Nas was on hand at Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Film Festival Wednesday, where his documentary “Time is Illmatic” played as the opening night selection.
With Alicia Keys on piano, the rapper also performed for the Beacon Theater crowd, which practically sang the entirety of the rapper’s classic 1994 album “Illmatic,” according to Variety. The movie tells the story of how the groundbreaking record set Nas on course for rap royalty.
Musician Alicia Keys performs onstage at the Opening Night Concert during the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival at The Beacon Theatre on April 16, 2014 in New York City
“I only got involved recently,” Nas said, of the Tribeca-financed film. “But I’m happy I did.” He wouldn’t specific how long he filmed for. “I gave them … more than one day,” he said.
First-time director One9 said that the Nas film was a labor of love, which he started working on 10 years ago. “I never dreamed this,” One9 said of his Tribeca debut. And he explained his name as such: “I grew up as a street artist — one is the beginning; nine is completion.”
The film’s credited writer, Erik Parker, added that his job title wasn’t meant to be taken literally. “We did everything from PA work to producing to directing,” Parker said, noting that the film’s budget ranged from “zero to zero to zero.”
“I don’t want say what it wound up being, but we started out of out pocket,” One9 said. “It was never enough.”
Before the screening, Nas’ younger brother Jungle felt nervous about his big-screen debut. “I don’t want nobody’s feelings to get hurt,” Jungle said. “I just told the truth a lot about my life. Nas shouldn’t get mad, and I’m not going to get mad.”
Tribeca co-founder Jane Rosenthal introduced the film along with De Niro. The after-party was held at the midtown’s Providence NYC nightclub, where Nas was whisked upstairs to a VIP room. “I want to thank Robert De Niro,” Nas said earlier on-stage. “He plays me in the movies.”
Tribeca Film Festival Co-founder Robert De Niro (L) and Grace Hightower attend the “Time Is Illmatic” Opening Night Premiere during the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival at The Beacon Theatre on April 16, 2014 in New York City
As for De Niro himself – he admitted that he didn’t have a favorite Nas song – “No” he said when asked if he was familiar with the rapper’s lyrics. Then he put his finger to his lips: “Shhh!”
In fact, De Niro admitted to not having seen any of this year’s selections at the Tribeca Film Festival. “I haven’t seen any. I’m trying to see them now. For me, it’s harder to see the movies,” he told Variety.