Nas’ widely lauded classic debut, Illmatic, is now an achievement a half a lifetime in the rear view as the Queensbridge rapper turns 40 years old today (September 14). Illmatic, which quickly characterized the best aspects of New York City Hip Hop for many fans and critics alike, was released in April of 1994 when Nas was only 20 years old. Nearly two decades later, the rapper, who first made his recording debut on Main Source’s “Live At The Barbeque” in 1991, took some time to reflect on his career and growth at a Hennessy-sponsored birthday party.
Speaking with Hot 97 radio personality Miss Info, Nas both shrugged off and praised the milestone. “I just take it all in stride,” he said. “It really feels like—man, I always grew up around older people. I always talked to older people. So, some of my friends turned 40 a couple of years ago, so they mess with me like I don’t know what it’s like. Now, it’s one of the best feelings I ever had. I’m just blessed. It’s a miracle. I’m so blessed.”
When asked whether or not his age has affected his perspective as an artist and lyricist, Nas first alluded to his maturity as a young rapper. “No I wouldn’t say [I’m] ‘more thoughtful,’” he said. “I think I was thoughtful back then when I was younger. The speed changes, when it comes to trying to get on and then once you’re on you have to adjust your life with it.”
He continued by explaining that occupying new spaces and adopting new identities is something that has led to some change. “When you adjust your life it means you got new things in your life happening,” he said. “You move, you become a businessman, a father. That matters. That weighs in.”
Nas recently embarked on a new business relationship with the popular-within-Hip Hop brandy maker Hennessy. In a previous interview with Miss Info, the emcee spoke at length about the venture and his visiting the Cognac region of France where Hennessy is produced. Earlier this year, Nas also invested assets in the Brooklyn-based Mass Appeal Magazine. In years past, he has acted as an official spokesperson for the sneaker and apparel company Fila and has also more recently been a public partner of the annual and ever growing Rock The Bells festival.
While Nas’ first child was born just months after his debut, he has recently shared a more intimate portrayal of fatherhood with songs like 2012’s “Daughters,” a track that served as the third single for his eleventh album, Life Is Good. That song, which received two Grammy nominations, offered an honest look at his daughter Destiny Jones and his own positioning as a father.
When asked if his taste in culture has changed and developed with his age, Nas responded “a lot.” Still, he also referenced wanting to have nice things and dress older as a child. “But I was always this dude trying to be up in some fly silk and stuff like that,” he said. “I got pictures of myself at like 12 years old with cool silk shirts and all of that, it was just a natural thing.”
With regard to his skill as an emcee, Nas distinguished his older self as “more relaxed” but no less skillful. “As far as intensity of rhyme,” he said, “when you’re young and on fire, there’s nothing like that feeling. So, where I’m at now is just a more relaxed place, but you know, I think it’s still in me when I need to get crazy. I know it’s still here.”
It has now been more than a year since the release of Life Is Good, an album that marked the end of his contract with Def Jam Recordings, where he was signed in 2006. On the Def Jam imprint alone, Nas has released albums 2006’s Hip Hop Is Dead, Untitled and a collaborative album with Damian Marley in 2010. Prior to his signing with Def Jam, Nas released material on Columbia Records.
Earlier this year Nas announced that he was working on his twelfth studio album. When asked about the title in this recent interview, the rapper alluded to a release with little lead up. “I was ready at one point to announce the title,” he said, “but too much was happening and I couldn’t…my bad about that. I’m not saying nothing. It’s just gonna drop.”