Queensbridge emcee Nas is a master lyricist who has been a formidable force on the mic since the early 1990s. Although the Illmatic musician had a lull in his career during the 2010s, with the help of producer Hit-Bot, he has burst back onto the main stage and is here to stay.
As a figure from one of hip-hop’s finest eras, Nas (real name Nasir Jones) was raised in the birthplace of hip-hop during its golden age, and his musical tastes reflect this. He is truly a product of his environment and embodies the drive of those looking to escape life in the Queensbridge Houses.
As a New York artist, Jones has always stayed true to the gritty, unpolished sound of his hometown and, with the help of Hit-Boy, has modernised it and redesigned it. Nas is a name that consistently appears when debates concerning the ‘Best Rapper Of All Time’ occur. As such, it is interesting to learn how the rhymer honed his craft and from whom he learned about the art form hip-hop.
In an interview with I-D magazine, Nas sat down to speak about his music and life prior to fame. When asked about his worst job before becoming an artist, Jones revealed, “I never had a nine to five. I never had a job. My first time really doing anything like that was making music. It was music, that was it!”
Jones was also asked about the best thing he had ever heard from a fan, to which he replied, “music saves lives! I think everyone who makes music has heard that before, and that’s a great thing to hear. Knowing that your music has helped someone’s life or inspired them to do what they’re doing in life.”
However, one of the more compelling questions Jones got asked during the interview was, “Who is your favourite rapper of all time?” and the emcee’s response was utterly understandable. As a Queens native raised in the 1980s, Jones simply replied, “My favourite rappers are Run-DMC, overall. I got too many other soloists, but Run-DMC they done something I had never seen in music, they did rock and rap.”
He continued, “They did routines. Run would finish DMC’s sentence or DMC would finish Run’s sentence and then the ad-libs plus the electric guitar and the 808s. [Then] there was the breakbeat, the records that Jam Master Jay was scratching live. There was so many things happening to make rap music sound bigger than it had ever sounded. To me, that was the craziest thing ever. So Run-DMC.”