashion, to me it also honors Jim."
The Library of Congress describes the National Recording Registry as a list of sound recordings considered "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" by the library. Complex reported that the recently added recordings bring the number of audio submissions inducted into the registry to 575. In total, there are nearly three million items stored in the sound database.
“The National Recording Registry will preserve our history through these vibrant recordings of music and voices that have reflected our humanity and shaped our culture from the past 143 years,” Hayden said. “We received about 900 public nominations this year for recordings to add to the registry, and we welcome the public’s input as the Library of Congress and its partners preserve the diverse sounds of history and culture.”
Do you prefer ‘The Temptations’ or ‘The Five Heartbeats’? Is Jamie Foxx in ‘Ray’ one of your favorite performances of all time? Do you watch BET all day when 'The Jacksons: An American Dream' comes on? If you can answer any of these questions, vote in our Black Music Bracket here! You won't be disappointed.