Your Favorite Rapper Will Fade Away Some Day — and That’s Okay
The best emcees never fall off, but that doesn’t mean they stay hot forever
The photo shoot was a wrap. The interview had concluded an hour earlier. Nas was now off the clock, but here he was, deep in the bowels of Hollywood’s Westlake Studios, refilling his Patron and Country Time lemonade, and gossiping about the rap industry.
It was January 2008, six months before the release of Untitled — the album Nas wanted to name something other than Untitled — and he had agreed to a wide-ranging interview with me for King Magazine to address the brewing controversy over the album title. A notoriously reticent interview subject, on this day Nas was talkative and expansive. We touched all the third-rail topics, everything from his feuds with Jay-Z, Biggie, and 2Pac to his thoughts on interracial relationships. The light mood stretched into the evening as the tequila flowed.
After discussing the prolonged rollout for Tha Carter III — the biggest story in music at the time — talk turned to aging in hip-hop. I had opinions. A veteran’s career is over, I stated with Patron-boosted confidence, once a comparable younger rapper elbows into their lane. Flo Rida ended Nelly; Ludacris ended Redman. Nas, then all of 34, stroked his chin, contemplating the notion. “You should know this better than anyone,” I said. “When you came out, you kinda ended both Rakim and G Rap. One day it’ll happen to you.”
The Def Jam rep in the room feigned outrage. “No, no, no,” he shouted. “Legends like Rakim and Kool G Rap, legends like Nas, don’t…” Nas cut him off. “Yo, yo,” the Queensbridge legend said in his weary rasp. “Yo, yo, yo, he’s right. I did kinda end they shit.”
A veteran’s career is over, I stated with Patron-boosted confidence, once a comparable younger rapper elbows into their lane.
As for Nas, critics have been writing his rap obituary since the 1990s. It Was Written was too commercial, they said. The Firm flopped. I Am… leaked. Nastradamus happened…