The mystery surrounding Nas’ upcoming studio album was met with polarizing reactions. Some fans were annoyed by the lack of details, while others said the secrecy only added to the excitement. Thankfully for the former group, we now have more information about the highly anticipated release: We’ve received the tracklist, the official title, NASIR, and now the powerful cover art.
The image, shared by Nas’ team Thursday night, is a photo of several black children lined up against a brick wall with their hands above their heads. One of the kids is holding a toy robot, while others are wielding what we assume are toy guns. The image was captured by renowned photojournalist Mary Ellen Mark, as part of a 1988 feature called The War Zone by reporter Jim Atkinson. The story explored the disadvantaged neighborhood of South Dallas, where drugs, violence, and poverty were a part of everyday life.
“Ten years ago this was a working-class neighborhood; now criminals dominate the area,” Atkinson wrote in the story. “Kids learn to play by watching the police, prostitutes work to support their habit, and families try desperately to stay together.”
Mark’s photography has been showcased in exhibits and galleries across the world. She has also been featured in publications such as Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, and Life. In 2003, she won the Lucie Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Documentary Photography and was given the Outstanding Contribution Photography Award from the World Photography Organisation in 2014, about a year before she died at the age of 75.
"Mary Ellen’s photographs have always resonated with people on a very personal and humanistic level," a representative said in a statement to Complex. "We’re pleased that Nas and his team connected with her work and found something that they’re excited about."
NASIR is set to premiere Thursday night during a listening session in Queens.