December 17, 2014 10:54 AM EST

Queensbridge rapper Nas celebrated the 20th anniversary of the release of his first album Illmatic this year. The debut is considered one of hip-hop’s most defining works; a quintessential piece of hip-hop history.

To commemorate the milestone, two independent filmmakers produced the documentary Nas: Time is Illmatic, a feature that highlights the gritty New York City environment within which the album was birthed.

In an interview with TIME, Nas explains why he feels it’s important to encourage black youth and ensure Americans—both black and white—know their history.

More Must-Read Stories From TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com.

Read More From TIME
You May Also Like
EDIT POST