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Exclusive: Producer 9th Wonder discusses his favorite track off Nas' "Illmatic," which is the incomparable "It Ain't Hard To Tell."

9th Wonder has very vivid memories of Nas' Illmatic. He was in college at the time, which could have also been Nas' trajectory, considering he was of traditional college age. 9th was an age peer of Nas' turned industry peer turned collaborator, but like most of us, he's also a fan. His favorite track off Illmatic is the hyper-classic "It Ain't Hard To Tell," and for him the song (much like the entire album) is remarkable in its replay value. 9th Wonder talks to HipHopDX exclusively about the song, and where he was-slash-what he was doing when Illmatic first hit the streets.

I was in college at the time — I was a Freshman in 1993, so there wasn't a lot of buzz about Nas in the Fall of '93. [Snoop Dogg's] Doggystyle was out, A Tribe Called Quest's Midnight Marauders, and Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, [Black Moon's] Enta Da Stage, so there wasn't a lot of buzz. When "It Ain't Hard To Tell" dropped — first of all, it was the use of the Michael Jackson sample, "Human Nature" — and that kind of caught your ear right off. Then, it was released with a remix as well, the "Nah Nah Nah" [Large Professor Remix]. So here was this kid who it wasn't Tribe, it wasn't Wu-Tang, it wasn't Snoop. It was just something different. Very introspective rhymes, reminiscent of Rakim, but not really. It was poetry, forreal. And so, to hear all of that together — and I really love beats — that is what pulled me into that particular song. That was what made me listen to the album, and I like other songs on the album, it's just that song takes you back to the beginning. It always takes me back to the beginning of his career. It's definitely not his best song I don't think, but it's my favorite because it opened me up to him automatically. Nas was our age, and it was amazing how someone our age sounded like someone who was 20 years our senior, with the way he was talking and the way he was rhyming. It was amazing. That was a crazy day when we went to buy Illmatic. I think we bought that and Shyheim The Rugged Child's AKA The Rugged Child at the same time. We listened to "On And On" the single and that was it. But then we put in Illmatic, and we never took it out. We never took it out.


RELATED: Rapsody & Fred The Godson - Break Down Nas' "Memory Lane (Sittin' In Da Park)" On A Personal Level

16 Comments

  • represent represent

    Nas = GOAT ... NOBODY can touch Nas!!!

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  • insanemacbeth

    "Very introspective rhymes, reminiscent of Rakim, but not really.": is 9TH saying that NAS is better than RAKIM, in RA's peak? naaaaaaaah. will never believe that. someone on youtube said that "RA is cosmic!". that really sums up RAKIM. NAS is defo great, though.

    • Anonymous

      No he did not say nas was better than rakim. He said he was different to snoop, tribe and the wu tang clan. But was more similar to rakim but not fully.

  • wasd

    I was born in 1971. I was at an Ice-T concert with less than 20 people. I lived hip hop my entire life. I'm telling yall, we talking about albums that came out 20 years ago. This fad is finally over. Doctor: call it. DOA.

  • Anonymous

    In 1993 I knew that Nas was the kid the look out for, because of haltime which came out in the end of 1992 on the zebrehead soundtrack. Nas indeed didn't relase any single in 1993 , but based on the lyrical level of halftime I knew that he was the future. For me "it aint hard to tell" is a more mainstream version of "halftime", but both are classics anyway. Peace to the god Nas.

  • alex

    I feel like Ain't to Tell is like the A Day in the Life (Bealtes' Sergent Pepper) of Hip Hop. It's a close out song that just takes the whole album a up notch or in this case right to an 11. It is also has beat that mimics the subway train sounds at the beginning. A masterpiece within a masterpiece. I can only think of two songs that do that for an album and one is criminal for Eminem's Marshall Mathers LP and the other Jay-Z's First Song for the Black Album.

  • Kaison Williams

    This song is definitely in my top 10 favorite songs of all time, the human nature sample is perfect, the lyrics are incredible; the perfect closing theme to one of the finest albums ever made.

  • blackula

    The video for It Ain't Hard to Tell was also my first exposure to Nas. The ish he was saying was just jaw dropping around that time. From that video I knew he was something special. That video and Gang Starr's Mass Appeal were my favourite videos around the time.