“Everything must eventually come to an end, so try to savor the moment, cuz time flies don’t it? The beauty of life, you gotta make it last for the better, cuz nothin’ lasts forever” -Nasir Jones
It was the Fall of my freshman year in college. After two and a half short weeks of attending Fordham University in the Bronx and living across the hall from a nun, I transferred to my state school. I felt so lost and alone, and to make matters worse, the only housing available so late in the semester was in a sorority house. My sister had also transferred, so she arranged for me to come live as a boarder in the same house she was staying in. In total, there were four girls living in our room. I was in the bottom bunk of a bunk bed that was so low that I hit my head every morning when I tried to get out of bed. My sister enrolled me in the only classes available so late into the semester, including an 8am literature class that I dreaded getting up for. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it turned out to be one of the biggest blessings.
One day our teacher assigned us an oral report on a form of literature. People chose poetry, short stories, biographies, etc. One of the students got up to do his report and said, “the form of literature I’d like to talk about today is Nas.” I was waiting for the teacher to tell him he misunderstood the assignment, but she didn’t say a word. And thank God for my sake, she didn’t. The student went on to give an impressive presentation on Nas, dissecting his lyrics, his metaphors, and his message. His dissection of “Dr. Knockboot” stands out to me the most, as I was shocked to hear someone break down a song about sex in a freshman lit class.
I had always been a huge fan of hip hop, especially east coast hip hop, since the music that trickled down to us was mainly from New York. I grew up big on Biggie, Jay, Big L, Big Pun, The Lox, Mobb Deep, Dipset, etc. , and was a fan of Nas, but had yet to delve deep into his music. Feeling alone on a campus of thousands, I turned to the one constant I had had in my life that always made me happy, hip hop. This student had given me the gift of Nas and my curiosity led me back through all of his albums. From that moment on, he was in my ears daily. I had always loved Foxy, but got heavy in to AZ around this time as well. I couldn’t believe how incredible these artists were, and I was so surprised they didn’t get more mainstream recognition. I remember when Street’s Disciple came out and I bumped it for months straight. Every guy that got in my car was so hyped on it, and would ask me to burn them CD’s. The cool thing about falling in love with an artist later in their career is that you have a whole catalogue to go back through, similar to catching on to a hot show in it’s last season, you’re able to get a marathon session in.
There were so many things I learned and so many verses I held onto when I was pursuing my dreams after school. In the intro to “Nothing Lasts Forever,” Nas encourages, “A lot of times it seems like you ain’t gon’ make it where you wanna be in life. But yo, if you got a plan, believe me, you gon’ get there. You gon’ get everything you ever wanted baby, that’s my word.” I played this over and over and I believed him. Years later, I even recorded the intro and would play it dozens of times a day. There was something in those words that resonated with me and because I knew they were truthful, I trusted other things I heard from him as well. When he told me the world was mine, I knew it could be if I had the courage to go after what I wanted. When I listened to NY State of Mind, I felt this hustle arising in me. He starts off, “I don’t know how to start this, yo,” and then goes into one of the sickest rhymes I’ve ever heard. I saw an interview saying that he truly had no idea what he was going to say at that moment and free-styled that whole verse. In “The Message,” he makes even the simplest activities sound so fly. He raps, “I peeped you frontin, I was in the Jeep, sunk in the seat, tinted with heat, beats bumpin.” Everything he spoke about resonated with me. Even songs that weren’t “meant for me” had meaning in them. Every time I listened to him, he gave me so much game. In “Black Girl Lost,” he tells a story of girls getting caught up trying to live the fast life. He perfectly articulates the pressures we all feel and it’s evident from his songs that he truly cares. I think that may be what attracted me to him so much in the first place. Nas has always had a sense of purpose in what he raps about. Even though some of his efforts haven’t been well received in the media (ie. The N***** album promo), his intentions are always good. Sometimes I think that he is just way ahead of his time, and some people have a hard time receiving his harsh honesty.
The way Nas lives his life and conducts his business speak volumes about his character. Considering his level of genius, he is incredibly humble and always gives credit to God and his mentors. He is authentic in every way, from his rhymes to his relationships to his partnerships. His involvement with Hennessy was such a natural partnership and another reminder of the value of staying real in this game. In an interview with Anthony DeCurtis, Nas breaks down the reason he’s successful. He says, “You can’t lose. How can you lose when you’re doing you?” He always reminds us that authenticity is the path to success.
This past weekend, I was cruising down the PCH in Malibu listening to “Stay” off of “Life is Good.” The top was down, the sun was setting, and the palm trees were getting smaller and smaller in my rearview mirror. I couldn’t help but smile thinking back to the thousands of times I had faithfully listened to “You gon’ get everything you ever wanted baby, that’s my word.” I’m glad I listened, because he was right.