Happy early birthday Nas! Tomorrow the Queensbridge legend turns 40. We've been celebrating all week with all of our Nas week content. We're sure Nas will get a ton of gifts for his birthday, so we figured we'd give his loyal fans a gift: We dug through our archives and found our classic Shotcaller interview with Nas from our December 2006/January 2007 issue (which had Lil Wayne and Travis Barker on the cover and featured a classic Lil Wayne interview). Below, you can read an uncut, raw 7000-plus word interview with the one and only Nasty Nas.
The interview took place right after Nas had signed to Def Jam but before the release of Hip Hop Is Dead. In the interview, Nas talked about how he was offered the presidency of Atlantic Records but passed, why he always fell out with artists he tried to put on, and what it was like recording "Black Republicans" with Jay Z...
Interview by Toshitaka Kondo (@ToshitakaKondo)
With you over at Def Jam now, what’s the biggest difference you’ve noticed since you been there?
Everything is on the up and up. You know Sony is a beast, [it's] a big giant huge company and their front shit ain’t rap music. Def Jam is more hands on hip-hop, its a lot more on the up and up, a lot more real if you will.
This year obviously we’ve seen a bunch of really good albums come out of Def Jam, Ghostface, The Roots, Method Man dropped an album a lot of people say it’s the best in years, it really hasn't gotten the support from the label, does that worry you at all?
Nah, this is the music business and the music business is about crossing your fingers no matter where you are or what label you are on. Some labels can pay attention to a certain artist more and really make it pop and some have the money and everything. But if the stars are not aligned stuff like that happens.
I’m above him, everybody is above Jim Jones. Who’s not above Jim Jones? Who is Jones?
You almost make it sound like the artist has no control it just kinda happens whether their projects work or not.
Well it depends, if an artist is totally involved in marketing and if he uses all the tools he needs to use to bring in money to support him and get himself out there. You can have your record company spend and have other expenses paid, but everybody’s doing it, not just rappers. And they find unique ways of selling their shit. It takes a long time and a lot of work. It’s not like 2001 or ‘98 or ‘99.
It’s a whole new game. You can’t put a record out and expect the people who used to buy records in ‘99 to react to records the same way now in 2006 or 2007. It’s a whole different world so it depends. It’s going to be up to the artist, they have to be totally involved on all levels to understand what’s going to make his record move. Other than that, you can basically go in blind and just say, ‘Here is my shit’ and it should be enough. The music should be enough but sometimes things slip through the cracks and it doesn’t happen the way you wanted.
You were talking about how during The Firm Album days Jimmy Iovine actually wanted to send you on a plane to try get you off Sony. Did you ever consider going over to Interscope when you were making that decision?
Definitely. I was offered to be president at a record company, so it was just basically what I felt would be a challenge, what would move me.
When you’re talking about a president at Interscope were you talking about back in The Firm days or?
No, I was talking about another label that wanted me to be president for them, so it’s different places that I was thinking about going to and do my thing. But you know Def Jam is the move right now.
Can you say what label it was that wanted you to be president?
It was Atlantic Records.
So they wanted you to come over there and be the president overthere?
We’ll yeah, and Craig Kallman.
What was the exact deal? What was the exact title?
To be the president.
Was it President of A&R? President of what area?
President. Me and Craig Kallman.
What made you decide not to go over there if they offered you a presidency?
Why would I go?
I don’t know, it seems like a pretty big position.
It is a big position for Craig Kallman or for Irv gotti, but I rap. A president is something to do when you’re in somebody like Jay’s position. Jay had hit a moment where he felt he needed to take the time off, so then it’s a great position. That’s not where I’m at. I don’t want to deal with artists, artists are fucking crazy. They want to blame me for shit and I can’t deal with that right now.
I rap. A president is something to do when you’re in somebody like Jay’s position. Jay had hit a moment where he felt he needed to take the time off, so then it’s a great position. That’s not where I’m at. I don’t want to deal with artists, artists are crazy.
You know you also would have been Jim Jones’ boss right?
No, I'm still his boss.
[Laughs.] Why you say that?
Why wouldn’t I say it? Why wouldn’t I be his boss?
I mean there’s no real structure there that would make you his boss. But if you were president of Atlantic, there would be a structure you’d be above him in a flow chart.
I’m above him, everybody is above Jim Jones,
[Laughs.] Why you say it like that?
Who’s not above Jim Jones? Who is Jones?
I mean, I don’t know what context you’re talking about when you say everyone’s above Jim Jones.
I don’t know who he is, I really don’t know any of his records. I’m not even being funny. I know he got a record called “Ballin’” out. I hope it’s hot, I hope it sells some records. I don’t know his stuff.
A lot of people say that record is the hottest record in New York right now.
Everybody is telling me that I swear to you, I’ve never heard it.
You’ve never heard it once?
Never, and I hope it is hot, I’m not saying I don’t want it to be.
Hope it is, New York niggas need to bring it. And I think he wants it, he’s one of the main niggas that want to bring it so, I hope there’s just certain shit I don’t hear. Real talk.
When you were talking about ‘Yo I can’t work with artists I can’t deal with that shit’ Do you think Jay has been getting a lot of the brunt of that? LL made some comments because he wasn’t happy with his album, so did Method Man. A lot of artists at Def Jam have been kinda blaming him, whether it’s unfair or not. Has seeing that made you be like, ‘Nah I don’t need that’?
I don’t know these situations, I’m sure their situations are very sensitive for them. I don’t really know how their situation is structured, I don’t know their relationships with Def Jam or anybody and all the stuff like that. I really have my own thing up there so, I don’t really know how their shit has worked out. I don’t want to say nothing for them or against them.
[Def Jam publicist interrupts]: Yo no disrespect, I’m sorry to interrupt, but all you’ve done is ask him about Def Jam, Jay, problems with other artists, Jim Jones. If you want to talk to him about his artists, tell me now, we can do that or we could just bounce. If you have questions regarding Nas or his record coming up, if you want to get to those we can move forward but the only questions that you’ve asked so far have been referring to Def Jam. Ok so let’s get there now. Nas you still there?]
That was really unnecessary.
[Def Jam publicist interrupts]: No. It was totally necessary I don’t like that interview.
You want to start it all over? Let’s start all over. [Laughs.] Let’s start this shit all over, cause honestly it sounded more like a conversation than an interview. Let’s scrape all of that. I don’t mind answering those questions, let’s just do one at a time, I have no problem with any question. Let’s just deal with it smoother than that.