Nas: Hip-Hop’s Eulogy Part One

Nas is entitled to change his mind. So despite his new album being tabbed Hip Hop is Dead, it’s a safe bet that Nasir Jones has more up his sleeve than just a provocative title. Since aligning with the Def Jam ship currently steered by Jay-Z, his once bitterest of rivals, the public’s take on […]

Nas is entitled to change his mind. So despite his new album being tabbed Hip Hop is Dead, it’s a safe bet that Nasir Jones has more up his sleeve than just a provocative title. Since aligning with the Def Jam ship currently steered by Jay-Z, his once bitterest of rivals, the public’s take on the matter has been disparate. Opinions on the alliance range from delighted applause at two of Hip-Hop’s elite unifying to cries of blasphemy, citing the move as mere propaganda.

No matter, because history has shown Nas will do whatever Nas wants to do. So before Hip-Hop’s last rites are read, pay attention to the responses to AllHipHop’s questions and scan in between the lines for the answers. Brother Nas, Hip-Hop is dead…you really think so?

Nas: [Nodding head] It’s been dead. That being said, how do you bring it back?

Nas: You don’t. F**k Hip-Hop. Any moment or particular events that you think killed it?

Nas: There are a couple. It started dying a while ago, and I think everybody knew it. People accepted it. You accept change; I accept change. I thought that right now is a great time to take that title. Obviously, I’ve accepted the change as it changed, ya know, from when B.I.G. and ‘Pac left to it not being a serious rap game anymore, to it being the download age, to where…change is good. So Hip-Hop is dead, it’s not a bad thing. It’s just the acknowledgement. The ones that take offense to it are the ones who didn’t benefit from it, the ones who wanna make it better and the ones who know they killed it. They should have known it’s dead. It didn’t take me to see it. It’s interesting you say that but when I think Hip-Hop, besides rapping I also think graffiti and, DJing, breakdancing; that’s not dead?

Nas; Well it’s not a moneymaking business to the point of billions in graffiti or DJing. It’s not the main concentration, it’s almost looked at as corny by the kids today. I think those were the first two to go honestly. But there is a strong DJ culture, strong graffiti culture, that I respect and will always respect, that always will be the original elements of Hip-Hop. But, as far as the respect level from today’s kids, it’s been gone. Me saying it’s dead, they’re like, “Oh, now you’re just realizing that?” [laughing] They’re like they don’t want to hear about that. So it’s really me just saying it’s really done. Not just Hip-Hop. I think all music has been dead for a while. Especially R&B, especially Rock, they been gone. In one of your new songs you allude to Hip-Hop starting in the park but now it’s just in the studio. So did Hip-Hop slow death start when it got put on wax?

Nas: Kinda. Once art becomes business…like they said video kills the radio star. The unfortunate thing about it is when it gets in the hands of business, it turns into an industry. It becomes a different kind of animal, which is good if it can be controlled and maintained right. But the inevitable happens, and you lose it. So when the money’s out of it you can tell whose real and whose not?

Nas: Right. Now we’re going to see. I think next year you’re gonna still have a bunch of people just hustling. And that’s cool, get your money. I want to see everybody get money. That’s also why I say Hip-Hop is dead because a lot of the purist artists—artists that are purists—are struggling artists, and the ones who don’t care are making the money. So it’s like, once you realize this thing is over, temporarily I feel really, then you can go get yours [and] survive until the tables turn. But I think the hustlers are all about getting and hustling it. The ones who really love it, they will rise. Fans can tell whether an artist is really about their craft or in it for a quick buck.

Nas: Absolutely. So, that said, as the years have gone on and your catalog has grown fans have gotten past asking for another Illmatic and are just anticipating more Nas music for what it is. Is that a relief?

