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Meet the 2014 Tribeca Filmmakers #14: Nas’ Breakthrough Rap Album Is Given New Life in One9’s ‘Time Is Illmatic’

Meet the 2014 Tribeca Filmmakers #14: Nas' Breakthrough Rap Album Is Given New Life in One9's 'Time Is Illmatic'

Fans of Nas and his 1994 album “Illmatic” will undoubtedly appreciate One9’s documentary feature “Time Is Illmatic,” which chronicles the creation of the revered rapper’s most significant piece of work, along with the personal obstacles Nas had to face in order to become the man he eventually came to be known. 

Tell us about yourself. I’m an artist, director, producer and chess player. I grew up as a graffiti/street artist in the Washington DC area and used that background to transition to a graphic designer, editor and a director/producer. Over the years I’ve done work with Google, PBS, Viacom, Sony Music, and several non-profit organizations. As an artist I was selected by the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York to create an original series of artwork presented to their selected music talent in 2013-2014. “Time is Illmatic” is my feature length directorial debut. I was born in Washington DC and reside in Bedstuy, Brooklyn NY.

What was your biggest challenge in completing this project? My good friend and film partner, Erik Parker first introduced the idea of doing an “Illmatic” documentary to my attention years ago. As a music journalist Erik had access to interview Nas’ father, Olu Dara for a magazine story on “Illmatic.” We shot Olu Dara with our own camera equipment with a young, hungry volunteer film crew. After we left that interview, we felt that we not only had an incredible story of Nas’s early life but a personal history of the Jones family, and their musical and cultural history. Our biggest challenge was how do we tell the story of what we considered one of the greatest HipHop albums of all time with out any money, resources or backing. We were driven and decided to go all in and find a way.

What do you have in the works? We are gearing up for a year of traveling with the “Time is Illmatic” film, working with our Associate Producer, Martha Diaz developing the Educational Curriculum and preparing for National distribution so fans of “Illmatic” can experience the film.

Did you crowdfund? If so, via which platform? And if not, why? We raised all the funds through grants and networking. I want to really thank the Ford Foundation/Just Films in particular, Orlando Bagwell, Bradford Young and Rashid Shabazz for believing in our film and giving first time filmmakers an opportunity to create an unfiltered, raw, documentary film.

What camera did you shoot on? We shot with a wide variety of cameras. When we didn’t have any budget we used whatever we could get our hands on. At the time when we started we used the Canon GL1 (remember that?!!!) As we eventually received a research grant we shot with the Canon 5 & 7D. After we received a production grant we went on to use the Cannon C300, Sony F55, and kept a Super 8 camera on hand for the gritty…

Did you go to film school? If so, which one? No, I didn’t go to film school. I created my own major called ‘Visual Communications’ and received a BA through the Individual Study’s Program at the University of Maryland (College Park)

What films have inspired you? “Battle of Algiers,” “Style Wars,” “Visions of Light,” “Taxi Driver,” “City of God,” “Apocalypse Now,” “Do The Right Thing,” “Faces,” “The Godfather,” “Hoop Dreams,” “Paisa,” “Raging Bull” to name a few…

Indiewire invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about
their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and
what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up
to the 2014 festival. Go HERE to read all the entries.

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