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 any more 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.
On Building an Empire
Little do people know, Nas is a wealthy man with investments all over the world outside of the music industry.
Jones’ QueensBridge Venture Partners was an early backer of the cryptocurrency platform, Coinbase, joining the company’s $25 million Series B round in 2013. His firm invested between $100,000 and $500,000, its typical amount. As an early investor in the company, the rapper’s stake is now worth at least $40 million.
Other companies he’s invested in with a big return are Uber, Lyft, Landr and the popular chicken and waffles restaurant chain, Sweet Chick.
Nas dropped out of school after the eighth grade, told CNBC his affinity for learning led him to technology investing.
“I’ve always wanted to be surrounded by the smartest people in the world, and didn’t want to limit that to just music,” he wrote to CNBC.
“I want to meet the people who are innovating in all different fields, and investing lets me do that,” Jones said. “I meet the people that are changing the game across all different industries, and I get to be there first at the ground level. It’s helped me to progress tremendously in my business.”
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.”