Nas teamed up with Google to share a powerful personal message for Black History Month. With a one-minute video and an open letter, the rapper paid tribute to the many legendary creators who inspired him, including artists Slick Rick, John Coltrane, Nina Simone, and more.
“Music has scored my life since day one,” Nas writes at the beginning of his letter titled “We Continue To Rise.” He goes on to write about how his father’s love of music influenced him at a young age. "I was blessed to have love from both of my parents, and it just so happens that my father’s love for music took him around the globe via his own sonic excursions, both live and recorded. Pops would come back with mad loot (cash money, that is) from around the world. It was a testament to his globetrotting and a cool little nod to me that said, young blood, when you’re ready, the world is yours."
The Queens native also explains how his relationship with music is what gave him a deeper understanding of black culture. “It was through the blues and jazz and folk music that my father played that I learned the importance of our history—our African ancestry, our struggles here as black Americans and ultimately, our great triumphs too,” he writes. “Black culture was an everyday thing in our household and in the streets that flowed through the great maze of our beloved Queensbridge: the housing projects that taught me and my comrades a plethora of lessons that were harsh, harrowing and humble.”
At the end of his letter, Nas celebrates some of his biggest musical influences. “I would realize—through the education I received from my parents and my own travels—that Robert Johnson, Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan and Slick Rick were one in the same," he says. "Native storytellers who shined a light on our purpose, preserved our legacy and, without question, rocked the house.”
Read Nas’ full letter here and watch the rapper recite an excerpt from "We Continue To Rise" in the video above.