Nas speaks on seeing MC Shan in concert and where he pulls his lyrics from
There are few moments in everyone’s life in which they realize their passion, and discover what truly moves them. May that be engulfing intricate lines and patterns with color and watching art come to life, or perhaps reciting their first stanza and discovering the power, pleasure, and pain words can hold. For Nasir Jones it was seeing his first concert that cemented his love for hip-hop, ultimately driving the Queensbridge native to pursue a career in rap.
In a recent mini documentary series entitled BECOMING, with director Jamie Patricof via Soul Culture, Nas talked about where he pulls his raps from, seeing MC Shan at his first concert, and hearing himself for the first time on the radio.
"My style is jazz. My style is raw graffiti on the wall. My style is the dope fiend nodding off in the corner. My style is the story of that guy’s life because that guy was my neighbor. My style is my best friend when I'm a kid his mother overdosing and him handling it like a man. Those things will go ignored if I don't say anything about them." Nas talks in great detail about where he pulls his lyrical stories from, Queensbridge, the neighborhood that birth and raised him. But it may have been a performance by hip-hop legend MC Shan in his neighborhood that ultimately drove Nas to pick of the pen an pad and approach the mic.
"Maybe the first Hip Hop show that I went to was in Queensbridge Park," he explained. "I was young, and my brother was young, and it eventually got shot up. But before the mayhem, earlier that evening, MC Shan performed. When Shan touched the stage, it was serious. I never heard anything like that in my life. We had great aspirations to get into something that would change our lives. I knew that (Hip Hop) was the life for me."
Nas also recollected on the making of his first major debut LP Illmatic. No artist has ever been so closely tied to their debut LP than Nas. Whenever Nas hits the stage fans lust for just one song……or bar for that matter from his trascending classic. Nas explained that during the 90’S era of hip-hop the artist album was meant to refelct the hardships, life, and struggles of the man behind the mic; where as today albums tend to explore the rich and lush lifestlyes many artist live.
"My era was the era of breaking it all down to what's the real," he recalled. "It wasn’t about the star, it was about the man. They say this album changed hip-hop because it was the first hip-hop album with multiple big producers – it hadn’t been done. Those four Pete Rock, Large Professor, DJ Premier and Q-Tip were the greatest – and are the greatest."
The first track of Nas’s that hit the airwaves was Live at the BBQ recorded with Main Source. Nas recalled the feeling he got the first time he heard the record on the airwaves and the emotions that followed.
“When I first heard Live at the BBQ on the radio I was just walking through my neighborhood I saw a bunch of older guy, it was late night. As I’m walking by I hear the song. I’m like wow, I’m telling some of the guys that’s me, but you know their older, faded and halfway listening to me–but it didn’t matter I heard me”.
Nas continued to explain the feeling as he walked back to his neighborhood, “That walk back to my block I was sort of in a daze like its happening. I’m in rap now; I’m a part of this rap thing. That was my dream just that. I’m like this is perfect. The door has opened for me to have a chance to be heard, and I will be a name known in this great thing called rap. My goal was to be the best, to change the game”.
Ten studio albums later its fairly safe to say the kid traveling home ecstatic after hearing himself for the first time has blossomed into the man…..Nas….a legend in the hip-hop world and a transcender of rap music as a whole.
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"If one is illuminated, are not all illuminated?"
~Ra, The Ra Material, Book I