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NAS
ABOVE IT ALL
interview by Meshack Blaq
photos by Elephant-Titus


Originally when we planned to bite the wormed-out apple for a third time, we set out to get artists we knew would befit our scheme-theme. After all, this is "The Gateway Issue" and we needed to make sure that all angles were executed in the name of Hip Hop. All regional travels and additional features aside, who we want and who we get most often works out for the best albeit nothing EVER goes as planned. And that-there is the beauty of this Cover. It wasn't planned or contrived by myself or any record company. In fact, I have to thank Animal Chan for having a backup recorder for the session. See, we at Kronick tend to get around like `Pac. And it just so happens that on our way home from NY, who just-so-happenned to be ridin' high in the "Nicest Skies"? Guess one could say we were "United" with Nas on Cloud 9...
KRON:
The first place I wanted to go was all the way back to the Essence and ask what kind of musical impressions did you feel growing up with a Dad like Olu Dara?
NAS:
Jazz, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Sugar Hill Gang. Mostly Jazz.
KRON:
Are there any creative influences that you can readily draw from? From him? Or say, from your Grandfather having music always in your life?
NAS:
Well, you know my Pop's is the whole sole reason for me to be doin' my music, period. Because I had the opportunity... I grew up with a lotta my Niggaz' Pops' were drug addicts, drug dealers, or just somethin' else that I didn't relate to. But I was fortunate enough for my Pop's to take me out to concerts as a young kid. Then bring me to the studio as a young kid. So that was my first Love; Entertainment.
KRON:
What kind of student were you back in the school days? Did you have like, a Real Love for English or Poetry? Stuff of that nature?
NAS:
Yea, I had a Real Love for English, vocabulary, science, history. I used to Love school!
KRON:
Was it an enjoyable place for you to go? Or after awhile did it get boring like most other Cats on some, "tired of that bunk education" or whatever?
NAS:
I think in the beginning it was just you know, it was the best thing in the world to me. When I became a teenager, I think that's when the streets took over, you know? That's when the streets took over.
KRON:
Do you feel like in the world today of self-destruction that if a Brotha like you was not into Hip Hop, that you would have the opportunity to be a Lawyer or Accountant, or whatever your aspirations would have been?
NAS:
I think I'd definitely be into somethin'. Probably doin' somethin' like what you do. Or a film, or maybe even a Lawyer or Accountant. I definitely had other interests.
KRON:
Touching on the film thing, how was acting for you doing the part in Belly? And how much of yourself went into that part because I understand that you were able to add on to the script if you wished.
NAS:
That was cool because I always wanted to do it. I always wanted to work on a film. And I felt that I was at a point in my career where I had to make it so I could build up to the next level. Or you know, the whole thing was like... You know, there was really nobody out there to make it happen for me but Hype Williams. So I'm just proud and happy that he let me do that wit' him.
KRON:
Alright. Back when we first met you were 17 years old and had to have a lotta Laa. (Sorta like me, right?) But the same focus that you had in your eyes then, and the same demeanor that you had then, it seems like you've carried it forward to this day. In other words, this shit hasn't really changed you in my opinion. Heads still don't believe me when I tell `em that we've known each other since then. But I would like to know for their sake, has this success and worldwide exposure changed your perspective at all?
NAS:
Not really. I felt um, when we was kickin' it- it was just that back in those days is basically the same vibe I have now. Now I mean, I'm a bigger artist than I've ever been but that was all a part of the plan. You know what I mean? Now it's just all a part of the plan to be known, and get out there, and get this Hustle on, and move to higher plateaus in something. But you know, basically I'm the same dude. A lotta people changed around me. But basically I'm the same dude.
KRON:
Well we are up kinda high right now. Like 30,000 feet up in the sky, kickin' it wit' you in First Class! Naamean? So from "Live At The Bar-B-Que" to "Halftime" thru your first three albums (including "I Am... The Autobiography"), how influential would you say that Folks like Large Professor, MC Serch, Trackmasters, and Steve Stoute have had on the direction of your career?
