ICON STORY: Nas
WHEN RIP NICHOLSON FINALLY PINS DOWN THE ELUSIVE MC BORN NASIR BIN OLU DARA JONES BUT BETTER KNOWN FOR HIS INCENDIARY WORK AS NAS, THEY DISCUSS HIS LEGACY AND THE JOURNEY HE TOOK WITH DAMIAN MARLEY ON A PILGRIMAGE TO JAMAICA WHILE MAKING THE COLLABORATIVE ALBUM WHICH TREKS THE ROOTS OF MUSIC AND LIFE ITSELF.
Nas interviewed for Rip2Shredz // 3D World (Street Press Australia) // Hiphop.sh
@ 09.45 AEST - 17th January, 2011
Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones was discovered in 1991 by MC Serch (3rd Bass) and released Illmatic in 1994 – his début album, which in time would become heralded the Greatest Of All Time. Twenty years on and Jones is always found in further discovery of his cultural roots – roots that led him out to Jamaica and the Kingston yards that exported the godfather Kool Herc and the late reggae icon Bob Marley. In 2005 Nas and Damian Marley threaded their fibrous genes on the ‘Road To Zion’ record for three-time Grammy winner Marley’s third LP Welcome To Jamrock – a hybrid strain of new era Trenchtown reggae and hip hop.
A journey to rekindling that fire culminated in the long-awaited and much-speculated 2010 long-player Distant Relatives, a QB-meets-Jamrock polymer so well-spun it bonds together the origins of hip hop and it’s culture in perfect transfer. Where Hip Hop Is Dead’s title track paid homage to the first record spun at a Kool Herc jam, Escobar Caeser has returned to reinforce the cultural bindings of hip hop once again.
After Road To Zion came out, was the reaction to make an album together?
“I think it was we just liked each other’s work and we wanted to do a record. This is some time later, it wasn’t right then like ‘I wanna do a record’. It was an evolving process and later we got together to do the record.”
How was it travelling back with Damian to his hometown? did you get the Marley family experience, meet everyone, learn the history of Reggae?
“Yeah, I learned a whole lot. I learned a whole lot about Bob and what his life was like in Jamaica and growing up in Trenchtown. I’ve been to the house where he lived and recorded music and you know, got to experience what Kingston, Jamaica is like. And the culture. I got a chance to see some of Bob Marley’s belongings in a museum and his guitar, his clothes, where he slept. He was just a great story that some of the family members would tell about their father and the huge impact he had worldwide, coming from a small island, you know?”
Is their much history in Kingston of Kool Herc and the yard parties and toasting that brought about the first steps of hip hop?
“We talked about the connection, and while working on the project it’s very interesting that the godfather of hip hop is a Jamaican who came to New York City. There was a lot of talk about that and I found that a really beautiful part of the connection between hip hop and reggae. And it was one of the great reasons we felt good about doing this album basically.”
Most of your records are black history month – as well it should be, a tool of education – how far off are some of the teachings you rap on Distant Relatives to being classroom literature?
“I think it’s a part of something bigger, I think it may be helpful in some ways but it’s coming from a dude that’s from the street, it’s coming from a dude who has his own opinion also. So I’m not the best teacher, I can’t even say I’m that good of a teacher. I just say what I feel – based on facts but still my opinion of the matter is still woven in there. So I think it’s a cool beginning to a lesson, but it’s not everything that they need, it’s just the beginning.”
On Hip hop Is Dead you used apache by the incredible bongo band to break down the art to its first steps. with Distant Relatives you blended reggae and the afro-centric subjects – was this another way of paying homage to the roots of hip hop?
“I’m always trying to do that with my records. But also it was me doing something more left-field of the straight-up expected hip hop album. But mostly Distant Relatives was just digging into the roots of myself.”
Will we see your band Mulatto or Damian’s reggae band?
“We’re mostly working with Damian’s band or when we tour together, his band takes care of everything. Mulatto’s more of a band that can play anything and any kind of music but I think they’re better if they’re just with me on my solo shows. I think we have a different chemistry together. So it should be Damian’s band, yeah.”
You performed AC/DC’s Back in Black on Lopez – No-one since KRS-One has touched that rock record. Nas doing AC/DC on Australian tour, that song is an anthem here. You know what that would do to crowds down here?
“(Laughs) No I didn’t really think about that. This was a record for Carlos Santana but maybe I can do that. I love the original record and I love what me
and Carlos did with it. So, that could be cool.”
Will we get any Illmatic classics, any Jamrock joints from D on your Australian shows?
“Oh yeah, we do our thing! We do everything. Me and D we do our thing, yes. We do our album together, we do solo records, we just make it a party on