World going ’round
Nas talks about life, and why Barack Obama needs to be president
Fourteen years ago, a short, skinny 21-year-old Queens borough native released a 10-track LP that featured sharp-tongued poetry perfectly pieced with rough, fuzzy hip-hop production that would later be deemed legendary from the likes of Pete Rock and DJ Premier, among others.
On his first official album, Illmatic, Nasir “Nas” Jones recites straightforward lyrics that touch upon the state of the minds of ghetto-dwellers worldwide, address the future of our country and, above all, paint a picture of the man who would become one of the most influential figures in mainstream music.
Illmatic‘s first single, “It Ain’t Hard to Tell,” is a sort of testament to Nas’ knowledge of self with lines like, “My poetry’s deep, I never fell / Nas’ raps should be locked in a cell,” and “So analyze me, surprise me, but can’t magnetize me.”
Eight consecutive platinum-selling solo albums and two gold-selling collaborative albums later, it ain’t hard to tell that beyond the beats, rhymes, music videos and album covers, there lies one man. One musician. One person, with not only the ability to bring millions of people together through music, but also through a shared human perspective, funneled through the messages spewed from an oft-raspy, always-honest voice.
The message became even more honest when Nas announced that he would call his most recent album Nigger. The controversial title was canned, but the message within is just as powerful.
The CN&R recently had an opportunity to exchange words with Nas while on tour to promote Untitled.
[Ed. note: Nas has done it again … and we’re just not talking about releasing another brilliant album. After postponing his Aug. 15 performance, the CN&R discovered this week that Nas had cancelled his rescheduled Sept. 11 show. We were disappointed, especially after we scored an interview with the elusive emcee, whose album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts. Ah well, what are you going to do? Run the interview, of course. Enjoy!]
What has surprised you most about fans, critics and others’ reactions to the new album?
All of the excitement. The people I see at shows are really into it and everything. People are bringing out signs and asking me to sign books; I feel like there’s a raised level of awareness with everything.
From Illmatic to Untitled, how has your approach to making music, and albums, specifically, changed?
I just do it how it hits me. My albums are influenced by what’s going on in my world at that point in time. I get inspiration from listening to other people’s albums to look at what they do different. But I just try to approach [albums] with my own style.
What is your opinion of DJs and beatmakers who make careers out of putting out mixtapes and remixing songs already popularized by other artists?
Well, I’m an album person. I never bought a single since I was really young. I enjoy listening to albums and analyzing where other musicians are coming from and how that shows in their music. I try to understand why they do what they do.
On the new album, one of your songs is titled “Make the World Go Round.” What makes your world go ’round?
Just life, man. I love life. I love pushing hot cars and living a successful life. Just continuing to have a good time, and make sure that all the people around me are having a good time as well. That’s what my life is all about.
Are you a registered voter?
I’m not a voter. Never voted and didn’t plan on it. I’ve never even thought to vote until now; I never trusted politicians. I’m a people person, and I understand what politicians try to do for the country and why they do it, but I don’t really support it. But this election does make me want to vote.
Let’s say Barack Obama wins the election. How do you think the world of American politics will have changed four or eight years from now?
Barack’s campaign says it all: hope. He gives us hope and an opportunity to change. I think if he was president people would be looking at America in a different scope. People around the world are already starting to. I think because of Obama, in the future we will have better candidates running for office, and not just for president, either. If he is elected to be the next president, we need to keep people like him in office.