Nas: One Love

The year is 1994 and New Year’s is creeping up upon us. An MC from Queensbridge named Nas is currently keeping the streets on fire from coast to coast. Many brothers on the block, as well as Rap critics acknowledge Nas’ debut LP Illmatic to be one of the greatest solo debuts of all time.

In celebration of Nas’ appearance with Jay-Z this weekend, take a look at Nasir Jones before the legendary battles from way back and peace treaties of today. Here, Nas talks about his youth, how family structure affects the outcome of the life expectancy of Black men, and the politics of ‘The Bridge.’ Even in his youth, Nas dropped science and math... What were your earliest memories of Hip-Hop? Not much being a part of it- but just the music itself and the culture?

Nas: I remember it just bein’ the fly s**t, the new s**t. Just n***as, Black people, young Black people, loud music, big speakers, turntables, females, weed, Private Stock, and seeing’ records. Like, if somebody was a big name, you saw he made a record. I mean, it was mad rappers. But when you look at a n***as record - you seen that was some s**t! As being a young Black man, you would have never thought to see yourself on some wax. And that tight there, you was the man. You was chillin’. Even if a n***a never knew you, if they see you on record you was the man. So what was the first Hip-Hop album you bought?

Nas: I think it was Run-DMC “King of Rock.” If it wasn’t that, it was L.L. Cool J’s “Radio.” Those were the first ones I bought. The other ones, I stole out my man’s crate. What were the first ones you stole?

Nas: The first one I stole was I think, Mary Jane Girls. I consider that Hip-Hop. I understand you used to break back in the day?

Nas: Yo, that was a long time ago. I’d rather not talk about it. We all did it. I used to do that for a minute. So tell me about your youth. What was your relationship like with your father?

Nas: He was just a cool muthaf**ka. He was different from what I would visualize: a father being when you would look down and watch a [show] like Cosby Show. He was different than that type of s**t. But he’s just a cool n***a - a straight up and down person. And your mother?

Nas: My moms is real strong, real sensitive, real caring and real intelligent. Do you have any business plans?

Nas: Ill Will music, dedicated to my man Ill Will. Bless the dead. He would probably be spinnin’ for me right now on the turntables or chillin’ with me ‘cause he was my right hand man. But now he’s still here with me, spiritually. We all know a lot of Black men that have lost their lives needlessly. What do you think are the reasons for the havoc coast to coast?

Nas: It’s just that we’re naturally born Black and aggressive towards getting what we deserves. We’re born knowing that something is missing. We’re born feeling like we’re born in an alien nation. From day one, your moms and what she goes through. I mean just, just, generations. It’s what your parents have already been through. Really, it depends on how your family structure is. If your moms is on dope, and your pops ain’t there, you gonna grow up real strong in certain ways and real f**ked up in certain ways. But if your moms is there and your pops is there but they are just weak people who didn’t know how to guide you…If you’re the kind of person who takes things upon yourself, then you’re gonna be a different way. You know it’s all kinds of ways we come out. It’s so many of us that are around each other. So much s**t on our minds. We’re thinkin’ we’re tyrants trying to get to the right solution. We’re thinkin’ about all the different ways of getting it and it’s mad obstacles in our way. It’s mad s**t that we don’t see in our way that makes us fall. It’s so easy for us to f**k up, especially when you are coming from a poor family. On Main Source’s “Live at the BBQ” you had a line that said “When I was 12 I went to hell for snuffin’ Jesus.” I’m not a Christian, but the fact that a man would make a casual remark like that about the murder of an acknowledged Prophet to some and saviour by others- what brings lines like that out?

Nas: When I’m feelin’ up to a point where I’m on some s**t where I just don’t give a s**t about nobody. ’Cause ain’t nothin’ in my pocket. I’m going through some s**t, I’ll diss anybody I want to. I’ll tell you why. I could break the s**t down for you. Because when a person is that angry, that’s how he feels about everything. That’s how I felt lyrically at the time. Reminds me of Malcolm X, in the movie when he yells to the priest “You tell Jesus to kiss my ass! What has he done for me. He ain’t done nothin’ for me!”

Nas: I kinda felt like how Malcolm X felt. And this was before the movie, I just thought of Malcolm when I said that. You know what I mean? I knew he would be behind me. Are you coming to the West Coast any time soon?

Nas: True indeed. I plan on comin’ out there with the Queens s**t, the inner side of Queens material. It’s a lot of punk muthaf**kas that never say Queens and s**t. Why do you think that is?

Nas: I don’t know, to tell you the truth. I don’t know. It just became like a religion for some rappers not to mention Queens. But I’m from Queensbridge, and I’m just representing’. It’s all about the bridge with me.

Adisa Banjoko is author of the upcoming book “Lyrical Swords Vol. 2: Westside Rebellion”. For more info visit today!