Nas' mission isn't over. Hip Hop is Dead has moved appriximately 355,000 units according to SoundScan and blessed him with his third Number One album in the 12 years since many of us pulled the plastic off Illmatic. Fans and critics still talk about whether or not the genre is actually deceased, which has offered a healthy amount of self-examination. AllHiphop.com chatted with Nas about the state of affairs, some of the reactions to Hip Hop is Dead and even engaged in answering some of the rumors surrounding his own life.
AllHipHop.com: First of all, youíre projected to do some pretty big numbers. How do you feel about that?
Nas: I donít like to hear that. I just like to hear that people is likiní it, and I donít wanna know what it is [selling]; I donít care. I just want people to like it, yo.
AllHipHop.com: A lot of people are considering [Hip Hop is Dead] a classic Ė within the best two or three albums of your career. How do you assess it?
Nas: UmÖman. With each record, I donítÖI canítÖI donít know what it is or how it is until at least a year. Iím like that. Thatís not just me, thatís everybody. I need to hear they stuff [and I can] kind of get a sense of it. Then, a year later, I put that joint in, and just get stuff from it; I like doing that. Itís just a whole new day, yo. As far as the other s**t, the other s**t was the other s**t; itís a new time and day.
AllHipHop.com: You started a lot of debate, at the grassroots level and even in the industry level. Do you still feel Hip-Hop is dead?
Nas: To me, right now, yeah, itís what Iím feeliní. Itís like politics, how we say ďVote or DieĒ, but vote for who? What does voting do? How do you count a vote? Who are we voting for, and why are they good? Another thing is we donít know anything about politics in my neighborhood where Iím from. I hardly know politics, Iím 33. I hardly know, you see what Iím sayiní? With Hip-Hop, itís the same way. We know it has power, we know what itís supposed to mean, but we donít really know what itís about. Maybe I can say ďHip-Hop is deadĒ and make dudes who didnít really know what itís about want to know more. I just told Ďem on TRL, they asked ďHow do you resurrect it?Ē I said [that] all of us, if we love it, if we care about it, if we have really respect for what other n***as have done, and respect [to] where we can move on from thereÖand justÖ Ďcause weíre too hard on each other. Weíre too hard on each other Ďcause weíre all scrambling to be number one. Battling is the essence of Hip-Hop, but itís gone too far Ďcause kids donít care. Thatís why Iím thinkiní about these days, like Hip-Hop is dead for so many reasons. Thatís why I did the album like that.
AllHipHop.com: Youíre only 33, but in terms of the industry, youíre a veteran. Some of your critics, like a Jim Jones, are in the same bracket as you, but youíve always seemed to come with an older perspectiveÖ
Nas: Iíve always felt like that. See, the OGs in New York, we all grew up wantiní to be like that, to follow the style of the grown man. Somewhere down the line, that got cut short, which is why there has been a lack of direction or creativity lately on the New York side, Ďcause weíve been haviní fun just doiní everybody else. But New York can do that. For them, they know the rules and they donít feel like theyíre cut from that cloth. So theyíre trying to push themselves in there and disregard the cloth altogether. Or whatís really hood, they disregard that Ďcause they donít feel adequate. But they are. They have to stop puttiní Nas up on a pedestal so much. These guys areÖthese guys are doing it. Even if your first album doesnít have the critical acclaim, or you havenít done anything dope on the rhyme side, you can get there. It doesnít mean you have to be there automatically, you know? I think thatís their frustration.
AllHipHop.com: At your birthday party, you had Joeski Love. Youíve always been about the old school, why?
Nas: Joeski Love! [Laughs] I think itís ďeach one teach one,Ē and more than that, I grew up on that Ė on that song [ďTKĒ]. I went to the movies with my moms and saw [Pee Weeís Big Adventure], I remember the animated show on television, I remember Joeski Love. So these were the records that Iím excited about. I never knew how much that record sold, I didnít even know what record label it was on Ė I probably did back then as a fan, but it didnít matter. All that mattered was that song was crazy, and he captured a moment. Thatís what I like about those guys. But I also talk about the old school guys too, Ďcause theyíre not exempt from being criticized. So I get at the old school n***as Ė not all the old school n***as, but some of the old school n***as, I get at the bitter ones. And I get at the new n***as who are too arrogant. Thatís how I carry on tradition. I love them Ďcause they are the pioneers. They made me wanna rap.
AllHipHop.com: There are rumors about you signing Royce Da 5í9 to your label. Is that true?
Nas: I would like to. [Pause] I would like to.
AllHipHop.com: Have you guys been talking?
Nas: Not as of yet.
AllHipHop.com: Where did this start coming up from?
Nas: I think heís nice. [Pause] It was just some thoughts I said out loud.
AllHipHop.com: Ludacris had a shirt at the BET Awards that said something to the effect of ďHip-Hopís Not Dead, It Just Moved Down South.Ē How do you feel about that statement?
Nas: I love it. Thatís what this is all about. That lets me know weíre alive here, thatís what this Hip-Hop community is breathiní; they care about it, and they love it. Itís him responding to my cause. Itís his reaction to my action. Iím just excited that he responded.
AllHipHop.com: This album is getting a lot of four and five ratings. Do you feel like youíre resurrecting Hip-Hop?
Nas: Nope. I think I just like it so much Ė love it so much, that I have this relationship with it thatís odd. Itís like everybody else does. Jeezy has a relationship with it. Everybody has a strong relationship with it and they donít know how to deal with it. Itís like a n***a hates to say ďI love youĒ to his woman Ďcause it makes you feel soft, most of the time Ė some guys donít. Itís the same way with Hip-Hop. We donít say we love it but we do, Ďcause a lot of the street rappers donít have that clientele. I used to not like the purists, but then I realized I was a purist myself, you know what Iím sayiní? Itís just that relationship, man.
AllHipHop.com: Just Ice is one of my favorite rappers of all times. You once told Funkmaster Flex a story about Just IceÖ
Nas: Just Ice is one of the original Gs, man. Heís somebody who was on the radio when I was a kid, man. His s**t was tight, from the Filas to the Gucci hats to the glasses, he was just somebody I admired. There was a story about him: he got real hood years ago. I donít wanna keep building on it, but it was just somethiní I remember. You just remember certain s**t.
AllHipHop.com: Last question. Itís a funny one. My friend wanted me to ask you, with this album, what kind of youth pills are you taking?
Nas: [Laughs] Ay man, I donít understand how this is happening, dude. I guess when you get older, you gotta eat wiser. You canít eat late at night. You canít eat all the stuff that you love. I love fried chicken, but I canít eat it as often as I used to. You canít drink like you used to; you canít smoke like you used to. You gotta exercise your heart, gotta get your blood circulating. This is the normal s**t you think about when you get older; the s**t youíre supposed to do.