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      Time Capsule: Nas’s Illmatic (1994) as an Iteration of Utopian Time

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          Abstract

          Queensbridge is the largest government-housing scheme in the US. The building opened in 1939 to house lower income families. In terms of its initial architectural structure, Queensbridge is designed to capture natural sunlight, and is a modernist state-funded venture typical of its time. This article considers the formative modernist design of Queensbridge as a backdrop to the hip-hop artist Nas’s 1994 masterpiece Illmatic. Illmatic is the focus of recent academic studies, many of which hail Nas for the formal ingenuity of his lyrics and his songs’ implicit socio-political content: the content of which deals with the systematic perpetration of criminality among black youth in the post-Reagan period. Nas’s quasi-realist account of growing up in Queensbridge, his immersion in a life of crime, to his discovery of hip-hop as an art form, has since assumed legendary status. The article considers Illmatic from the perspective of ‘time’ in two specific contexts. The first takes empirical reality as its concern, exploring the album’s coming-of-age narrative as a story about growing up in the poverty of the New York ghetto. A second iteration, the second strand, concerns anti-eschatological renderings of time. Taking this second strand to be an iteration of ‘utopian time,’ the analysis turns to Lucy Sargisson’s transgressive utopianism. Illmatic, I argue, instantiates the coming-into-being of Nas as subject and furnishes the tools to critically transgress categorical binds involved in representing subjectivity. Illmatic is an album about representation and its utopian critique.

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          Most cited references 5

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          Who's using and who's doing time: incarceration, the war on drugs, and public health.

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            For the Past Yet to Come: Utopian Conceptions of Time and Becoming

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              Queensbridge, NYC: Inside New York City’s Largest Housing Project

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                2056-6700
                Open Library of Humanities
                Open Library of Humanities
                2056-6700
                18 March 2019
                2019
                : 5
                : 1
                Affiliations
                [1 ]School of Art and Design, Limerick Institute of Technology, IE
                Article
                10.16995/olh.393
                Copyright: © 2019 The Author(s)

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

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