Olu Dara is the
father of one of Hip-Hop’s brightest stars, Nas. Dara obviously passed some
good genes and wisdom to his son, who has seen the heights of the rap industry.
Dara himself is
an accomplished trumpet player and member of the Mississippi Music Hall of Fame.
Nas fans will recall his airy trumpet, as he was featured on his son’s classic
In this candid
interview, Dara talks about his son’s Nas and Jungle, growing up in Queensbridge
and oh yeah – a Thanksgiving chat with his son about what would become one of
the legendary battles of Hip-Hop.
How did the song “Bridging the Gap” with you and your son Nas come
about? Your thoughts on it
Olu Dara: When
I think about it, I remember when Nas and his brother were younger, 5 or 6 years
old. We use to always play around the house with instruments. I use to play
on a two-string guitar and they use to always be doing their stuff. They then
started to listen to hip-hop; the community was really a hip-hop embryonic neighborhood
so it was fascinating for me to be there. We use to always mess around in the
house with their thing and my blues and it started then, but I didn’t
think of it like that. Then some years ago when Nas started recording he said
“one day daddy we are going to do something together,” and that
was many years ago.
VH1 honored the founders of Hip-Hop. Can you speak on how it was to be apart
of such a big event?
OD: Everybody was
calling me “pops,” I think I was “pops.” I think that’s
what they were doing. I guess you can say – I’ve been hopping around.
I am very hip in my life so if you turn it around, I’m a hip-hopper myself.
I felt that it was something that I must of dreamt about. Just being around
the innovators, it was something that would always be in the back of my mind
before they were even born. When I was in Africa, I would see people with music
in the background telling a story. About what happened that day. So to me it’s
just a new day. It’s the same thing. Just with different clothes and in
a new area.
What are your thoughts on Nas’ career? He’s one of the greats, but
there’s been a lot of controversy.
OD: It never surprised
me. He came from a family of visual artists and dancers – he does both,
musicians, poets, educators, so you know I felt like – it was the same thing
we used to do when we were messing around. When the song started I didn’t
know when to come in or anything – I didn’t know where I was supposed
to come in to I started improvising it just flowed. The controversy I don’t
know anything about that. It was the day before Thanksgiving and Nas told me
that this guy [Jay-Z] is talking about me and the family. I was like ‘what
guy?’ He said ‘Jay-Z.’ I said ‘isn’t he a very
wealthy rapper?’ He said ‘yeah, he’s well off. I said ‘you
don’t have nearly as much money that he has but you need to play the game.
Adversity brings opportunity.’ Knowing how some people are, I felt that
Jay-Z wasn’t as mature enough or had issues – it’s just human
nature because Nas isn’t a mean person. Nas hates controversy. I remember
when Illmatic came out and they were taking pictures of him, I remember him
saying “I wish people could hear Illmatic but don’t know what I
I’m sure that it’s stressful to not be able to walk down the street
tell you. He misses the opportunity he wanted to be free. But he gained be by
being able to help other people. But he never had the opportunity.
When Nas battled Jay, were you like “Yeah that’s my boy?”
OD: I’m just
glad it wasn’t heavy. Not physically, I mean with words. I didn’t
want him to hurt his feelings because the man has a mother, – whom I later heard
chastised him [for the track Super Ugly].
There’s been a lot said about Tupac’s background – his mother
being a Black Panther. Now Nas also has a revolutionary spirit. Is that a part
of your family’s history as well, or is it something that he grew into
OD: It was just
a family thing. We were always go-getters as far as my community was concerned.
In Mississippi where I was growing up, there was a lot of what you would call
terrorism in my neighborhood. We had to really be strong, to survive the segregation
in those days. So I grew up in a community where it was tight. I grew up where
we had our own doctors, our own pharmacies we owned everything. We grew up in
a community where you knew all the teachers, nobody was starving. There wasn’t
any division between us because we were surviving in the old way. Nas grew up
in the integration so to speak. I saw him and his brother experiencing something
that I didn’t have to experience. Neither my father nor his father had
experienced it either. So now he had white teachers who weren’t in his
favor. I had to deal with getting money to feed the family – his Mother
and me were separated at the time, but I didn’t want the system to get
the best of him.
Nas and Jungle are from what I know are brothers. They look very different.
OD: They look entirely
different because of the way the family looks. You don’t know who you’re
going to look like. Same Father and Mother
Are you close with Jungle too?
OD: Yep. Very close.
They are two different entities. And that’s what you would find in siblings.
You’re not supposed to make twins al the time they have a very different
life too. They’re only a year and six months apart and they live an entire
different life. It depends on how you see the world. What kind experiences you
How do you feel about Hip-Hop and music in general?
OD: Well I think
music is like this. I look at it like how I looked at it when I lived on the
farm growing up. I used to hear sounds and animals. We had no radio or TV, only
running water. I grew up listening to the sounds of nature and man gets his
sound from nature.
What are your views on the election?
OD: As a matter
of fact I grew up away from voting. When I grew up, we where trying to get voting
and when I always thought to myself “Why are we voting, we don’t
even have any machines!” Who’s counting the votes? I could understand
local voting in the communities because I could look and see these people, I
even know some of these people. But the concept – I may be different from
other people, but the concept seems too big for me. I don’t have any control
over it and don’t know what it means. People throw ballots in a hat and
somebody counts it and says oh this guy has the most. So I look at it like this:
People in power do and the masses go and exercise the right. It’s as simple