Nas Says Kanye West Saved Rap

Everyone’s been talking about Nas’s forthcoming album, because, well that’s what people do when the God’s Son preps new material. But this time around it was a little different. Nas’s intention to name the LP N*gger generated a buzz that spread far beyond rap nerds into mainstream media and the political arena.

But after all the drama, the newly Untitled album is finally hitting stores on Tuesday. With the controversey finally laid to rest, we talked to Esco about the brightly-colored fashion shoot he did with Complex that had bloggers catching feelings, his new deal with Fila, rap’s recession, and who he thinks saved hip-hop…

Complex: You recently did a fashion shoot with us where you wore a lot of bright colors. There was a lot of shit talking about it on the Internet, saying that you were dressed like Kanye. Why do you think they made such a big deal about it?

Nas: The whole point was to just have fun. That’s not how I dress, but for a magazine spread, it’s out there to be fun. You know, Kanye has fun with his style, and it’s just me having fun with his style. It’s like borrowing Rick Ross’s chain, and taking off my shirt for a shoot. You know what I mean?

Complex: Were you comfortable in those ensembles?

Nas: Yeah, I mean I don’t dress that way. I like clothes, I like fashion, I like that people like fashion. And Kanye is definitely a fashionable dude. He has his own way to express himself with clothes that stand out from everybody. So I thought it would be cool, not to make fun of it but just to have fun, and go in that zone for just that spread. I always do what I do, so I just wanted to change it up a little bit. Get people talking shit, so it’s cool.

Complex: Last week it was reported you inked a deal with Fila, and you also signed with 310 Footwear like a year ago’two relatively small brands when compared to Nike and Adidas. Why do you think these types of companies are targeting you?

Nas: I don’t think they are targeting me; it’s just certain places I land at certain times. I don’t do like, trillion-dollar brands. Cause there’s too much control on their part. Fila has just been a brand amongst the dudes with paper, so I mean, in ’86, ’87, it’s been that brand. It was the Gucci; it was that top of the line. It was the uniform for major players back in ’87, ’88, ’89. It has been going for a long time so I felt like if I got with them, and we brought that back out, that would be a dream come true to me to be apart of that.

Complex: How in-tuned are you with the Internet. Do you read blogs?

Nas: No, I never do.

Complex: Never?

Nas: I don’t have to because I’m in the world. Everybody tells me what is there and what’s said.

Complex: Okay. How do you think being in an economic recession will affect the next generation of rappers? Will there be the same focus on material wealth?

Nas: In the Great Depression in the ’30s, the numbers racking in the black community helped the Italian mafia survive and they thought it was just pennies. The penny business in Chicago, Ed Jones, cats like that, created a huge enterprise that paved the way for street guys to maintain, to open up clubs and pay Duke Ellington so he can buy outfits and cars and fly all over the world.

Complex: Right

Nas: They made it happen in the ’30s. They made it happen in the ’40s. And it was worse times than now. That’s the recipe of a hustler, hard times. There will be fewer artists able to get their glow on and shit. That’s how it’ll be I think. And overall, the ice got out of control. There are so many people wearing fake necklaces, fake watches. And watch brands that are really just all about hood flashing. It’s hard for me when I want to wear a classy watch with diamonds on it. We need a break from the diamonds now, maybe. Because everyone is taking it to the next level. Too much of anything is going to get played out anyway. You may not even need to have all those materialistic things in a year.

I think Kanye West saved rap. I think Lil’ Wayne is showing there is a future for all kinds of artists to continue doing this.

Complex: Kanye says that you are the greatest rapper of all time. How does it make you feel when people call Lil’ Wayne the best rapper alive?

Nas: Oh man, good. I only feel weird when you’re saying that about me. I think Kanye West saved rap. I think Lil’ Wayne is showing there is a future for all kinds of artists to continue doing this. You know, I love it.

Complex: Who in the game still excites you?

Nas: Kanye, OutKast, Eminem.

Complex: Is this your last album?

Nas: This is definitely not my last album. I’m going to do this shit until I’m 70, until I can’t fucking talk.

Complex: How many more albums do you have on Def Jam?

Nas: That, I don’t know.

Complex: Given your strong fan base, would you ever think of going the independent route?

Nas: Oh, hell yeah. That’s like, you know, a no-brainer. That’s what my wife thought; she was trying to get off her label forever. She got out and she’s doing her own thing. That’s exactly what I been thinking about a lot too.

Complex: Looking back at the whole album title debacle, would you have just named it something else if you could do it over again?

Nas: No, it’s all good man. It’s what it’s all about. Getting people talking, getting people thinking. Rap dudes are serious dudes’most of us, man. And when it comes to the voice we got, knowing we got this outlet to reach mad people, that’s what I’m here for. At least in 2008, right here, it’s about being a part of a conversation to point out the hypocrites.

Complex: Would you ever think of making your next title something controversial?

Nas: Nah, no. It has to be real, has to be me. I think the Hip Hop Is Dead and the N*gger album, they were for that time. And it’s moving on now. I mean, I don’t even know what is controversial anymore because I can think of a next title for my next album, and it may mean a lot to me. People may think it’s a controversial title, but it’s really what I’m feeling. I’m not going to make the title less controversial because it’s going to offend people.

Complex: It was recently reported that you scrapped your reality show because you felt you and Kelis were too boring. What has to happen for you guys to revisit that idea?

Nas: [Laughs] Well, I don’t think she’s boring. I think I was too boring to watch at home. I feel like when you watch the reality guys, they got people who were amazing people like 30 years ago. It doesn’t give you the same effect with us. I grew up a Hulk Hogan fan and to look inside his home is just amazing to me. I mean, cause I’m a grown man, 27 years later. We’re only in the middle of it.

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Joe La Puma is currently the Director of Content Strategy at Complex Media, handling big idea generation and execution along with the social networking of Complex's content. He's conducted cover stories with everyone from Katy Perry and Justin Bieber to Rick Ross and Kid Cudi.
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