There aren’t many men as influential in the murky world of 1990s hip hop as Nas. With his iconic album Illmatic, Nas delivered perhaps the greatest debut album of all time. He did it with a combination of potent lyricism and the kind of fire that only dragons can breathe. The Brooklyn native has been a stalwart ever since, respected as a forefather of modern hip hop as we know it.
However, below, we’ve got some rare footage that proves he was a powerful MC before he ever reached the height of 1994’s Illmatic. This clip captures a 16-year-old Nas not only delivering powerhouse bars but captivating a raucous crowd, showcasing the confidence and culture that would see him become a genuine icon.
The year was 1989 and a young Nas was quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with, even if it was largely in his own head. The rapper may not have grabbed the acclaim that would later be laid at his feet, but he was stealing chances to perfect his craft wherever he could.
The rapper met up with Large Professor, a high-profile producer in NYC. It was there that Nas could watch the legends of the game work their magic, as he nestled himself in the studio that was frequented by Kool G Rap and Rakim, to name a few. While they took breaks from recording their records, Nas would jump in the booth and record his own material.
Unfortunately, none of those recordings ever made it to the airwaves, though reports suggest it was during these moments that Nas began writing Illmatic, even if it did remain largely in his own head. But what we do have from that time is some rare footage of Nas controlling a room and delivering fire bars one after the other.
Watch rare footage of a pre-fame Nas holding court below.