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Rap legend Nas honored with mural in Queensbridge for ‘Illmatic’s 30th Anniversary

“Illmatic30” was created to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the seminal musical masterpiece album from rap star Nas, who grew up across the street in the Queensbridge Houses. Photo by Paul Frangipane

Apr. 23, 2024 By Bill Parry

A new mural was unveiled on Apr. 19 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of “Illmatic,” the breakthrough album by rap legend Nas. Located across from the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City, where Nas was raised, the mural honors his seminal work.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards was on hand and noted he was just 11 years old when Nas “changed the game” during hip-hop’s golden era in New York in the 1990s.

A mural celebrates Queensbridge native Nas’ “Illmatic” album’s 30th anniversary outside Urban Unbound in Long Island City. Photo by Paul Frangipane

“I know the Bronx always talks about, no offense to anybody in the Bronx, that they created hip hop, but we can say Queens perfected it and that is because of Nas, who continues to do so much for this community,” Richards said.

To help commemorate the anniversary, Queens graffiti artists Eli Lazare Salome-Diaz and Benny “FCEE” Guerra painted a large-scale mural of the classic album’s cover, featuring an adolescent Nas with Queensbridge in the background. The mural is titled “ILLMATIC30” and it is the second time Salome-Diaz has done a Nas mural in the neighborhood.

“I want this to serve as an inspiration, especially to the next generation of kids, adults, whichever walks of life, just to let them know that this is no fictional story, no Hollywood story, this was the real deal,” Salome-Diaz said.

Nas was just 20 when Illmatic was released. His lyrics tackled issues such as poverty, the mass incarceration of African Americans and police brutality. The mural is painted on the offices of Urban Upbound at 38-81 13th St., directly across from Queensbridge.

“One of my favorite songs on the project was ‘The World Is Mine’ and I think that’s indicative of every young person that grew up here in Queensbridge, knowing that there’s no barriers, no obstacles to stop me from realizing that the world is mine,” Urban Upbound Co-founder Bishop Mitchell Taylor said.

Corrine Hayes, president of the resident association for Queensbridge Houses noted that Nas has never forgotten his roots.

“He pours into our community every year via the camping trip and the toy drive that happens every year in Queensbridge for the kids. He’s never stopped supporting,” Hayes said. “He’s always supporting continuously, so let’s continue to honor him for all the great things he does.”

Corinne Hayes, president of the resident association for Queensbridge Houses, speaks of the influence Nas continues to have on the community. Photo by Paul Frangipane

Richards proclaimed Sept. 23 as Nas Day in Queens.

“Nas has been a pioneer, he has been a philanthropist, had done so much to put QB on the map and also give us the soundtrack on how to make it through the jungle, the concrete jungle,” Richards said.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and Urban Upbound co-founder Bishop Mitchell Taylor check out the mural. Photo by Paul Frangipane

“We’re going to continue to see more kids from QB walk down here to grab their bagel or their bacon, egg and cheese, going to Urban Upbound for some services and keep it illmatic and see an inspiration, see what they can become, they can dream to be bigger, be the next Nas or bigger than Nas.”

The mural is the second one to be painted by Salome Diaz and Guerra. In 2017, their “QueensMatic “ mural, which still graces the wall on 13-17 40th Ave. in Queensbridge, won much praise from the community, Nas’s fans and Queensbridge hip-hop artists. Nas liked it so much he featured the mural as part of his official stage set during the song “Bravehearts” at the NY State of Mind Tour last year.

Artist Eli Lazare Salome-Diaz speaks during the mural unveiling. Photo by Paul Frangipane

“You narrate and dictate your life story, and, with that, I want the next generation of kids to really see this and be empowered,” Salome-Diaz said. “Especially in a time and day right now where mental health is such an important thing and our kids and the next generation need support.”

Additional reporting by Paul Frangipane.

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