Frannie Kelley

This summer Nas is traveling the world performing his debut album, Illmatic, in full. The crowds coming out to see him — in Texas, Germany and California — are turning up because the 20-year-old record is an acknowledged classic.

In the early '90s hip-hop was just beginning its takeover of popular music. It was landing on the charts, but more often than not, the songs there were novelties (see: MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice).

For the people who took hip-hop seriously, and especially the fans in rap's hometown of New York City, this was a problem.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

All this week, we're looking back at the year in music with our friends at NPR Music as our guides. Every year, they round up their favorite 50 albums, some mainstream, some more obscure and some completely unavoidable, like "Yeezus" from Kanye West.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BOUND 2")

BRENDA LEE: Uh-huh, honey.

KANYE WEST: (Rapping) What you doing in the club on a Thursday? You said you only here for a girl birthday. They ordered champagne but still look thirsty. Rock Forever 21 but just turned 30.

Session musician Stephen Bruner has played bass in other people's bands for more than a decade. He can play metal, R&B, hip-hop, jazz. And he's been folding all that into his own music, which he puts out under the name Thundercat.

Now, with his second album, he's stepping to the front of the stage.