NAS:
Large Professor I guess, brought me in the studio. It was like, `89 and he was workin' on Kool G. Rap's album and Eric B. & Rakim's album Let The Rhythm Hit `Em. So I got the opportunity to meet those guys and be around experienced Players in the Game at an early age. Cause Foulplay Studio was right up the block from my Projects, so Large Professor would call me down. But the experience I got around him; I got a chance to see him do it. I got a chance to chill with him and see how it was on the road. And see how the record labels work from the Rapper's standpoint. It gave me a big vision. MC Serch gave me another vision; just alone bein' that he's a white intelligent Rapper, at the time was just Real cool for him. And he introduced me to Columbia Records and got me signed. So he showed me another light. And Trackmasters are just somebody I chose to work with after I realized I needed a team. I had everything except a team. Wu-Tang has RZA, Bad Boy has Puffy. Who did Nas have? You know, on my first album just like now, I gotta run around and grab Niggaz up. I mean like producin' beats, I don't have anybody in my corner. So with that element I wanted to go to the next level and Steve Stoute is the brain, you know what I mean? A young Dude, strait outta Queens that we clicked and we put it together. And he showed me that the difference was... He showed me, you know he wiped away my ignorance in not knowin' what a Star is. A Ghetto Star- from bein' a Ghetto Star who's locked up in jail with a fucked-up life. Really, my daughter kept me away from jail and stuff like that. But he kinda showed me a whole other side of this Game.
KRON:
So then I didn't even wanna go here, but are you sayin' that before your daughter was born, even while you were in the Game that you were kinda still gettin' stuck in some shit?
NAS:
Before my daughter, I really didn't have... I really didn't care about if I died or lived as long as I was in the Projects every day. Cause I mean, I devoted every day to my Niggaz around me and I didn't think about my future or nothin' like that. So when my daughter came in the world that made me really... You know, I was gettin' arrested with guns an' shit. I really had to Really focus on my life that now I'm responsible for somebody else.
KRON:
From the Illmatic album to It Was Written, on into I Am..., your Cover Art kinda reflects the growth in your life; from boy to Man to...
NAS:
King!
KRON:
OK, Pharoah Nas! What is the symbolic meaning of always having the PJ's in the blackground?
NAS:
It's always been like that for me. I've been the guy who's brought the Projects to the Game, so to speak. I represent that Projects, `cause alot of Rappers come from this Projects. A lotta Great people come from the Projects. A lotta Ghetto Soldiers died in the Projects. And I just wanna show the impact that people from the Projects could have on the whole world is enormous. And I want people to always remember where they come from and never forget that just because you from the Projects doesn't mean that you can't make it. Nowadays I see everybody portrayin' the Projects like they from the Projects. Which is cool, but I know I started that and I'm happy to see people bein' happy that they from the Hood. And that's where I'm from, so you see it on all my albums.
KRON:
Yea Man, the way that the image you give on this album is on some Next! You takin' it way Black to the Beginning.[he laughs] Which everyone's gonna have to Respect or Recognize if they don't know. Illmatic is considered a Classic even though the sales didn't match how much people was feelin' it on the Underground. And then, It Was Written blew thru the roof, right? However, when it blew thru the roof there was some hating goin' on when you and Lauryn Blessed us with "If I Ruled The World". At that time did you find it difficult being in both worlds before it was "Cool & Acceptable" to be in that position like it is nowadays? You knowhatImean? Like, Underground is HUGE now!
NAS:
Yea yea, I'm feelin'. Well, nowadays I think we just started a trend and I think people weren't even ready for it. They didn't know how Great Lauryn was. They didn't know the message I was sendin' when I flipped-out "If I Ruled The World". Talkin' `bout `Freein' Brothas from Attica and sendin' `em to Afrika'. They didn't understand it. They didn't understand how I was... Um, they don't understand Rap and it just shows the ignorance in some of the Editors, Journalists, and people that write on Rap. It's just Real ignorance that's always been around, But it was no big deal because the Streets are the only ones I care about. You know, the Streets are the only ones I care about and once they show their Love and show me how much they care, then it doesn't matter like, how the critics critique my shit. It's beyond that; I'm not out here tryin' ta be fakin' it. My shit is Real Shit, Son!
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