April 06, 2022

Nas "I Am..." (April 6, 1999)

Nas, the New York rapper acclaimed in hip-hop world for the brilliant hard-edge wordplay of the 1994 "Illmatic," tries to offer a little something for everyone on his latest disc, "I Am..." There are grim tales of the gangsta life, a tribute to Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G., political commentary, a bit of romance with an R. Kelly sample. Guest stars on the record include DMX, Scarface and Aaliyah. Nas even goes back to "Illmatic" and samples himself on "N.Y. State of Mind Pt. II." And on "Hate Me Now," with one more guest -- Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs -- Nas lashes out at his critics: "Best storyteller thug narrator / My style greater / model dater / Big threat to all of you haters." Who are the haters? "Everyone has to deal with that, with jealousy and envy," Nas said in a brief interview. "The world is full of haters. I'm letting them know it's not going to stop me." That song got Nas indirectly involved in controversy when Puff Daddy allegedly beat up Steve Stoute, Nas's manager. Puff Daddy was supposedly upset at a crucifixion scene in the "Hate Me Now" video. He wanted his part of the scene removed. When it aired anyway, he supposedly went after Stoute. Still, Nas expressed his admiration for Puff: "I just like him, he stands out in his own way. He seemed perfect for this record. You put two dogs together, and you get your point across." On his web site, www.iamnas.com, he offers a brief disclaimer about the crucifixion scene: "Nas believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, and this video is in no way a depiction or portrayal of his life and death." Nas, born Nasir Jones, grew up in New York City's Queensbridge Projects. He's been rapping since he was 18, first on Main Source's "Live at the Barbecue," then with MC Serch before establishing himself with "Illmatic." The album's dense street reportage, and Nas's sheer ability with language, made this an album to be reckoned with. Many critics, however, feel Nas's subsequent albums haven't been up to "Illmatic's" standard. Nas brushes that off, "I like that album, but more people are buying my new record than the old one." Along with his own projects, Nas teamed up with Foxy Brown, AZ and Nature on a collaboration called The Firm. Last year, he starred with DMX in a movie called "Belly," in which the two played drug dealers. Directed by music video director Hype Williams, the movie got lousy reviews, but Nas said it was the experience that counted." - News-Press, FL. (July 9, 1999).

Dig in the archives for lots more on Nas and I Am...