Nas has been continuously beating life into heart of Hip-Hop. Recent tracks like
“Get Down” and “Thief’s Theme” proof that rap
courses through his veins.
Known for his reserved
ways, Nas rarely talks about the insides of the game, not to mention his life.
Usually, it’s all business and music. But, Nas has opted to exercise his
voice and it works out, as seen in this story. Nasir Jones evaluates the state
of affairs. Nas discusses the criticism, the responsibility, and the task of
bringing the real raw raps back. Nas drops science and its up for you to pick
The staff talks about your entrance to the game a lot, with Main Source. With
a reflective “throwback” album in the works, how much of you still
plays into that hungry teenager?
Nas: When I first
got in the game on the two words, “Street Disciple” is what I called
myself. The first two words in ‘91, on “Live at the Barbeque”
on Main Source [Breaking Atoms] and that verse right there it just
ripped through s**t. It was like everything jammed up in one verse, it was like
the beginning of the new MC for me. Throughout the years I’ve just been
trying to not even intentionally, but just trying to stay within the s**t I
was kickin’ on that verse. And through the years I’ve been with
all concepts, angles, changes, turns with making music so now this is like coming
to that sound of like the Main Source kinda sound of ‘91. And at the same
time, [I’m] talking about today and tomorrow and just things that I see
in my world and my life.
How do you think this album is going to define your career against how critics
Nas: Damn. Ya know,
I’d like for the people to judge and let them figure out and however they
define it it’s all up to them, it’s just another page in a book.
Why do people think you’re a contradiction from album to album?
Nas: I don’t
know really. I don’t really think they believe that really because that
word is a contradiction, and I love to be Mr. Contradiction. The negative meaning
behind that word it doesn’t apply to me. I think its obvious I think the
artists that are inspired by me [and] the game that I’m helping to inspire.
I really feel I’ve contributed more to the upliftment than anything so
I’m not against any word that the fans use to describe cause that’s
Do you feel like your under a lot of pressure to save Hip-Hop?
Nas: It ain’t
even a lot of pressure. I think at one point it may have been at some time I
know it was a some point ya know what I mean, but not really sure, sometimes.
I think I did my job with the last two years though. If you look and listen
to what’s happening to the game today, job well done, if I had any contribution.
I’m just happy about everybody keeping this s**t alive. I know I do wear
that crown for doing that s**t and sometimes I step up and that is my job, and
sometimes I fall back into my life because I’m not consumed with that
s**t all day long. And I think that’s when my die hard fans get upset
that I’m not carrying this s**t 24/7. Then, when I step back and I do
me and I think a lot of them get upset that I’m not doing my job. It’s
like on my “Made You Look” joint, they appointed me to bring rap
justice and I’m proud to. But that’s not my job all day long, at
least I don’t think it is. But if it is, that’s a blessing. That’s
a beautiful thing too.
What do you say to people who feel you haven’t lived up to the potential
your supposed to be?
Nas: I feel it
in a lot of ways. I don’t know, I do the s**t and then a lot of times
m’f**kas is like no-go all the way, punish them, do this, do that, show
‘em how it’s done, you’re supposed to do that, no, and that’s
cool too. And you know what’s cool for me is that I got those people and
sometimes I am a soldier. Well, I’m a full time soldier but also a regular
normal ass n*gga human being.
But what’s most important for you as far as what you feel your purpose
is in Hip-Hop?
a serious die hard fan of the dope s**t, the so-so s**t, I’m a huge fan
of it all. I just love to hear it when it’s good and sometimes I speak
my mouth when its bad. That’s just cause I love this s**t so much. I spent
hours and hours taping Mr. Magic on BLS and Red Alert on KISS and Bobbito and
Stretch Armstrong on the other station and Teddy Ted and Special K so I just
spent too many years listening and watching dudes careers come and go. So it’s
a hobby to me, that’s become a worldwide powerful thing so I’m very
boisterous about the s**t and I stand up for it when I’m in that environment
of Hip-Hop. I’ll stand up and speak up for it when I can, because I’m
such an old school die-hard fan of the s**t. That that’s just how it is
I’m always gonna be bumpin’ my Mr. Scarface album, my Dana
Dane classics, my Great Adventures of Slick Rick, my Paid in Full,
my N.W.A. I’m always gonna be bumpin’ the classics.
