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Ranked as number two in The Source‘s “Top 50 Lyricists of All Time” column, it’s fair to say that Queensbridge, New York rapper Nas has a few accolades under his belt. While the spotlight may not have shone too brightly on Nas in recent time, that’s not to say he hasn’t indulged in his share of endeavors. Last year, Nas released the celebrated Life Is Good LP, his 11th studio album that shows off the rapper’s grimy, back-to-basics take on hip-hop that so aptly captivates his loyal fan base. Elsewhere, Nas serves as Mass Appeal magazine’s associate publisher in addition to pulling the strings behind highly acclaimed hip-hop festival Rock the Bells. Here, he chats with HYPETRAK about how Life is Good is a “full circle” record, in addition to sharing thoughts on his input on Magna Carta… Holy Grail and the forthcoming Rock the Bells festival.
You have been a part of several amazing collaborations recently – Jay-Z’s “BBC” which features Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, and Swizz Beatz. How was it working with these great artists and how does the energy differ in during sessions for songs like these compared to working with younger artists?
Obviously the energy was crazy. It was surreal. Especially because I never thought I would be around this long when I first started out and I’m sure these guys neither. I sat back watching everyone working their magic and thinking, “wow, we’re still here.” Don’t get me wrong though, it is also great to work with younger artists because their talent is much rawer and their full potential has not been fulfilled yet.
What was your initial reaction to J. Cole‘s “Let Nas Down” and how did you approach your verse for the remix?
I was blown away when I first heard it because I had no idea at all that this was coming. The song has been out for a while and a lot of people were wondering what my thoughts were and what I had to say about it. A remix seemed like a perfect channel for my thoughts and let him know that I do know that he is nice with his craft. I remember — for his first album — I wanted him to do a whole raw record without any radio songs on it. Ok, maybe one radio song but not too radio at the same time if that makes sense (laughs). This is me speaking from the perspective of a selfish fan. I just wanted him to ice n****s and come through with some straight up raw sh*t.
Life is Good was a mature record and offers a detailed look on your personal life. How do you feel about the people’s reaction about the record?
It was heavy. I feel like it encouraged people to release their records in a more hip-hop way of mind — from the young artists to the older vets. If you look around the musical landscape things feel more hip-hop than it has in years
And that was definitely my intention, so I’m happy to say: mission accomplished.
Head over to HYPETRAK for the full piece.