There are 12 video lessons on the course. What was the decision-making process, as far as organizing the curriculum and layout?
Nas: It’s all about giving you what you need in chapters, increments, and giving you the vibe. It’s sort of hard to break it down, so those different classes and different steps make the most sense to me. That’s how I would like to receive it from an artist, so I thought that that’s the way for the person that’s watching it to give them the time to soak it in, each one piece-by-piece. I break it down piece-by-piece, and each piece is different. Each piece gives you more of my life. A lot of it is about my life journey.
There’s also a video coming for the song. Could you speak about the conception of the video and why you thought it would be cool to augment this track with it?
Nas: It’s just to give MasterClass all that I can give. I wanted to give it 100 percent, so the video concept was, since King’s Disease 2 is already out and MasterClass is something totally separate, I wanted it to feel like its own thing. I wanted MasterClass to be MasterClass and King’s Disease 2 to be King’s Disease 2. Two different things altogether. So the video for the song has its own style. I didn’t want to do a performance. I didn’t want to do what I would do for King’s Disease stuff, but I had to take a different approach. Since you didn’t see it, I don’t want to give it away, but it’s different than anything I’ve ever done.
Y’all displayed dope chemistry in the lessons I saw, and you’ve been working together for the past several years. How long did it take to gain that chemistry in the studio?
Hit-Boy: I feel like every song we make, without even consciously doing it, we’re trying to make it better than the last. It’s just already embedded in us to do that. I feel like as long as we keep taking that approach, it’s going to get crazier and crazier, and that’s what happened. I keep seeing every day like, “Damn, how would y’all top KD 1 that y’all won a Grammy for? This is even better.” That’s a good feeling, and it lets me know that the chemistry is legit. I feel like we caught it quick. Like, the first day we came through, we recorded “All Bad,” and that made KD 1.
“In a world full of so much craziness, you got to keep your head in the light, and that’s what I’m doing. No matter what, I’m going to stay in the light.” – Nas
Hit-Boy, can you talk about evolving from a beatmaker to a producer, as far as going from just making beats to being able to suggest to an artist how to craft their vocals? How long did that take, and how did you get better at it over time?
Hit-Boy: I started making beats at 16, and I’m 34 now, so I’m 18 years in of consistent, nonstop work. There’s times where I legit feel myself grow. I’m like, “Damn, I’m way better than I used to be.” That’s the feeling that I’m always chasing, when I’m leveling up with the music. Within the last five years is when I super set out to be able to make good songs, and not just beats.
I was always making songs, but I was really having to tap into it. I ran into a producer when I was working at a studio, an older guy, and this was maybe 2014. He told me, “In order to stay in the game as a producer, you have to know how to produce the vocals as well. It’s not just about the beat.” The minute I heard that, I just became super focused on just trying to make sure every song is good, on top of the beat, as well as the instrumental.
Nas, you’ve been open about your inspirations, like Rakim, MC Shan, Kool G Rap, and more. Who are some of the first people who helped you hone your craft as a lyricist and help you learn your first rhyme techniques?
Nas: It was all of those guys. It was all of those guys who were showing me where to go with it until I found my voice. When I came up, I was listening to everything that was out, and I had to find my voice because I knew if you don’t add nothing new to the game, you’re not even going to last more than one year, more than one song, more than one single, or more than one album. I knew that was coming, and that’s what kept my energy up for writing songs, because I was hearing it on each thing I wrote. I was hearing more of me, and by the time that I got into the business, I was ready to go. From there, I found myself in new territory where I’m the new sound, and I’m the new vibe. I’m the new wave, and I had to figure out how to complete albums at that point, because I hadn’t seen me before. It was all fresh from the heart, so I was just going and going and got to a place where I was good.