Cover Story Uncut: Nas "Return of The Don"

Cover Story Uncut: Nas "Return of The Don"

Yeah. Like, where did he come up with that character? I used to hate Dana Dane for just even sounding like him.

[Laughs].

I used to be like, “Nah, that’s Slick Rick’s lane, even if I like those records.”

Then you find out later that they were in a crew.

Yeah. Just the pure unadulterated creativity.

Yeah.

“La Di Da Di” didn’t even have a...

Video, a record deal...

They didn’t even have a beat.

Right.

It was Doug E. Fresh.

“La Di Da Di” is one of the most brilliant records ever recorded.

For him to just break out in song, he was definitely the first guy to add this little...

Young guys ask me, “Yo, I don’t think young guys get the credit that the old guys get, because the old guys came first,” and I just laugh. I say, “The young guys deserve the credit that they deserve, and the ones that came before them—the Slick Ricks and them—they deserve the credit that they deserve. Don’t compare them. It’s just different.”

 

Biggie went platinum. That changed everything... Biggie and Diddy figured that out for us New Yorkers. They were saying New York is dope, but they don’t sell records. Biggie changed that, and I was a part of that movement. So what happened was all these artists are now in a business where you can actually make a big difference in a shorter time period. So it was the gold rush.

 

To this day, no one has ever done anything like “La Di Da Di.” To this day. It just is what it is. I’m sorry, ladies and gentlemen. Like, “My Melody” helped the human race evolve. It contributed to us evolving. The records today are helpful, in a lot of ways, but those records are what they are. You can’t take nothing from them.

From my perspective, I saw almost like two wings of hip-hop, intellectually. There’s like this Islamic five-percenter wing, that had this influence straight out of New York. Then, there’s the more west coast, Chicago gangster philosophy. But it’s really from the same root. So the Rasta, five-percent New York influence, and then the Chicago, west coast black panther kind of thing, built this intellectual kingdom. I feel like Rakim was kind of like a Solomon. Then, you came next, but one of the builders was Kool G. Rap. One of the builders was KRS-One. And it really shifted society with these words. Did you feel aware of that, when it was happening?

I was fully aware. I was a kid, but I think everybody was fully aware. I was a kid, but the way that I was bugging off of “My Melody” was the same way that the older dudes were bugging off of “My Melody.” We were on the same thing.

We were bugging together. We were learning together. So yeah, maybe in school, we didn’t pay attention to what seven-times-three was, because we didn’t care. How does it apply to our lives? But when a rap artist says it in our language, we learn faster.

After It Was Written, there was a lot of distraction in Queensbridge. Things had kind of come together during that period, like Mobb Deep, Wu-Tang, you, Nore. A lot of artists came together and built this thing, and then the energy dissipated, almost. There was a lot of politics that got involved. What happened?

It was our first gold rush of our generation in hip-hop. Biggie went platinum. That changed everything. When the guys that came before us’s sales weren’t as great as they once were, and you didn’t hear as many records as you used to from all the guys that came before us, it was a new turn for a new artist.

And with that new turn, the world’s different, and there’s ways to sell more records now. Biggie and Diddy figured that out for us New Yorkers. They were saying New York is dope, but they don’t sell records. Biggie changed that, and I was a part of that movement. So what happened was all these artists are now in a business where you can actually make a big difference in a shorter time period.

So it was the gold rush. Everybody was like, “Yo, this could happen, for real.” So I think everybody just ran to one gold mine and it got cluttered at the door, and everybody’s pushing, and people like myself had to just find a different hole so that everybody’s not running into one hole. Everybody should just follow their own self and do their own thing. That was around ‘96.

That was also around the birth of the real king of New York push and pull. I remember that line you got at Biggie, “There can only be one king” kind of thing.

Yeah.

That’s when the KONY crown was formed, and then obviously it manifested into Jay-Z versus Nas. In retrospect, do you feel like there really is a big difference between you and Jay, in terms of philosophy and how you approach your music?

I don’t have an answer for that. I don’t really have an answer for that. I don’t want to do too many Nas/Jay-Z questions. He’s him and I’m me.

Coming back into more recent times, I like that “Triple Beam Dreams” record you did with Rick Ross and the new one you did for the album. When was the first time you worked with him and how did these last two records come up?

The first time, I think, was on one of his albums for a song called “Usual Suspects.” These songs recently, he sent me a track and a title and I sent him a track and a title. It’s just that simple. I like his music. I mess with the guys whose music I like, so that’s why we get down.

I think he’s really one of the most gifted A&R rappers. He gets the right artists on the right tracks.

Yeah, and his delivery is crazy.

He’s got that Biggie quality, where it’s cinematic.

Yeah.

Do you feel competitive with artists, even if they’re friends, when you get on a track?

Nah, never. My whole thing is to just do a great performance, so that the record is great, and so that I contribute to a great record.

Tags: nas, cover-story-uncut
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