16 Behind the Scenes Stories About Complex's 2012 Magazine Covers

Nas: Return of the Don

Issue: June/July 2012

Photographer: Kareem Black (@kareemblack)

Written By: Rob Mariott (@tafari)

 

We built a set, sort of like a whole New York City block, because we wanted to get that Do the Right Thing feel.

 

Brent Rollins: "We were kind of struggling with how to present Nas, because he doesn't normally do super conceptual covers. It's not a diss, that's just not him. We really liked his single that summer, 'The Don,' and it's exciting because he's a legend. We were trying to do something that was sort of 'Life is good,' which led to a more documentary feel. We staged it from a shot in the film Do the Right Thing, the one with three guys sitting on a bench. We were inspired by the color saturation from that film.

We built a set, sort of like a whole New York City block, because we wanted to get that Do the Right Thing feel. Kareem Black was the photographer for this. Going back to the 'meta' idea from the Drake cover, we wanted this to be a reflection of Nas' life. You used to see guys hanging out on the corner listening to records, and then it followed through on the inside story with old, faded posters of Nas' things, so it looked natural. We had my younger cousins as the kids, and we rented an Icee cart for those shots. It looks like we shot it on the street, and there is a slight artiness to it, which was intentional. That picture is all about the negative space, because there is a big field of red, and he is in the corner. We don't do a lot of headlines, because it ruins the beauty of the photography."

Gina Batlle: "Nas was super great to deal with on set. He came in on time and was super nice. Brent had already set up everything before, so it was just a matter of Nas being there. For us the question was, 'How do you tell the story of summer without beach balls and beaches, and still have the integrity of his brand and what he represents?' So that's how we came to think of this 'Life is good' idea."

Read the Cover Story

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