Nas: Carry on Tradition

Nas’ mission isn’t over. Hip Hop is Dead has moved appriximately 355,000 units according to SoundScan and blessed him with his third Number One album in the 12 years since many of us pulled the plastic off Illmatic. Fans and critics still talk about whether or not the genre is actually deceased, which has offered […]

Nas’ mission isn’t over. Hip Hop is Dead has moved appriximately 355,000 units according to SoundScan and blessed him with his third Number One album in the 12 years since many of us pulled the plastic off Illmatic. Fans and critics still talk about whether or not the genre is actually deceased, which has offered a healthy amount of self-examination. chatted with Nas about the state of affairs, some of the reactions to Hip Hop is Dead and even engaged in answering some of the rumors surrounding his own life. First of all, you’re projected to do some pretty big numbers. How do you feel about that?

Nas: I don’t like to hear that. I just like to hear that people is likin’ it, and I don’t wanna know what it is [selling]; I don’t care. I just want people to like it, yo. A lot of people are considering [Hip Hop is Dead] a classic – within the best two or three albums of your career. How do you assess it?

Nas: Um…man. With each record, I don’t…I can’t…I don’t know what it is or how it is until at least a year. I’m like that. That’s not just me, that’s everybody. I need to hear they stuff [and I can] kind of get a sense of it. Then, a year later, I put that joint in, and just get stuff from it; I like doing that. It’s just a whole new day, yo. As far as the other s**t, the other s**t was the other s**t; it’s a new time and day. You started a lot of debate, at the grassroots level and even in the industry level. Do you still feel Hip-Hop is dead?

Nas: To me, right now, yeah, it’s what I’m feelin’. It’s like politics, how we say “Vote or Die”, but vote for who? What does voting do? How do you count a vote? Who are we voting for, and why are they good? Another thing is we don’t know anything about politics in my neighborhood where I’m from. I hardly know politics, I’m 33. I hardly know, you see what I’m sayin’? With Hip-Hop, it’s the same way. We know it has power, we know what it’s supposed to mean, but we don’t really know what it’s about. Maybe I can say “Hip-Hop is dead” and make dudes who didn’t really know what it’s about want to know more. I just told ‘em on TRL, they asked “How do you resurrect it?” I said [that] all of us, if we love it, if we care about it, if we have really respect for what other n***as have done, and respect [to] where we can move on from there…and just… ‘cause we’re too hard on each other. We’re too hard on each other ‘cause we’re all scrambling to be number one. Battling is the essence of Hip-Hop, but it’s gone too far ‘cause kids don’t care. That’s why I’m thinkin’ about these days, like Hip-Hop is dead for so many reasons. That’s why I did the album like that. You’re only 33, but in terms of the industry, you’re a veteran. Some of your critics, like a Jim Jones, are in the same bracket as you, but you’ve always seemed to come with an older perspective…

Nas: I’ve always felt like that. See, the OGs in New York, we all grew up wantin’ to be like that, to follow the style of the grown man. Somewhere down the line, that got cut short, which is why there has been a lack of direction or creativity lately on the New York side, ‘cause we’ve been havin’ fun just doin’ everybody else. But New York can do that. For them, they know the rules and they don’t feel like they’re cut from that cloth. So they’re trying to push themselves in there and disregard the cloth altogether. Or what’s really hood, they disregard that ‘cause they don’t feel adequate. But they are. They have to stop puttin’ Nas up on a pedestal so much. These guys are…these guys are doing it. Even if your first album doesn’t have the critical acclaim, or you haven’t done anything dope on the rhyme side, you can get there. It doesn’t mean you have to be there automatically, you know? I think that’s their frustration. At your birthday party, you had Joeski Love. You’ve always been about the old school, why?

Nas: Joeski Love! [Laughs] I think it’s “each one teach one,” and more than that, I grew up on that – on that song [“TK”]. I went to the movies with my moms and saw [Pee Wee’s Big Adventure], I remember the animated show on television, I remember Joeski Love. So these were the records that I’m excited about. I never knew how much that record sold, I didn’t even know what record label it was on – I probably did back then as a fan, but it didn’t matter. All that mattered was that song was crazy, and he captured a moment. That’s what I like about those guys. But I also talk about the old school guys too, ‘cause they’re not exempt from being criticized. So I get at the old school n***as – not all the old school n***as, but some of the old school n***as, I get at the bitter ones. And I get at the new n***as who are too arrogant. That’s how I carry on tradition. I love them ‘cause they are the pioneers. They made me wanna rap. There are rumors about you signing Royce Da 5’9 to your label. Is that true?

Nas: I would like to. [Pause] I would like to. Have you guys been talking?

Nas: Not as of yet. Where did this start coming up from?

Nas: I think he’s nice. [Pause] It was just some thoughts I said out loud. Ludacris had a shirt at the BET Awards that said something to the effect of “Hip-Hop’s Not Dead, It Just Moved Down South.” How do you feel about that statement?

Nas: I love it. That’s what this is all about. That lets me know we’re alive here, that’s what this Hip-Hop community is breathin’; they care about it, and they love it. It’s him responding to my cause. It’s his reaction to my action. I’m just excited that he responded. This album is getting a lot of four and five ratings. Do you feel like you’re resurrecting Hip-Hop?

Nas: Nope. I think I just like it so much – love it so much, that I have this relationship with it that’s odd. It’s like everybody else does. Jeezy has a relationship with it. Everybody has a strong relationship with it and they don’t know how to deal with it. It’s like a n***a hates to say “I love you” to his woman ‘cause it makes you feel soft, most of the time – some guys don’t. It’s the same way with Hip-Hop. We don’t say we love it but we do, ‘cause a lot of the street rappers don’t have that clientele. I used to not like the purists, but then I realized I was a purist myself, you know what I’m sayin’? It’s just that relationship, man. Just Ice is one of my favorite rappers of all times. You once told Funkmaster Flex a story about Just Ice…

Nas: Just Ice is one of the original Gs, man. He’s somebody who was on the radio when I was a kid, man. His s**t was tight, from the Filas to the Gucci hats to the glasses, he was just somebody I admired. There was a story about him: he got real hood years ago. I don’t wanna keep building on it, but it was just somethin’ I remember. You just remember certain s**t. Last question. It’s a funny one. My friend wanted me to ask you, with this album, what kind of youth pills are you taking?

Nas: [Laughs] Ay man, I don’t understand how this is happening, dude. I guess when you get older, you gotta eat wiser. You can’t eat late at night. You can’t eat all the stuff that you love. I love fried chicken, but I can’t eat it as often as I used to. You can’t drink like you used to; you can’t smoke like you used to. You gotta exercise your heart, gotta get your blood circulating. This is the normal s**t you think about when you get older; the s**t you’re supposed to do.