On the 20th anniversary of the release of Nas’ debut album, Illmatic, DJ Premier, one of the album’s contributors spoke on the creation of the Illmatic record, “Memory Lane (Sittin’ In Da Park).” As part of The LA Leakers’ Leaks That Collected Dust audio-biography, Premier discussed the record, which he says he wasn’t a fan of initially.
The Brooklyn beatsmith revealed that before the drums and other components, including Nas’ vocals, were added to “Memory Lane (Sittin’ In Da Park),” he didn’t like the song’s beat. He also recalled recording the song while Nas had 20 of his friends in the studio.
“‘Memory Lane,’ I didn’t like that beat before the drums and everything was added,” DJ Premier said. “Nas would always sit there with me with all his boys. Back then he was working on Illmatic, he’d have 20 dudes in the room…So, we finally got through that rough part of it…But it became fun to work with them because they all were cool. And they would listen to [us] when we said ‘be quiet.’”
DJ Premier also addressed the sample on “Memory Lane (Sittin’ In Da Park),” which came courtesy of “We’re In Love” by jazz musician Reuben Wilson. He says that although Nas and his friends clowned Wilson’s appearance on the “We’re In Love” record, upon hearing the song the Queensbridge rapper wanted a beat made from the record.
“When I found that record it was—Reuben Wilson,” he said. “And the way the cover looked. Nas [was] like ‘Look at this dude’s outfit.’ So, they all laughing at the cover. But I put on that ‘doom doom doom’ and he was like ‘Yo, that’s that dude on the cover?’ I’m like ‘Yeah.’ He’s like ‘Yo, make a beat out of that.’ I’m like ‘Eh, the groove is cool, but I can do something.’ Cause Nas always think it’s gotta be dark and mean and ill because of the way his voice is and the way he flows. But he said ‘I want something more musical and melodic. Like we having a good time. So I was like ‘alright.’ And then I looped it up and just threw some drums. Just some basic drums. Little simple pattern. And when he cut the vocal I was like ‘Ooo, alright. I changed my mind.’ The vocals is what did it.”
In addition to “Memory Lane (Sittin’ In Da Park),” DJ Premier also produced the Illmatic tracks “N.Y. State Of Mind” and “Represent.” Other producers who lent their assistance on Nas’ debut included Q-Tip, Pete Rock, Large Professor, and L.E.S.
In honor of Illmatic’s 20th anniversary, Nas released Illmatic XX on April 15. The album serves as a special anniversary edition of the rapper’s debut.