Whether it's a few days or a week or even a full month before scheduled release dates, albums from artists across all genres are susceptible to early leaks, though it's hard to imagine piracy being an issue two decades ago. But to hear MC Serch and Faith Newman - two figures hugely instrumental in the recording of Nas' timeless Illmatic debut - tell it, bootleggers and music fans alike couldn't wait to get their hands on the Queensbridge MC's instant classic.
Sitting down with REVOLT recently, Newman - a former A&R at Columbia Records and the executive producer responsible for wrapping up Illmatic and releasing it to the world ahead of schedule - explained, "We would've liked to record more stuff, but we had to get it out in a hurry, because there were so many bootleg copies. Like so many."
Mirroring her memory, Serch goes on to admit, "We were breaking into garages in the Bronx, because counterfeiters had 70,000 cassettes of Illmatic, with a drawing of Nas on a cross, crucified."
"And Donnie Einer, who was the chairman of Columbia, calling me like, 'Yo, we're pushing up the release date,'" Serch adds, reflecting on the hurry-up unveiling of an album that essentially took two years to record.
"There was definitely like this fever pitch that I could feel," Newman adds, sending the inner Nas fanatic within all of us down memory lane, imagining the excitement spilling over New York City as both Nas and the late, great Notorious B.I.G. emerged as new legends via their respective 1994 opuses.
Newman also mentions a "particular DJ in Harlem who had the whole album, who was getting it out to people," which may have led to the widespread leak, but that's another story for another day.
Check out more from our interviews with Serch and Newman above, and stay tuned for continued content from REVOLT surrounding the 20-year anniversary of Illmatic.