As a “new” New Yorker, I find myself trying to do New York stuff. I mastered the art of walking fast, I visit old hip-hop spots, and I say “Dead a\s, B”* a lot now. Another thing that I find myself doing a lot lately is listening to New York Hip-Hop.
Lately, as I walk the streets of New York, Apple Music constantly blaring in my ears. I have been listening to a lot of DJ Premier beats which somehow manages to lead me to Nas. I saw him rock the 2016 Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival and was moved by the fact that he came out to an instrumental version of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Plus, Nas’ music sounds incredible on the subway, his music IS the sound of the New York. I am beginning to appreciate him a lot more, all over again.
Here are Five Reasons Why Nas Should Be Your New Favorite Rapper, Again.
His Lyrics are as Sharp as Ever. On the new song, “Nas Album Done,” from DJ Khaled’s new Major Key album, Nas shines with lines like, “We get government aid/Spend it at they stores, puttin’ they kids through college/We need balance, so we can lease and own deeds in our projects/So I’m askin’ Gs to go in their pockets/The racial economic inequality, let’s try to solve it.” In a time when African Americans are moving their money to Black banks, and searching for economic empowerment, Nas echoes the call for “Gs” with means to invest in their communities.
He’s Aging Well. At 42, Nas has aged incredibly well. Always a handsome guy with brooding eyes, his signature mole and (formerly chipped tooth) smile made him a sex symbol in rap before it was popular to be. While other rappers-with the help of drugs and alcohol-seem to be aging at a fast rate, Nas looks healthy which only makes him seem even more powerful.
He Supports Higher Education. When Harvard University chose to make a real investment in the archiving, education, and study of hip-hop music and culture, they turned to Nas. The architect of one of the most important albums in hip-hop, Illmatic, his place in this culture has been even further solidified and memorialized at the most elite institution in the United States. The Nasir Jones Hip Hop Fellowship is the most elite study opportunity in the culture.
He’s (also) a Business, Man. For years, Jay Z was seen as the emcee business archetype. However, in the last 5 years, Nas has quietly been making amazing business moves. Queensbridge Venture Partners has investments in over 40 tech startups. He also has strategic relationships with Bevel, Fila and Hennessey. He has, as you would expect, quietly and humbly amassed wealth and prestige that has reinvigorated and reinvented his place in hip-hop.
He’s a Visual Visionary. When accepting an award honoring activism and art, Yara Shahidi of ABC’s Black-ish, who is also a younger cousin of Nas, spoke about why representation of people of color in the media was so important, “Media weaves an influential narrative,” Shahidi says, “that is often the touchpoint for a person’s first interaction with a new concept or idea.” Importantly, Nas is the Executive Producer of a new film, The Land, as well as a new series on Netflix, The Get Down (and he wrote all the raps.) In addition, his label Mass Appeal is working on two animated shows including Think B.I.G., loosely based on the lyrics of The Notorious B.I.G. As the Black Americans embark on a new fight for civil rights, the visual images and narratives that are shown of us are even more important.
What do you think of the evolution of Nasir Jones? He’s always been in your top five, but are his new ventures impressive enough to make him your favorite rapper all over again?