Uman says there’s a reason why the song didn’t make it on to the original version of Illmatic, which was released April 19, 1994.
“The Jae Supreme demo was recorded around the fall of 1990, a good several years before work on Illmatic even begun,” Uman says during an exclusive interview with HipHopDX. “It was just not something that was considered at that point, especially being an older song. Now that does not take away how great of a track it is.
“I really felt it was crucial to be included on this collection,” he adds, “as it helps to paint the picture of this period in Nas’ artistic path.”
“I’m A Villain” was one of the demo tracks that got Nas his deal with Columbia, Uman says.
As producer of Illmatic XX, Uman worked with Nas and others to track down original source material, audio demos, radio interviews, concert flyers and photos. He also picked the bonus tracks; chose Sacha Jenkins to write the liner notes; and selected the mastering engineer, Joe Palmaccio, who recently won his fourth Grammy Award for his work on the Bill Withers catalog.
Illmatic XX also includes “The Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show on WKCR October 28, 1993 feat. Nas, 6’9″, Jungle & Grand Wizard,” which was produced by Stretch Armstrong.
Uman says the radio program holds special significance.
“Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Garcia’s show was one of the most significant radio programs of all time,” he says. “Up there with someone like John Peel. They’re anthropologists of Rap. Beyond Hip Hop, that show is also a true piece of historical American culture. This track demonstrates a young, self-assured emcee working full-time. His debut album had not even been released yet but you get the feeling he knew it was going to be relevant. Aside from Nas’ efficiency as a rapper, the Stretch Armstrong-produced track is real nice.”
The additional material Uman was in charge of collecting was cleared by a significant party.
“Nas himself was the one who approve everything in the end,” Uman says. “It’s very uncommon practice to have the actual artists involved, especially in the catalog world, but it’s also one of the main things I enjoy about working with Sony Legacy so much. They ask for the artists involvement, and actually encourage it.”