It’s Short Because It Was Rushed
One of the most distinct features about Illmatic is its length. At a mere 39 minutes and nine songs, it’s the type of album that proves that sometimes less is more. However, the tracklisting was more a result of rush than design.
In the years leading up to the album’s release, the streets were so thirsty for Nas material that enterprising DJs started putting album cuts on street mixtapes and playing the songs on college radio.
In fact, MC Serch once claimed they found a garage filled with 60,000 bootleg Illmatic albums before the album’s release. That’s why Columbia rushed the Illmatic's release in ’94 and dropped their original plan of making it a larger, longer project.