Hip Hop Lives: FCN Interview with Nas
By Ashahed Muhammad, FCN Assistant Editor
Reposted from: http://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/article_5051.shtml
(FinalCall.com) - Though a young man (age 34) Nas has a long list of accomplishments. He is considered by most to be a legendary Hip Hop lyricist. Many of his lyrical appearances are considered some of the most memorable moments in Hip Hop and many of his albums are considered Hip Hop classics. Nas recently released his 9th album which debuted at No.1 on the charts. The Final Call’s Assistant Editor Ashahed M. Muhammad went One-on-One with the multi-platinum selling artist after his performance at the Rock the Bells Festival tour stop in Chicago.
The Final Call (FC) Let’s start with the song from your latest CD targeting Fox News called “Sly Fox.” What prompted you to make that song?
NAS: I kept hearing terrible things about FOX News. I never trust media outlets, so FOX News—when I heard bad things about them—I expected it to be real. But they didn’t really get on my radar until last year when I was supposed to do a concert for Virginia Tech University. Bill O’Reilly had three shows on me—he’s trying to do what he did to Ludacris and take away Ludacris’ Pepsi deal. So he had three shows on it. And, I said, “All right. I’m going to get him back,” you know? “I’ve got something to say too. I’ve got listeners the same way you got listeners”—except my listeners are more of a threat in today’s world. His listeners represent the Old Word, the old Republican, the old way of thinking about America. That is played out. And he doesn’t even know that most Whites don’t even think the way he thinks. But he has his ratings, right?
NAS: So, I just said this is my way at getting back at him, [by] doing a song. It just so happens that the same time my album dropped, FOX News tries to be playful with “Obama’s Baby Mama” and all this. If I didn’t know who FOX was before, I really know who they are now and hopefully, some of my listeners can feel me.
FC: You have a voice, you have fans, you have people who listen to you and they’re influenced by what you say and you are using that to bring light to issues that you feel are important. That’s good, but some of rappers say, “Well, my music doesn’t have a message. I don’t necessarily have a social commentary. I’m not trying to tell anybody to do anything, you do what you want to do,” Why do you think it is important to use your voice in that way?
NAS: Hmm. Well, the ones that say they don’t have a message and all that, they’re gangsters, man. Let them be gangsters. Let them do them. I support them. Not everybody wants to have that responsibility. Not everyone is thinking like that. A lot of people’s lives are simple, you know what I’m saying? I tend to see things and I’ve always questioned things since I was young. I question things. And when I see things that are unjust, I react. I may be a little bit more extreme than a few of the other artists, that’s just me, it’s who I am. So all my music has something about me. I’m not a “specialist on race matters.” I just have an opinion, I just have an experience to talk about. So, if one album is about one thing, then that’s what I’m thinking about that year, and that’s what I’m thinking about musically. It may not be the best chart-topping album, but, as long as I can sleep at night knowing that’s what I really wanted to represent, cool. Then I’m good.
I’ve been sprinkling little pieces of my opinions on all my albums, but this one was just more dedicated to it. God has been good to me just allowing me to be here. I know a lot of people that couldn’t make it here. So today what I want to talk about is how I see things. I’m not coming down on a lot of people this year. That was “Hip Hop Is Dead.”
FC: Now, of course, the song that’s being talked about, the song “Louis Farrakhan.” Take us into your thinking when you laid down the lyrics to that.
NAS: Louis Farrakhan has made me cry. You know, what do you say about that, you know what I’m saying? When you see a man who put his life on the line for something—be he right or wrong—you admire him. But to me, Farrakhan is all the way right! I’m not sitting here going line for line, detail for detail, everything he says and all of that. It’s a whole body of work that he’s laid—he’s laid his life down for his people. No matter if you like it or not. Anybody like that I admire. And, you know, anybody in this position, they would kill off. He was smart enough to say “I have an army who believe in what I’m saying, that this is the Truth.” That “I would die for everyone, every soldier in that army.” They believe that and they know that’s true. So, you know, how could I not acknowledge that’s that; that’s what I acknowledge in my life, then, it’s going to bleed into the music. It’s not even on purpose. It just happened. It’s just my thoughts. “Some revolutionaries get old, although I’m told...” you know?
