Nas, Power Of Black Culture

Nas speaks about culture and career.

He goes by many names. Nasty. Esco. Nas. The GOAT. Whatever you call him, Nasir Jones has forever changed the face of music. Born to Ann Jones and jazz musician Olu Dara, the Queensbride-bred emcee first burst into our collective consciousness in Main Source’s 1991 hit “Live at the Barbeque.” Since then, Nas has remained a constant and respected voice in hip-hop, documenting the pain and pride of the ‘hood while also dropping jewels about Black history and recycling Black dollars. While rap is braggadocious, often encouraging spending obscene amounts on cars and diamond-encrusted Jesus pieces, Nas Is able to boast with the best of them while also taking listeners to school, informs Ebony magazine.

“When I see injustice it hurts, so I speak about it. It just so happens I might be wearing a Dries Van Nolen suit while I’m speaking.” he says quietly. “I like things in the world that are appealing to the eye. So why lie about it?“ he acknowledges, mentioning his penchant for Italian shoes. “One thing that kills me is these holier than thou, super clean phonies who walk around like they live in heaven and they’re a step above everybody else. No, we’re human beings striving to live the best we can be. We’re striving for greatness all the time.”



Since his classic 1994 album, Illmatic dropped, Nas’ greatness hasn’t been in dispute. The project, which runs just over 30 minutes, has been written about in academic texts such as Born to Use Mics, and eulogized in the critically acclaimed documentary Time Is Illmatic.

Still at 43, the man who declared he was “half man, half amazing” more than 20 years ago can still put younger rappers to shame. It’s a testament to his love for the art form. “Today, people call artists relevant just because they’re alive. A lot of artists haven’t really done anything creative, or fulfilling, in years,” he says. “You can’t expect to be No. 1 forever, but if you’re an artist you can always make art. That’s what I concentrate on, and that’s what I’ve concentrated on since the very beginning.’’

So what happens when he’s no longer feeling creative? “I’ll just do something else altogether,’’ he says plainly. “I’ll stop myself.”

Thankfully, that day hasn’t come, and Nas continues to innovate. In addition to rocking the mic, the hip-hop legend serves as executive producer of Netflix’s The Get Down and writes many of the raps heard in the series. He also produces films, such as 20Id’s indie drama The Land the 2014 documentary Shale the Past and the upcoming feature Monster; based on a novel by Walter Dean Myers. He also co-founded QueensBridge Venture Partners, a firm that invests in tech companies including Lyft, Thrive Market Dropbox and Walker & Company Brands, which makes Bevel, a company that provides grooming products and services designed with Black men in mind. Though smart investments, these strategic moves are about more than just money to Nas.

“Black people have been pushed to the back so hard that it pushes me forward. It makes me want to achieve,” he explains. “My goal is to prove that all men are equal and we can all contribute to society.”

Nas surrounds himself with brilliant individuals such as his managers Anthony Seleh and Gabe Zardes, whom he credits with changing his life. And while he isn’t stepping away from music anytime soon (his next album is done, after all), he encourages young rappers to chart their own course to freedom.

“It’s their turn. It’s this generation’s turn,” he says. “I’m trying to evolve into something higher, hopefully. If people can see that part, then I’m still doing my job.” Before he leaves, Nas adds: “I’m far from perfect, and I’m far from hitting the bull’s-eye every time. I’m always working to be better, and maybe sometimes I’m not even satisfied with what I’ve done so far.”

You can hate Nas or Love him but you can’t deny his influence to black culture. Nas is what black artist is – freedom and power in everything.

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