Two weekends ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing arguably the greatest lyricist in Hip Hop and one of my personal heros, Nas. The opportunity arose after I got an email from my editor Jamilah Lemieux me if I wanted to attend a HennessyXNas poolside party in Palm Springs. Nas was unveiling an exclusive preview to his new Time Is Illmatic documentary. My response was “uh……YEAH!”
I drove from LA and arrived at the pool party with one of my colleagues Ashley Velez. When walked in, beautiful models greeted us with warm smiles and free Hennessy cocktails. I don’t drink, but it was cool being treated like a celeb (or at least a professional journalist). Different artists and their management, music journalists, DJs, actors, etc. filled the party. I saw a bunch of celebs: Lance Gross, Eva Marcille, Romeo, Karrueche Tran, Damon Wayans Jr., Jermaine Dupri. I even had a few models flirt with me (which made me feel a mixture of cockiness, insecurity, geekiness, and humility). After walking around, grabbing food at the catered buffet, and taking pictures, I was called into Nas’ suite to do the interview.
My voice trembled when I first introduced myself to him. Like this is NAS. He’s one of the greatest artistic minds of our time. For most Hip Hop fans, Illmatic is The Prototype for all rap albums. I listen to “Stay” all the time. And the third verse of “One Mic” is my life. So yeah, I was definitely nervous at first. But I relaxed once the interview started. We covered several topics; about Illmatic, the new documentary, how he felt looking back on his career, why the album has been able to remain relevant, and the generational differences between back when he ascended into the rap scene and the current blogosphere culture. He was very…. economic and diplomatic with his answers when it pertained to other rap artists. But he gave some great answers to some of my deeper, more probing questions ( full interview over at EBONY.com ), and was as calm, quiet, soft-spoken, and reserved as you would expect. The word “chill” would be the perfect description of Nas.
One interesting thing that came from the experience of interviewing Nas was how meeting him changed my perception, and the idea of celebrity for that matter. We build celebrities to be larger-than-life figures in our head, so I often assume all male celebrities are tall. Nas is a little shorter than me, and I’m 5’10. I got that similar revelation with the other celebs. These people are really talented, attractive, and all that jazz, but they are just that…people. When they became tangible in my eyes, they ceased to be just pedastalled ideas in my head. That’s not to say they aren’t amazingly talented at what they do (and side note: Karrueche is just as stunning in person. Sheesh), but it was cool to be able to break that barrier down. It made their achievements less esoteric and made the idea of celebrity seem more manufactured. They got to where they are through hard-work, determination, beauty, intelligence, and yes, a major helping of good fortune. But despite the fact that he is exceptional skilled, Nas’ achievements aren’t the result of demi-god like abilities outshining us mere mortals. He’s a creative beast, because he worked at it. And if he could fulfill his dreams, I could too.
The experience was definitely a blessing, and I still look back at it with great nostalgia. There aren’t many people who can say they’ve received the opportunity to interview one of their greatest artistic inspirations. But it also opened my eyes about things. Nas and other celebrities are exceptional human beings. But until that weekend, I didn’t fully understand that they put on their pants one leg at a time the same way I do. It confirmed how blessed I am, how far I’ve come, and gave me a great benchmark for where I would like to be in the future.