It’s like everybody’s scared to speak out about what’s in their heart, just because they’re scared of who is going to come down on them. They’re scared they’re going to get “blacklisted.” They’re going to get all their endorsements taken away from them. They’re scared that they can’t feed their families. I understand that, but I admire those people who know that, and still go and do what they have to do, you know what I mean? If I had enough money, I’d buy him a Rolls Royce tomorrow! You know what I’m saying? Like, that’s just how I feel about him!
He is a serious piece of history, you know, coming from Elijah Muhammad; coming from Malcolm X, coming from—that part of history is so special because it’s what America is scared to talk about. They’re scared to talk about that. And, if they would talk about it, it would help a lot of people. I know a lot of White cats that listen to Farrakhan! I went to a Coldplay concert, and his introduction was Farrakhan’s speech! So, I was blown away! I’m sitting next to Gwyneth Paltrow—we’re rocking to a Farrakhan speech! So, it made me go: “Damn! If he—why didn’t I use that in my music? I’ve been wanting to!” So I’m just trying to show the love back now.
FC: You sound like you have a little bit more control over the content of what goes into your songs. I’ve talked to a lot of different hip hop artists who say, “Well, the label made me make this song or, I wanted to make a song like this and they wouldn’t let me.” Did you feel any pressure? Do you have a little more control because of your longevity and your success in the business?
NAS: Yeah, yeah I did. But, because I was that guy from the beginning, people can respect that I’m that same guy now. When I played this song, a few people were scared. When I played my album, a few people around me were scared. None of my family—they’re riders, they know who I am, you know? But, a few friends were scared for me, and just scared in general. I had to let them know there’s nothing to be scared of. What can you do to me that you haven’t to me already? So, whatever’s going to happen to me, I don’t (care.) I mean, if you’re talking about “Can you put out records that you want to put out?”—that’s been my whole career. I always have issues with the record company. I’m also a business man, and I want to appeal to everyone sometimes. Sometimes I don’t care, but there are times when I want to appeal to everyone.
So, there’s conversations with record labels, rumors, they shake my hand and smile at me, then there’s rumors that they’re going to drop me because I’m doing what I’m doing. But, at the end of the day, everybody realizes I’m really just trying to not just come out as a crazy extremist or anything like that. I’m just having fun doing who I am. People tend to call it “controversial.” As far as a marketing plan, the marketing plan is the people!
FC: On your CD, there is a song called “Black President.”
FC: What are your thoughts?
NAS: I’m excited like everybody else. I think it’s cool. A cool brother. Who could front on him? I think a lot of the leaders from the Civil Rights Era feel like they didn’t want to leave this Earth acknowledging another Black man going to the next level. They wanted to be the “end all, be all” of it all and they can’t stand to see another—that’s why I said, you know it’s colored folks and Negroes hate to see one of our own succeeding, because they feel like their moment was their moment, you know what I mean? And, that we should only acknowledge their moment because they’ve been through the (thrown) bricks, and the name calling and segregation and all that.
So now that things have been smoother, things are different now, and they feel like this guy may have it easy. That has nothing to do with anything! The kids don’t relate to that. All the kids relate to is seeing him the same way they see Kobe Bryant and want to play basketball. The same way they see Tiger Woods and now want to play golf. It’s the same way—or even better that they can see Barack and they could see themselves becoming him.
So we don’t have time to hate each other. We don’t have time.
FC: Have you thought about what you want to do when or if you decide that you don’t want to keep on making records?
NAS: Yeah! Tons of times! That is not a reality. The reality is like B.B. King. The reality is that I was buying tickets to a James Brown concert a month before he died. You do this to the grave—whether you like it or not!
People say, “I don’t want to rap when I’m this age.” There is no exit! That does even make sense! We can sit here and lie and say “You know, I’m too old to be rapping.” It does not make sense. B.B. King works like 365 days a year. A Tribe Called Quest has been around 20 years, or something like that. So, maybe you don’t want to do it and somebody’s trying to offer you that check. Beyond the check, your love for what you do (makes) you want to get out there again and entertain or please people. It’s just, God gave you a gift, and you just use it.
FC: You can tell tonight at the show that you really enjoy performing. Thank you and I appreciate your time.
NAS: I appreciate you too.