Interview: Nas, rapper and MC

Rapper Nas
Rapper Nas
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RAPPER Nas has settled his beef with rival Jay-Z and is getting back to the business of making records.

Rappers, eh, what are they like? One minute they’re happily spewing out rhymes for homies ‘n da hood when - POW! - all of a sudden they’re up to their baggy pants in potentially deadly feuds.

It’s a scenario hip-hop superstar Nas knows only too well.

The MC’s ‘beef’ with Jay-Z as they vied for the vacated throne left in the wake of Notorious B.I.G.’s 1997 assassination has gone down in history as one of rap’s most intriguing battles. And though they’ve long since buried the hatchet, the legendary spat still piques the interest of fans to this day.

Just a few weeks ago, a video entitled ‘Nas Hanging Jay-Z’ found its way on to YouTube, showing footage of Nas’ plan to stage a mock-lynching of his then rival, live on stage in 2002.

Today, rap’s self-proclaimed poet laureate says he “can’t acknowledge” the video.

“Everybody’s in a different place now,” he says ahead of his first ever appearance on Capital soil, at the HMV Picture House on Tuesday night. “I don’t even want to acknowledge it. I can’t acknowledge that.

“Jay’s my man and that’s that... that’s all I’m gonna say.”

It’s not hard to understand why Nas, who grew up in the notorious Queensbridge projects of New York, doesn’t want to drag up the past. For while the feud was the hottest story in rap at the time, a decade later it all seems like handbags at dawn.

The pair made their peace on stage during a concert in New Jersey in 2005 and then a year later Nas signed to the legendary Def Jam Records, where Jay-Z held a position as label president.

Nas doesn’t seem like the sort of guy who lacks confidence, so it’s a little surprising to hear him admit that he’s a tad nervous about completing his tenth solo album, the soon-to-be-released Life Is Good. It was while he was putting the finishing touches to the album with friend and producer Salaam Remi that doubt started to creep in.

“At this point when we’re mastering, I start to get a little nervous,” Nas says. “I start thinking about those records I could’ve, should’ve, would’ve done that didn’t make it.”

Over the years, Nas has been known to leave plenty of stuff on the cutting room floor, but he seems happy enough with his latest studio endeavour.

“I feel like the record is definitely one of my more focused records,” he says of Life is Good. “It’s only the mastering part that I get nervous about, because I’m like, ‘After it’s mastered, that’s it.’”

The first single from the new album, Daughters, sees the rap superstar opening up about the difficulties of being a parent to his 17-year-old daughter, Destiny.

“It’s a different thing for me, having a teenage daughter is different for me,” he says. “I’ve got to be a parent, and because of the relationship I have with my daughter’s mother and being in this business, it kind of took me away from her and being that parent who was there all the time.

“I ask [Destiny] that from time to time and she says I was great, I was cool. So I did my best, but it wasn’t good enough for me. That’s why I made this song.”

• Nas, HMV Picture House, Tuesday, 7.30pm, £27.50, www.hmvtickets.com

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