The 2014 Tribeca Film Festival kicked off Wednesday night in New York, with Time Is Illmatic, a documentary capturing the making and lead-up to Nas’ classic 1994 debut album, Illmatic, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.
Directed and produced by One9 and written and produced by journalist Erik Parker, the film follows Nas’ childhood in Queensbridge housing projects, New York’s 1980s drug and violence epidemic, and Nas’ eventual groundbreaking success. The film’s Beacon Theatre premiere was attended by rap legends like DJ Kool Herc and Marley Marl, as well as producers and artists who contributed to Illmatic, like Pete Rock, DJ Premier, and Large Professor.
3. But the standout guest and surprise star of the film was Nas’ brother, Jabari “Jungle” Jones.
4. Time Is Illmatic weaves together interviews of many people from Nas’ early days, but his younger brother Jungle gets considerable face time.
Where Nas is reflective and soft-spoken, Jungle is animated, funny, and matter-of-fact. His insights were sometimes incredibly sad, but they made you laugh.
5. The film portrays Jungle as the rock in Nas’ journey, a constant source of support.
“I don’t want nobody’s feelings to get hurt,” Jungle told Variety before the screening. “I just told the truth a lot about my life. Nas shouldn’t get mad, and I’m not going to get mad.”
6. In one particularly moving scene, Jungle holds up an old photo, taken during the photo shoot for Illmatic’s album art.
Jungle goes down the line of friends assembled on the benches outside Queensbridge Houses: “N****s who’d wanted to kill each other came outside and it was all love,” he says. Then, he relays the fates of all who gathered that day. Nearly every single one, excluding Nas, is serving time in prison or dead.
“It’s fucked-up,” Nas says in a cutaway shot. “If not for music, you might be telling a similar story about that kid in the picture.”
“Drugs hit so hard out there, it turned a lot of strong people into monsters,” Jungle says in another scene. “It was like a horror movie, but we knew the script, so we could move around.”
7. As the premiere screening wrapped up, the audience started tweeting from their seats about the film, and how amazing Jungle was in it. Hot 97 News Director Miss Info wrote:
9. MTV’s Rob Markman chimed in, adding that Jungle stole the show:
10. NPR agreed:
11. The charisma with which he told both devastating and hilarious stories left the audience wanting more, with NPR’s Cedric Shine suggesting that he have his own documentary:
12. Even Nas thinks this is Jungle’s movie. At the end of the show, Nas performed Illmatic in its entirety. He brought Jungle up on stage, and called his brother the “star” of the film.
The two danced together for “Represent,” along with Jungle’s two very dapper sons.
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