“I woke up early on my born day; Im 20, its a blessin/The essence of adolescence leaves my body, now Im fresh/ and my physical frame is celebrated cause I made it, one-quarter through life, some godly-like thing created” Lifes a Bitch, Illmatic
Classic track off ‘Illmatic’. Nas committed the cardinal sin on this one, he allowed the Guest MC to outshine him on his own track. AZ kills this one
We celebrate the life of Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones today at 45 years old, the same age as hip-hop itself. He is one of the few artists to survive and thrive as an artist from hip-hops golden age and to prove that he can simultaneously put out new material and thrive as a businessman.
When Nas was four years old he was playing the trumpet, learned without training, while he sat on the stoop in Brooklyn with his father, Olu Dara. His father had been a stand-out trumpet and coronet player in his high school band and in a jazz band in Natchez, Mississippi, before attending Tennessee State (where he courted Wilma Rudolph).
Dara joined the Navy Band before he would be praised by Miles Davis as the best coronet player hed ever heard, played with jazz greats like Art Blakely and the Jazz Messengers and recorded with Don Pullen before putting together his own band and his own solo albums.
Nas’ official music video for ‘Nas Is Like’. Click to listen to Nas on Spotify: http://smarturl.it/NasSpotify?IQid=NasNIL As featured on I Am….
Nass mother, a postal worker, was the foundation of the family and had stressed that Nas would finish school. Olus parents were both educators who had also stressed the importance of education. But Nas, growing up in a failing education system in Queens, would become a junior high school drop-out.
Drug crews like the Supreme Team ruled the neighborhood. Nas was hustling and robbing. He would adopt his tag Kid Wave as a graffiti artist and become part of the rhyme crew, Devastatin Seven. He and his best friend and deejay, Ill Will, then began thinking seriously about a rap career.
Nass friend Melquan would introduce him to a genius producer named Large Professor. This relationship would lead to Nass cameo on Main Sources Live at the BBQ, where he talks about at 12, going to hell for snuffing Jesus and kidnapping the presidents wife without a plan.
1991 – Breaking Atoms
By 17 he had adopted the name Nasty Nas and created a demo. He was hanging his hat on the dreams of Queensbridge residents like Juice Crew members deejay Marley Marl, MC Shan and teenage rapping wonder Roxanne Shante.
He and his friend, Akinyele, would catch the subway daily from Queensbridge to Manhattan to shop Nass demo record only to return every day dejected and rejected by major labels like Def Jam and even Queensbridge-based Cold Chillin Records, which was started by Marley Marl.
The lyrics he wrote for his soon-to-be classic album would get lost on the subway. He proceeded to rewrite them from memory. The lyrics mix a journalists detail with a filmmakers visual narrative and a poets prose.
Music video by Nas performing N.Y. State of Mind (Audio). (C) 2017 Columbia Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment http://vevo.ly/FtmWHH
He eventually got a deal with the help of MC Serch of 3rd Bass and record executive Faith Newman, who signed him on the spot with a $17,000 advance. Producers on his debut album would include some of New Yorks premiere beatsmiths: DJ Premiere, Q-Tip, MC Serch, Large Professor, Pete Rock and L.E.S.
My father and Olu had been good friends for years, so he hooked me up with an interview in the early 90s, with Olu and Nas for JazzTimes magazine. We did the interview at Olus apartment in Manhattan right before the release of Illmatic.
There was no publicist, no bodyguards, not even an entourage. Books lined every inch of Olus apartment, along with African artifacts and paintings that he had painted himself. Olu, the consummate storyteller, regaled me with his stories about women he met around the world.
Music video by Nas performing Bridging the Gap. (C) 2004 Columbia Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment http://vevo.ly/QL0XjB
Nas was low-key. He didnt waste words. He came in with his daughters mother and the baby in tow. Clearly they had been bickering. Nas just shook his head, as if he didnt know what to do, as she left.
Olu and Nas were accommodating when my tape recorder failed halfway through the interview and we had to start again. Nas was humble, even a bit nervous. There was no telling that he would become a multi-platinum, multi-millionaire.
I would later interview them again as a researcher for the film Time Is Illmatic, about his seminal album.
Available in select theaters Oct 1 and nationwide VOD Oct 3! For full viewing info, visit: http://tribecafilm.com/nas. Twenty years after the release of Nas’s groundbreaking debut album ‘Illmatic,’ NAS: TIME IS ILLMATIC takes us into the heart of his creative process.
Since then Nas has gone on to Ether Jay-Z, star in movies, release 11 studio and two collaborative albums, most of which went platinum and multi-platinum, own restaurants and businesses around the country, including a Fila store, was honored by Harvard University which has a fellowship in his name, collaborated with Damien Marley on an underappreciated classic, Distant Relatives, where they donated all the royalties to charities in Africa, and invest in tech start-ups which has ballooned his net worth to $50 million.
Music video by Nas performing Made You Look. (C) 2003 SONY BMG MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT
Today, he woke up on his born day, 45, its still a blessing.