It was the summer of 1982 that the world was exposed to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s song “The Message,” which proved that hip-hop music was more than just meaningless rhymes strung together. The song’s chief architect, Melle Mel, found the perfect vehicle for one of his and, eventually, hip-hop’s greatest verses: speaking of a naive infant brought into the world that God is simultaneously smiling and frowning on, the child who was, by no fault of his own, trapped in an environment that bred survival at all costs. Real-life words, real-life conditions and real-life children.

Fast–forward a few years, and the smugglers, scramblers, burglars, gamblers, pickpockets, peddlers and even the panhandlers had given way to the more perilous reckless behaviors of stick-up kids, drug dealers and dope fiends. Wise moves had to be made to navigate through those landmines so as to not fall prey or become a callous predator. To say the Reagan era was a difficult time is a fair assessment, and the picture painted in those lyrics could be applied to Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Indiana, Chicago, etc. Yeah, those conditions were the basic obstacles to many dreams of success.

This story takes place in Queensbridge, N.Y., a few years after the effects of the early ’80s had begun to settle, and, believe it or not, things got progressively worse for wear. Fortunately, another viable option for escape was set in place. Rap music was no longer the projected passing fad. It had morphed into a multimillion-dollar machine, led in part by artists from literally down the street. The daily walk on the razor’s edge had a glimmer of hope at least. In a nutshell, that formula has fueled the music industry for years, preying on talented youth from desperate situations seeking an opportunity to gain fame and fortune.

In 1994, the script was flipped. Nasir Jones was about to change the landscape of hip-hop history, and the game changer was entitled “Illmatic.” Hardcore fans of hip-hop had eagerly anticipated that release, as Nasty Nas, after a few cameo appearances and freestyle verses, had the streets on LOCK, and the album didn’t disappoint the core. Surprisingly, critics concurred. Commercially, though, it didn’t measure up to what a piece of work of that ilk deserved.

What that album did possess was a timeless quality of sustained excellence. Twenty years after its initial release, the music, considered by many to be audio cinema, actually has a film accompaniment, the documentary film, “Nas: Time Is Illmatic,” a journey into the creative process. The documentary, directed by multimedia artist One9, written by Erik Parker and produced by One9, Parker and Anthony Saleh, provides an excellent balance of allowing the lovers of hip-hop to reminisce and celebrate the dawning of a new era for lyricism, while giving the uninitiated a look into what the values and mores that America hold so dear can become if they are corrupted.

Director One9 states, “Working with Nas over the course of the last several years, we were able to learn about a violent past of where the conditions surrounding him have shattered many of his friends’ dreams and lives through death, drugs and jail in an ongoing vicious cycle. We learn how music has become the vessel that takes Nas out from his environment but also keeps his presence alive as he is considered a voice for the voiceless.

“This is a film that shows how Nas, with the support of his Queensbridge neighborhood crew, the unending loyalty of his younger brother Jabari ‘Jungle’ Jones, the wisdom and talents of his father, Olu Dara, and sacrifices of his mother, Ann Jones, overcame insurmountable odds to create the greatest work of music in hip-hop that inspires generations past and present.”

To secure the legacy of Nas’ defining work, Tribeca Film and Illa Films, in collaboration with the Hip-Hop Education Center, announced the launch of a year-long educational and community engagement initiative inspired by the release of the documentary. The program will feature an interactive web portal at its core, in addition to presentations, panel discussions and pop-up exhibits in key communities in New York City, Los Angeles, Detroit, Philadelphia and Oakland, Calif.

The Hip-Hop Education Center is working with M139 Design Studio to create the web portal ( that will serve as the core tool for the “Nas: Time Is Illmatic” educational component and will include lessons on songwriting, storytelling, researching, documentation, filmmaking, archiving and remixing Nas’ music. The curriculum will be accompanied by interactive timelines, educational tools, and resources for high school and college-age youth, educators and fans. Music will be provided through a partnership with Spotify.

To further supplement the web portal, educational screening copies will be made available to educators, teaching artists and cultural workers for formal and informal education settings. Third World Newsreel, which is handling educational sales of the film, will also offer a filmmaking workshop with director/producer One9, writer/producer Erik Parker and associate producer Martha Diaz, in collaboration with the City College of New York, Nov. 5.

The Tribeca Film Institute will release a high school curriculum on the film in 2015, which will directly reach 48 schools across New York City and Los Angeles. All educational activities and lesson plans will be aligned with national common core standards. The Tribeca Film Institute will also use the film’s educational curriculum to directly reach more than 1,000 inmates through its film education programs within New York City and New York State prisons and juvenile detention centers. On the collegiate level, the filmmakers will teach an undergraduate course on the making of “Nas: Time Is Illmatic” at the Gallatin School for Individualized Study at New York University.

“It Ain’t Hard to Tell” why these moves are in motion. Genius should be used to inspire genius. I’m out. Holla in a week. Til then, enjoy the nightlife.