In 1994, Columbia Records released the debut album of a 20-year-old from Queensbridge Housing Projects in New York City and called it Illmatic. It was a lyrical, timely, wise beyond its years, and infectious musical compliation that propelled the baby-faced rapper named Nas into unparalleled stardom and soon into hip-hop royalty.
The rapper himself sometimes can’t believe how far he’s come since then but is thankful for the journey.
In 2012, The Source ranked him second on their list of the “Top 50 Lyricists of All Time”. In 2013, Nas was ranked 4th on MTV’s “Hottest MCs in the Game” list. About.com ranked him first on their list of the “50 Greatest MCs of All Time” in 2014, and a year later, Nas was featured on the “10 Best Rappers of All Time” list by Billboard. He is also an entrepreneur through his own record label; he serves as associate publisher of Mass Appeal magazine and the co-founder of Mass Appeal Records.
“I learn from my own stuff when I go back and we look at it and talk about it,” Nas says. “People have their own ideas and they break it down for me, what I’m saying, in even a better way than I even thought. They bring a clearer or more thought-out thing, you know what I mean? And I’m like, ‘Wow.’”
“We know how easy it is to be profiled. When I was 15 [or] 16, we were hearing how most of us black men won’t make it to be 25,” he recalled. “So, we were … on the hurry-up process – get money now, live now, have kids now, everything now – because tomorrow was not promised for the situation that we were in.”
Today, it’s about showing people from places like his Queensbridge neighborhood in Brooklyn that there are alternatives, Nas said.
“We don’t have anymore time to waste,” he added. “We need people to show them business modules and how they can get into computer programming, get into real estate, get into engineering, get into all the things that … are making this country better.”
From there, the veteran MC gives us insight into one of his favorite subjects: being a father. Now a father of two, both a girl and a boy, Nas is continuing his journey to learn even more from the next generation.
What Fatherhood Really Means
“It teaches you who you are. They say you don’t know yourself until you’ve been in a fight, but really, you don’t know yourself until you become a father. It’s everything.”
On Preparing For Fatherhood
“You’re never ready. You can never say, “I am ready,” you know what I mean? Some people can, but for the most part, you’re never ready. If you’ve never had a kid before, you have no way of knowing what you’re in for. It’s a beautiful thing.”