1. “To my man Ill Will, God bless your life”- “The World is Yours”
Ill Will (pictured on the left) – real name Willy Graham – was Nas’ best friend growing up in the Queensbridge Houses. Before Nas became famous, Will was shot and killed in front of Queensbridge. Nas would go on to honor his friend by naming his record company Ill Will Records.
2. “Then call the crew to get live too with Swoop, Bokeem, My brother Jungle, Big Bo, cooks up the blow” – “Represent”
Jungle (at the right) is Nas’ little brother, who can still be seen rolling with the rapper. Jungle was part of a rap group called the Bravehearts (which included Wiz and then later on Nashawn).
3. “Aiyyo where’s Grand Wizard?” – “The Genesis”
Back in the day he was known as Grand Wizard (pictured at the right) but by the time the Bravehearts dropped their first album, “Bravehearted,” it was just Wiz. Wiz is also Nas and Jungle’s cousin.
4. “The 40 side of Vernon, my man Big L.E.S” – “Represent”
“Illmatic” was packed with production by some of hip-hop’s most famous producers, like Pete Rock, Q-Tip and Large Professor. There was one newcomer on there, however, and it was L.E.S. (pictured on the far left) who was from Nas’ block. He produced “Life’s A Bitch.”
5. “What up with Cormega, did you see him, are y’all together?” – “One Love”
Cormega and Nas were childhood friends. In the early ’90s, Mega got sent upstate for a bid. When Mega came home in ’95, Nas formed The Firm, a super group that included Foxy Brown, AZ, Cormega and Nas himself. Mega would eventually dismiss himself from the group, and for years the two MCs held a grudge. Mega showed he didn’t need Nas by becoming one of the most celebrated MCs in the underground scene.
6. “To my man Lake Luciano” – “One Love”
Lake Luciano (pictured on the left) was a childhood friend of Nas who did seven years in prison for shooting a man in the stomach. Lake, also known as Lakey The Kid, would try to launch his own independent rap career when he was released from prison in the late ’90s.
7. “Black Jay” – “Represent”
Black Jay (pictured in the back) was more commonly known as Killa Black. He was from Queensbridge, and he was Havoc’s — from Mobb Deep — little brother. He killed himself in the mid ’90s. There have been many songs dedicated to Killa, including Tragedy Khadafi’s “T.M.” and Cormega’s “Fallen Solders.”
8. “And my man Primo, from Gang Starr” – “Represent”
Primo (pictured on the left) is more commonly known as DJ Premier. He is considered by many to be one of the greatest producers of all time. Primo did three tracks on “Illmatic:” “N.Y. State of Mind,” “Memory Lane (Sitting in the Park)” and “Represent.”
9. “Ron G’s in the cassette deck, rocking the shit, G” – “One Time 4 Your Mind”
DJ Ron G was the DJ Drama of the early ’90s. The Harlem native was the first hip-hop mixtape DJ of his kind.
10. “And yo: go to hell to the foul cop who shot Garcia” – “Halftime”
“Garcia” is short for Jose “Kiko” Garcia. In 1992, the Washington Heights resident was shot by a cop named Michael O’Keefe. O’Keefe was never indicted and the residents of Washington Heights rioted in response.
11. “They spoke of Fat Cat, that nigga’s name made bell rings, black some fiends scream about Supreme Team, a Jamaica Queens thing…”
Fat Cat was a major drug kingpin from New York City. In the mid ’80s, he joined forces with the Supreme Team, a gang lead by Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff. Fat Cat would become an infamous name in New York City because he allegedly snitched on Supreme Team enforcer Pappy Mason. Fat Cat is currently doing life in prison.
12. “The mind activation, react like I’m facing Time like Pappy Mason, with pens I’m embracing” – “The World is Yours”
Howard “Pappy” Mason was one of the top enforcers for the Supreme Team. Pappy would become infamous after he ordered the murder of police officer Eddie Byrne. He is currently doing life in prison.
13. “Uptown was Alpo, son, heard he was kingpin, yo” – “Memory Lane (Sittin’ in Da Park)”
Alberto Geddis “Alpo” Martinez was one of the most infamous drug dealers from Harlem. In the mid ’80s, Alpo ran the drug scene in Harlem, along with Azie and Rich Porter, who he later killed. In 2002, there was a film about Alpo, Azie and Rich Porter’s life called “Paid in Full.”
14. “I got to have it, I miss Mr. Magic” – “Halftime”
Mr. Magic is a true pioneer. The DJ was the host of the first rap radio show. He died in 2009 after suffering a heart attack.
15. “Before the BDP conflict…
BDP is short for Boogie Down Productions. Led by KRS-One, D-Nice and DJ Scott La Rock, the Bronx trio would release one of the greatest albums of all time, “Criminal Minded.” They would also famously beef with Queens representative MC Shan.
16. …with MC Shan” – “Represent”
The BDP vs. MC Shan beef is legendary. MC Shan is most known for “The Bridge,” while BDP put out the classic response “The Bridge is Over.”