Nas recently joined Henry Louis Gates’ Finding Your Roots series on PBS, where he found a 1859 bill of sale for his third great-grandmother Pocahontas to a slaveholder in the South, according to the New York Daily News.
“First I was enraged when I looked at it,” Nas said. “I was like, ‘That guy that owned property owes me some cash. My people made him really wealthy, so maybe I should find his family and talk.'”
Nas says the news about his past was unexpected.
“I thought I would never know anything about my family past my grandparents,” he adds, “and I was willing to just accept that because I had no way of finding out…So when I saw the bill of sale, I had to stop and deal with that for a moment. This is a sale of a human being. This was business here in this country.”
The Queensbridge emcee adds that questions about his third great-grandmother came up as he made new discoveries on the show.
“Just finding out her name was Pocahontas, it made me wonder what she looked like,” he said. “She had to be hot.”
Nas’ experience on the series is likely to impact his music, he says.
“It will probably happen on its own,” he explains. “I cannot disappoint these ancestors now. I have to represent.”
Nas has rapped about slavery in the past, including his material on Untitled’s “N.I.G.G.E.R. (The Slave & The Master),” which was released in 2008.
“They gave us lemons, we made lemonade,” Nas raps on the track. “But this nigga’s paid / Ancestry of slaves / Descendant of kings, it’s necessary, I bling/ Put rims on everything, wear Timbs on every scene.”
That year, Nas earned a 4.5 out of 5 for Untitled in the HipHopDX review of the project. “[Nas] waxes poetic about the African American struggle in America,” DX said at the time. “There’s a certain enriching manner that Nas addresses the N-Word that makes it look more like a study rather than the rampant usage of a word.”