Nas is a true lyricist and is hailed as one of the best rappers of all time. His 1994 debut album Illmatic is often considered one of the most significant hip-hop projects ever and set a precedent for up-and-coming New Yorkers.
Although he’s now a legend, before exploding into the mainstream with Illmatic, Nas (real name Nasir Jones) was hesitant about entering the music industry and was thinking about not recording. However, as a native of the Queensbridge Projects in Queens, a young Jones would look up to a particular emcee.
Queensbridge is responsible for a lot of hip-hop legends, one of which is Roxanne Shanté. The female rapper was part of the iconic Queens collective, the Juice Crew, comprised of Big Daddy Kane, MC Shan, Biz Markie, Masta Ace and many more. However, without Shanté, Jones wouldn’t have pursued music.
During an appearance on Ebro Darden’s HOT 97.0 show Ebro In The Morning, Jones unveiled that growing up in the area, he would often see her around and recognised her as a “hood star.” In the interview, Nas admitted that he was effectively bullied into rapping by the then-teenage spitter.
Opening up about the experience, Jones recalled, “Roxanne Shanté was a young teenage girl who had heart ’cause she would just be out in the projects, hanging, and I would see her. We heard about her, and she was a hood star at first. She heard me doing some little rhymes and she was interested, and she was like, ‘Yo, I want you to participate in something. I want you to do some stuff. I want you to work on your craft, and when I see you again, have it together.'”
Nas said that he was a little intimidated by her, unveiling, “She saw me and said I didn’t have it together, and next time I see you if you don’t have it together, ‘I’m gonna fuck you up’ and I believed her. I’m younger than her, and she wasn’t soft. So, I tried to low-key avoid her because I didn’t want to deal with not having my rhyme ready ’cause I wasn’t ready.”
However, Jones stated that he was grateful for this and explained Shanté ‘s role in his life, divulging, “What she did was spark something in me that really made me want to take it seriously. She is one of the reasons I really thought it was possible, that it could even happen.”
You can hear Nas’ interview on Ebro In The Morning, in the video below.