That was actually my next question, who do you consider some of the greats of
Nas: Aw man, Andre
3000, Dr. Dre, Scarface, n*ggas like that. Jadakiss.
So where do you see Hip-Hop going?
Nas: Well it’s
crazy. ‘Cause now with the records companies and the attack of 9/11made
the economy switch up and the world start movin’ on their one world plan.
Merging these companies, it made a lot of things suffer and in particular, music.
So I don’t know what the f**k is about to happen with records being sold
through mailing lists, through emails, through downloading. And with record
companies shutting down, I think one of the greatest attacks on black music
or music period was the attack on LA Reid and him not being a part of the mix.
It’s time for true music lovers and visionaries like himself and myself
to come together like on a Berry Gordy level and save the game because it’s
in the hands of people who don’t care about it, and it’s gonna be
done badly and they’re gonna f**k it up like they been trying to since
its existence. It’s been the streets little secret that’s turned
global and its in the wrong hands, the control is in the hands of the wrong
people. The dudes who run these labels don’t know nothing about Rap. You
got a small handful and LA Reid knows more than all of them so every artists
should be on his label man or on a label like someone like him or Russell who
cares about the movement and the people.
Do you think we’ll ever be able to control our own music?
Nas: You know,
that’s a big situation there. Because do we want the responsibility of
going over numbers and budgets and hiring and firing?
Why wouldn’t we?
Nas: I mean, I
would love for these guys to run a clothes company and not have to deal with
the headache that Reebok deals with. Then again, there are some brotha’s
that do want to deal with those headaches. It’s been done over and over
again, Berry Gordy was just the most famous one, but it has been done and it
can be done I think it’s just up to the individual, but it can be done.
Getting technical, is the CD a double CD and when is it dropping?
Nas: Yeah, it’s
a double. It’s scheduled for end of September, early October.
Is “You know My Style” going to be on it?
Nas: It wasn’t
scheduled to, but it’s seeming like it might be now.
What was the theme or concept behind “Thief’s Theme”?
Nas: Basically, there’s a saying that says, “It’s better to
be born lucky than to be born smart.” Because smart people go through
some painful s**t. Lucky motherf**kers just grab a hold and reap the benefits.
A lot of them lucky mothaf**kers are people who know how to sneak and know how
to cheat, who don’t wait a lot of them just go out and get what’s
their’s and if you wait they say, suckas finish last, right? And if you
look at the Bush’s they’re the richest presidents ever. They’re
billionaires. They said they not waiting for anyone to control their destiny
and they didn’t care if people died and they went after theirs. The whole
leadership of the world is about taking and about thievery. I’m a thief,
ya know what I mean. I steal all day. I’m tired of rackin’ and bustin’
my head to be creative and it’s just gonna be over somebody’s head,
or either nobody’s gonna care. So it’s like let me take some of
David Bowie’s song, let me take some of what this n*gga’s doing.
Let me take some of what Gil Scott Heron’s doing. And I’m a thief,
whether it’s music or whether it’s when I was a kid stealing potato
chips. So this song is dedicated to everyone out there who is about self preservation
and the man made law comes second.
AllHipHop.com: What is it about you that makes you special and how did you know
this is what you were called to do?
Nas: I think it
was through my parents. My pops was self-employed through his music and my mom
was an intelligent woman, and together they just put the right s**t in my head.
[They] told me about culture, told me about the world, the truth. And that was
the most amazing thing I could ever learn as a young child was the truth about
my history as a person, and a person of African American descent. We are really
like the mothaf**kas who don’t have our roots. Like Jamaicans can go back
to Jamaica, Italians back to Italy, Arabs back to Arabia. So we’re the
ones here. The lost tribes. So it’s important, and the story of our history
is I think, the greatest story I’ve heard in my life. So I’ve been
told that story and told to go out there and fend for myself and do what I wanna
do instead of punching a clock 9-5 doing something I didn’t want to do
forever. I was told to get paid doing the things that you wanna do. And for
me coming up, dealing with truth, I was able to see the world by the truth,
and able to look at the world for what it is and society for what it is and
tell it how I saw it. There was no manual how to write my first album there
was no guidelines to how that was written and I think that’s what made
me special. Because those were the albums there that told about America through
a young man’s eyes and the city in such a way that it has showed the Rap
game a way to exist even after the legends of the eighties. That’s what
kinda makes it special. I think I come unconfirmed. I think people just sense
my heart and even my most regular standard track.