Whenever we pick up an album, a mixtape, even an EP, we find songs that just…stick. Whether the beat makes us feel a certain way or the lyrics resonate with us, there’s something that causes an instant connection to certain songs. And sometimes it isn’t even instant — sometimes an experience or a moment in our lives turns a certain song into our own personal soundtrack for our lives. With Nas’ Illmatic turning 20, everyone has a favorite song (or songs). Both Rapsody and Fred The Godson both picked the track “Memory Lane (Sittin’ In Da Park)” as their standout Illmatic track. Read on as the two both share their personal experiences attached to this classic track.
What I love just outside of the sound and feeling of memory lane is you have Nas telling the perspective of where he lives. It’s like he’s sitting on a bench or a stoop somewhere in the city and just writing about everything that’s around him. And when I ride and I listen to “Memory Lane,” it reminds me of this place I know of in “Snow Hill.” You know, [“Memory Lane”] is Nas’ New York scene, but what he’s talking about for me is this place called Club Pines, which is the projects of Snow Hill. They were around the corner from where I live. And I didn’t grow up in a neighborhood like that, but it’s probably a half a mile from where I stayed. That’s where all my friends stayed; all my friends that I rode the bus with stayed. When they wanted to come play basketball, they’d ride their bikes to my house. My mom and dad — they weren’t strict, but they were protective of me. If there was a party, I couldn’t go or if I went I couldn’t stay out so late because cats end up fighting or they end up shooting or whatever. So that’s what that song reminded me of. Justin Ormond, who was one of my good friends, and Traci Reid, they stayed in Club Pines. They would sit on the bus and tell these stories about what happened last night or the latest gossip of what happened in Club Pines, who got arrested or who was fighting. So every time I ride to that song it takes me back to sitting on the bus and listening to these stories with my friends and just talking about that. So that’s what I love about it. You attach a memory to it — the title is “Memory Lane,” after all — and that was my particular memory attached to that song. I also have an older cousin, who introduced me to Hip Hop, so I was close to him for that reason. Our family was good, but you always had the ones who hung around the bad crowd or wanted to do what they feel was cool. [My cousin] was one of those guys. He was such a big Nas fan, we used to call him Nas. He ended up going to jail for ten years, so when I hear that song too, I think of him. But it was moreso the memory of me just hanging with my friends and everything they would tell me or talk about or listen to my older sisters when they were sneakin’ out the house to go to Club Pines or cousins to see a boyfriend… That’s what I think of — my childhood and those stories.
Fred The Godson
I was a baby when [Illmatic] came out. I remember my uncle — he’s the one who put me onto Rakim when I was a baby. ‘Cause I’m the oldest out of six, you know, so everybody that was older than me…I tried to stick to them. All my friends was younger than me or my same age, but I was always like a little more advanced than them. Not to mention, I got five little brothers and sisters under me, so they asked me what to do and how to do this. So whenever was next to somebody that was older, I always tried to stay close to them and take in the knowledge they were giving me. My uncle was the one who put me onto Rakim and then put me onto Nas. I remember listening to that, man. Then [my uncle] got locked up. When he got locked up, he left his Walkman in the house. I would just keep listening to that tape. I would walk around that house all crazy-like. I like the whole shit! [Illmatic] is incredible, but “Memory Lane” was my favorite. I just thought Nas was like Jesus’ nephew or some shit. He took it to the next level. He took it to the core. Even right now, what album could you really say is really better than Illmatic? On top of that, [Nas] was by himself and on top of that the nigga only put ten joints on there! I just realized it was only ten joints like last year. I’m like, “Yo what the hell is going on, man?” You could listen to it right now. In fact, I’m gonna go sit and listen to “Memory Lane” right now.