Nas: Umm, nah man. I’m off of me. I just do it ‘cause I love to do it. Nas being this and Nas being that, it is what it is. You can always try to push yourself the number one guy, [but] the people are going to be the ones to decide at the end of the day. So if all through your record you’re calling yourself number one, number one, that’s nice, but at the end of the day, the people will decide what they feel. Part of being an MC is trying to be the best, I’m always going to have that edge. I’m always going to have that kind of thinking. But, at the same time, it’s not that kind of game right now – at least not for me, where I’m trying to do with it is somewhere new – especially after this record. This record I really just wanted to get over and done with. With the next one I’m planning on doing something totally different, left. How so?

Nas: With the last record, I did a track with my father [“Bridging the Gap”] and I didn’t know how to top that on this album. I kind of felt like it was too much to top. I kind of let it go. I said Let me just get in the studio and bang out joints that I like, and put it together, and that’s that. On Street’s Disciple’s “U.B.R (Unauthorized Biography of Rakim)” you said there was one of KRS-One coming, what happened?

Nas: [laughing] Yeah, I’m still trying to pull that off. If it don’t make this happen, then it will make the next one.

Nas: What made you use that “In-A-Gadda-DaVida” sample again on “Hip Hop is Dead”? When it come to this rap game, it’s whatever. This time I wanted to do it with more of a Rock feel. I didn’t plan to do it but when [] played it for me, I was like, “F**k it.” I didn’t know they would use that song in the The Departed movie, I didn’t know at the time. The song was done by the time I found out the song made the movie. I knew people would be hearing “Thief’s Theme” again that went to see that movie. But I like to keep it like that, like how producers use [The Honeydrippers’] “Impeach The President” over and over and over and [Melvin Bliss’] “[Synthetic] Substitution” over and over back in the ‘90s. So it’s like, let’s keep it Hip-Hop. You’ve worked with every producer of note, anyone particularly stand out?

Nas: I think Dr. Dre is real crazy. Kanye got that soul. His drum patterns are perfect for an MC, he got the crazy drum patterns. Of course Salaam Remi is just dusty. He keeps it dusty. Lately you’ve been popping up on some crazy records like with The Game and Hi-Tek, was that on purpose or happenstance?

Nas: The Hi-Tek record was a song from my album that I didn’t use, so I gave it to him. Game has been just somebody that’s just…he’s young and he wants it. I think 50 f**ked up by…it was terrible business. It kind of shows you that he was just riding off of the sensationalism of the controversy behind 50 Cent rather than being a business man by letting him go. It really showed me that he wasn’t thinking because that guy is a superstar. Game is just that n***a. He’s a nut job, but that’s what it is, everybody is crazy. Listening to The Game, he’s got that hunger but he’s a new jack. A lot of rappers with your experience have slacked so how do you sharp?

Nas: I try not to be too sharp because of the jealousy it breeds. My thing is about trying not to be sharp, trying not to be as lyrical, trying not to be as focused because I feel like I’m too far ahead. Not to sound funny like that, I just mean like if I go too far ahead, maybe people won’t like it, maybe it’s me in my own head going somewhere else. My whole thing is about slowing it down, every time. How long you been easing the pace?

Nas: I’d say after maybe my second album… Some people do say It Was Written was ahead of its time…

Nas: Thank you man. I think it was after that. I started to say ya know what, I don’t want to be alone out here. I want to be with my other rap peers and rhyme at their speed and do what they do in they zone. It sounds f**king stupid but…[laughing] I’m serious. You don’t want to be all the way all the way all the way out there and then next thing you know…

It’s like what Jay does. Jay is so advanced with his flow and his thinking he gives it to you straight up like that and people get jealous and they get mad at what he’s doing. And I see it. And I go, You doing it, n***a, but you know they going to copy you and hate you at the same time. I don’t need that. “Black Republican” is out there, what was it like putting the song together?

Nas: That was cool man. It was like we’re partying in the studio, we just went in there and did it. We know we want to do something that was really crazy, but we just did that and plan to do some other joints. You start your verse saying “I feel like a Black militant…” why did you take it there?

Nas: That’s where it is with me. I’ve always been a different kind of thing that what everyone else is doing. We’re all different.