Wrekonize was a Rap fan growing up, but due to a variety of circumstances, the Miami-based artist heard Nas’ second album, 1996’s It Was Written, before he listened to 1994’s Illmatic.
“I got to Illmatic an album late and the hype’s already past on Illmatic, but it was still like considered like a classic album and it was still, but everyone was moving on to, ‘Yo, what’s he putting out next?'” Wrekonize says during an exclusive interview with HipHopDX on the eve of the 20-year anniversary of Illmatic’s release. “So I had to go like have the discovery of Illmatic all by myself and be like wanting to talk about it with people and it was already like, ‘Yeah, no. Illmatic’s dope. Like where’ve you been,’ or whatever, so I discovered it in a different way than most people did, I feel.
“It was just like going back an album because It Was Written had a little bit more light,” he continues. “It was a little more light, a little more pop sensibility to it, even though like it’s still a Hip Hop. But, it just felt like he was going a little bit more up into the mainstream whereas when you go back from that album to Illmatic, it gets like way grittier, you know, like it definitely has that first album like hunger and grit to it. The production like, man, it just slapped me in the face, like I thought It Was Written was dope at the time and I was like all about the album and then when I went back, it flipped my whole world upside down because I felt stupid for missing it.”
In particular, Wrekonize says that “N.Y. State Of Mind” was his favorite Illmatic beat.
“It’s the classic definition of boombap,” he says. “At the same time it has like a depth to it, like it sounds like a movie soundtrack or something like you really could imagine everything Nas was saying because of the music there.”
DJ Premier’s sonics were potent that Wrekonize says the instrumental could have stood on its own.
“You took Nas’ vocals off that beat and just listened to the beat by itself, it would take you to the same place,” he says. “It’s such a good like canvas for that concept of a song. You put that instrumental on and walk down the street in New York and its like perfect. Like, it’s just a soundtrack. It felt so organic for what the song ended up becoming, so I feel like if you strip the vocals off and show it to someone by itself, just the music, and they will feel the same emotion as when you put Nas’s lyrics on top.”