Kiss The Ring!
Yesterday, on September 30th, while Nas was in the middle of helping out Jay-Z on his world tour, the QB MC stopped by to talk with BBC Radio 1 DJ Tim Westwood. Nas and Westwood go back to Illmatic days, so there was definitely a comfortable relationship that aided in producing a good interview. Here are some highlights:
- Regarding his partnership with Jay-Z, Nas explained how the opportunity affords both rappers a level of leadership and maturity, two things needed more in Hip-Hop, "in the rap community, we gotta stand up and change the game every so often, if not, it's just gonna be over, it's gonna be dead."
- Nas then touched on the idea of unity, "when you first get in the game, you're reckless, you're crazy, so that's excusable. But as time goes on, you see the bigger picture, and you realize there's strength in numbers. We're stronger together."
- Concerning the current state of Hip-Hop, Nas remarked, "we just coasting, we just getting by, we having fun." As far as what's wrong with the big picture, he described the scene as all too one-sided, "everybody should get a shot, everybody should get a listen, a fair listen, a fair shot. And it's hard for that to happen, because there's so much money involved, and politics."
- One of the most interesting points Nas made, and what appears to be an extension of the themes he stressed on Black Zombie and We Major, for example, is that rappers have "no real control, no real position of power. So until we reach that, we're never gonna know what the future of the rap game is. . . . All of us are underneath one roof; it's all conglomerates, all record companies, from Universal to Def Jam to Interscope, we're all under one roof, all of us rappers. And we're the ones breaking down the paper, after they get their cut first. We just gotta change the positions, and it's about to happen."
- Specifically, Nas contrasted the heads of all these labels with the artists themselves, who often lack any noticeable control, "if we put our own records out . . . could you imagine what 50 Cent could be doing, what Nas, Jay, Eminem, if we were the Jimmy Iovine's? Could you imagine the power we'd have? And I think that's where we're headed."
- Changing topics, as to whose album will be the home for the much-anticipated Jay-Z / Nas collaboration, Nas answered, "you know that's my album." When asked about its subject matter, "it's talking about power, and it's street."
- Nas also admitted that with a title like "Hip-Hop Is Dead", he might have bit off more than he could chew. On the other hand, he stated that it's really been a good thing, because of all the conversation it's created and the energy that has swelled around it.
- At this point, Nas mentioned Where Are They Now, a song produced by himself and slated for the upcoming HHID. Supposedly, it deals with a number of rappers that Nas personally grew up fond of, but that, today, young audiences don't even know. Aware of what direction this kind of "schooling" can sometimes go, Nas also stated that he was trying to avoid "the preachy, teach level; I wanted to keep it cool, not too heavy."
- Keeping the idea of respecting old school artists in mind, Nas expressed an interest in doing a "Hip-Hop Is Alive" Foundation / Tour, where he would bring along a number of these older acts to make some money and make up for the bad breaks they might have caught early on. He acknowledged that because "the business is a demon", many of these veterans were ripped off and, as a result, are not really where they should be.
- Nas even talked about how the Rolling Stones logo (the lips) serves as a merchandising brand and a big cash source for the band. Similarly, Nas was thinking what if you took the Fat Boys logo, put it on a shirt, nothing bootleg either, and helped ensure that the artists themselves would see most of the returns, "when you help them, you're helping yourself."
- Another HHID track Nas brought up was Carry On Tradition. Apparently, it involves an attitude Nas himself has faced, where some of those same rappers from the 80's ended up being mad at Nas and his generation, for their own bad luck. Nas justified some of their anger though, "a lot of the new generation, mainly, really don't care about them." He added, "it's a discredit to [the listener] by not trying to figure out who these people are, because how are you gonna know where you're going if you don't know where they went? And how do you respect this if you don't respect them?"
- Next, Nas confirmed his appearance on The Game's album. Elsewhere, that collaboration has been reported to be nine-minutes long.
- Then, when questioned about recent Mobb Deep moves, as a business thought, Nas replied, "it's beautiful that other artists can get together and help each other out." However, he said the G-Unit partnering lacked artistic integrity or any overall excitement. Specifically about 50 Cent, Nas commented that "50 is too new, and he's too excited about who he is--with all respect--he's too excited too really know how to do a Mobb album. Because, really, he's not even Mobb Deep level yet, as far as a seasoned artist." Finally, more joking than not, he told Mobb Deep to "come sign to Nas, let's get this new album right."
- One of the last subjects that Nas and Tim Westwood discussed was the classic line from Illmatic, "sleep is the cousin of death." Because Westwood wanted to understand Nas' particular message there, Nas explained it to be about how "the other side, where we go when we pass, is really just around the corner. You rest when you're dead. Also, when we say, 'sleep', we talk about not being focused, 'you sleeping!' And that's a form of death while you're alive. . . . If you're sleeping on yourself, you're killing yourself. Mainly, it's just to remind you how, in a blink of an eye, this life, the importance of it, the shortness of it, the length of it, is right around the corner, the other side, so get yours while you're here."
- "Hip-Hop Is Dead . . . December"
BONUS: Nas: Classic Westwood Freestyle