Famed photographer Danny Hastings has shot iconic cover images for Big Pun’s Capital Punishment and Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, but his album art shoot for Nas’ I Am almost ended in disaster. In order to make the iconic mask featured on the cover, Hastings and his crew put a clay mold on his face and poked air holes so he could breathe, but he almost suffocated after clay got lodged in his nose.
“The funny part was that the first attempt, Nas was getting asphyxiated. We almost killed Nas,” Hastings told MTV.com. “We cleaned him up, and he was like, ‘Let’s do it again!’ […] Nas was a true sport.”
He also explained the meaning behind the cover, and how it built off of previous album art for Illmatic and It Was Written. “The first one, you have him being a boy, very young. The second was a little bit older. And the third one, he was a king,” he continued. “He already conquered the world. He was on top of the world. He was doing a lot of big things. We came with the concept of making a King Tut sarcophagus piece.”