Awesome read…1996 was a big year for Hip-Hop…
XXL recently sat down with Nas to discuss going platinum for the first time, working with Dr. Dre in the middle of the East Coast/West Coast feud, the song that caused his issues with Tupac Shakur and being the first rapper to work with Lauryn Hill and R. Kelly.—Carl Chery(@cchery)
XXL: Illmatic eventually went platinum, but at the time It Was Written was your first time going platinum.
Nas: Unreal. Unreal. It was like, I got that platinum. I can get out the game or I can do whatever. That’s that.
That’s also you transitioning into becoming a superstar, a new level of fame. How was that adjustment for you?
It was good. It was perfect because it was perfect timing for me. I had a lot to say. I had a lot of things I wanted to express. I had a lot of styles I wanted to put into the game. I had a lot to give the game and I was ready to give it to ‘em. So it was perfect timing.
Was it at a point where you couldn’t walk down the street without causing a mob?
The first album, funny enough, was that way. The first album and second album was like that. Yea, definitely.
You worked with Dr. Dre in the middle of the East Coast/West Coast feud. What was the response on the East Coast?
It was unbelievable ‘cause Dre had The Chronic, he had Doggystle. And really that was it. So it was unbelievable. It was crazy.
So nobody was like, “Why you working with dude?”
Nah, they thought, “Wow, it’s amazing. It fucked ‘em up. Then Biggie had him and Bone Thugs. Nice move. I was like, “Wow, nice move.”
Do you feel like the Lauryn Hill has gained even more value over the years considering she doesn’t work with rappers anymore?
Yeah, yeah. That’s one of the reasons. All records gain value through the years, but definitely that. Lauryn’s one of those. True to the core at this shit. Everything about her, from her performance… she’s last of a dying breed.
How did you go about getting Kellz on the “Street Dreams (Remix)?”
We was the hottest shit in America so that was easy. We probably could have got Mike [Jackson]on the phone back then. So Kellz was cool with it, he was ready. That made the introduction with him and Trackmasters probably right around that time and then they started working together and shit. So it was just good times. Everybody was happy.
For “Street Dreams” what was the process like to clear the Eurythmics “Sweet Dreams” sample?
Oh, they took everything. They took everything. Word. For real.
Did you ever get a chance to meet Annie Lennox or did you get feedback from what she thought about the song?
Not really. You know, that song is such a huge record. I’m glad that it did get cleared, that’s all. I admire them. I admire her. It’s all love. I don’t think… I may have met her years later in passing, but it’s all love.
That song also partially led to ‘Pac taking issue with you ’cause he had the same track onAll Eyez on Me that he released that same year. What was your reaction when you heard that ‘Pac accused you of taking the same track?
See, I was always into ‘Pac early before his controversial side blew up all over America and the world. I was already into his music. I saw him as a kindred spirit, I saw him as a brother, so it was like beefin’ with your brother. Not even beefin’, it felt like, your brother over there’s a little mad. This is an issue right now, so you gotta deal with it.
What was your inspiration for “I Gave You Power?”
A Premier beat. Just a beat from Premier… in the studio. Back then I was around a lot more guns and my reality was that. There was no armed security back then, it was just us moving around so that was a lot more in my world.
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