Nas is a mainstay on the playlist of any true hip-hop head, and there’s one name that is an essential name on his playlist, which is the voice of the anti-establishment, Public Enemy.
They were a group that helped inform Nas about hip-hop when he was growing up and made him fall in love with the genre. Of course, his journey started when he dropped a metamorphic masterpiece when he was a fresh-faced 21-year-old in 1994 and delivered one of the most seminal albums that the genre has ever produced in Illmatic. Ever since that moment, he’s been a mainstay of the scene and grown to be a senior figure like fellow pioneers Public Enemy.
You’ll struggle to find a hip hop aficionado that doesn’t include at least one record from Nas and Public Enemy among their most treasured records. It’s been a quarter of a century since his debut, and the New Yorker is in a rich vein of form of late with his pair of King’s Disease records, while the Chuck D fronted collective have had an equal impact on transforming hip-hop.
“I remember things being kinda cool, rap-wise. Maybe too cool,” Nas told Pitchfork about his love of Public Enemy. “Everything felt safe and calm in my life. But I felt an underlying hypocrisy one going on, a disconnect between older people and young people, particularly when it came to hip-hop culture.
“I was coming off of Hip Hop Is Dead, and the N***** Tape or the Untitled Album was my political version of Hip Hop Is Dead, the political side of that conversation. I started to remember what Public Enemy stood for, what Ice Cube stood for, was trying to be like N.W.A. and Public Enemy in one person. It was my salute to them.”
Meanwhile, back in 2012, Nas spoke to Complex about his favourite albums and discussed his appreciation for their 1998 effort, It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.
“It was something like I’ve never heard before,” the rapper noted. “Chuck D’s voice and what he was saying made me think. Flava Flav’s voice, his attitude, and how he supported Chuck [was dope]. And the beats by the Bomb Squad were out of this world. Public Enemy took a strong position as a leader in the music community. They were brave.”
Last year, they linked up together for a special remix of ‘Fight The Power’ alongside Black Thought and Rapsody. Knowing how much Nas adores Public Enemy, them picking up the phone to recruit him for a 2020 update of their most-adored song, ‘Fight The Power’.
It couldn’t have arrived at a more poignant time, considering the brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of Derek Chauvin and the BLM movement catching fire across the globe as people came together to do exactly what the song’s title says. See their performance of the remix below.