AZ: Efil4zaggin

AZ is universally recognized for his talent, even if he’s not often revered the same way his peers like Jay-Z and Nas are. But the Brooklyn-bred lyricist is sharp as any MC in the game, past or present. And now, like his comrade Nas, he’s using his voice to address heavier subject matter, such as the dreaded N-word.

But is the former Firm member treading too close to his homie’s turf with his new project? AZ teamed up with DJ Absolut for the forthcoming mixtape, N4L, short for “nigger for life.” While Nas has been promoting his latest album, untitled, which at one point was set to be called Nigger, he’s endured criticism from black leaders and mainstream-media outlets alike. Here, however, the Aziatic one talks to XXLmag.com about Nas and riding coattails, what the N-word means to him, and exactly what’s next for one of Brooklyn’s finest.

When did the idea to do this project strike you?

Well, the moment was, when Undeniable came out in April; when I was on promotional tour I was getting so many questions about me and Nas doing an album together, it was overwhelming. I mean, I always get it, but for some reason, I guess because time keeps on ticking, it became overwhelming. So doing my shows and I was thinking, Is this ever going to really happen? Then out of nowhere Absolut got at me and he was like, ‘I heard Undeniable, it was serious.’ De said let’s do a move. He said lets do a mixtape. I didn’t want to do a mixtape because that’s really not my thing. It’s not my game; I do a song here or there. I said it had to be of some validity. We started thinking and at that point with what Nas did, I said, they wanted an album with me and Nas and with the climate we have with Barack Obama and Sean Bell, I can give my perspective. If me and Nas were to do an album it would be this, us speaking on this content, what he feels about the word nigger and what I think about the word nigger. Unofficially, if we were to do an album, this is what it would sound like.

Aside from all the things in the community to address and the headlines, Was there anything that you did specifically to motivate yourself?

My vision was, I wanted to do the nigger for life. Meaning, we all niggers regardless of our accomplishments. But I wanted to use it in a positive form like ‘Pac used it, N-i-g-g-a, which means never ignorant getting goals accomplished. So I was just throwing things back and looking at them through my scope of intelligence. And tapping into my books and all the knowledge that I absorbed through my life. And I just sat back and that’s when I got into the zone. I didn’t want to be “Preacher Earl,” I wanted to teach in a sense. I wanted to spark interest and cover all grounds. ‘Cause you got those that are impulsive, then you got those that are radical thinkers, and then you got those that are more scholastically motivated. I wanted to speak from all perspectives and I think I kind of accomplished that.

What are the range topics you discuss?

We got “Runaway Slave.” That’s one of my goodies. I made it a song, but it was somebody’s life at one time. And I kind of tried to make it musical and theatrical at the same time. Then you got “Knowledge Freedom.” I got the “12 Jewels.” I got “Conspiracy,” “Self Savior.” I just spoke on all topics and expressed myself at the end of the day.

Creatively, was it different for you? An album is a concentrated effort already, but how did it affect you—one way or another—to have an implemented angle in place?

It freed me up. ‘Cause I just really spoke my mind. ‘Cause we all entitled to our own opinions. So that was a good thing.

The album cover and the imagery are very visceral. Are you going to do anything else to enhance the experience of this project?

I’m gonna do some videos. Me and Absolut are gong to shoot a video or two or three. We might make a DVD movie out of it. But whatever move we make, at the end of the day, it’s just a mixtape to me, even though it’s 16 original songs. And it helped me get a lot off my shoulders and off my mind. After that, I’m working on a soundtrack and a movie called “Silent Wars” that I’m putting together now. It’s about making decisions and what’s right and what’s wrong. I’m not obligated to anything after this, I’m a free agent. I gave Koch their last album. So I’m searching for a home and will continue to put music out.

Did you reach out to Nas before you announced this project and worked on it? Because of the similar themes.

Me and him communicate periodically. He has his own thing going on, he has a lot on his plate. And me, I’m self-sufficient. So I try to venture out and see what I can do, bring to the table. WE haven’t politicked on this yet. On this situation I just let him do what he wanted. I wanted to lock into my zone with my mixtape and he be in the zone with his nigger thing. We haven’t spoke in a couple months, since I started working on my Undeniable album and this mixtape. But I’m sure we’ll speak soon after it’s all said and done.

You two are so linked, from your path work and the lyricism you exhibit, and in your press statement you mentioned you’re not riding on his coattails. But what about the appearance that Nas had to weather the criticism for his movement and now you’re benefiting with your project?

I’m not trying to benefit, for one, I’m just trying to add onto the awareness, you know? He set the climate and I think it’s a good climate. So any add on is good. I’m not subtracting. We speaking on issues for the younger generation to get a history lesson. ‘Cause they not from that era. And in order for them to move forward, we gotta take a few steps back. I’m brining a history lesson to the table. And I’m trying to make nigger positive. Really, it’s about rich and poor, to be technical. It’s an economic movement, to be honest. So I’m trying to add onto what he’s doing for the community so we can get to a certain mind frame. And get to the issues at hand about life. To help the next generation to help the next generation, to help us as a people.

  • Peru

    That is a serious artwork cover! Aint not way Nas could’ve done that him being on a major and all…That cover is very…INTENSE!!! He should’ve added a few more shadowed bodies hanging in the background and a couple of white hoodies on the bottom…that would’ve really stuck home.

  • JE

    im done with this fuckin magazine, the week before the carter III drops, XXL is dickridin lil wayne giving him his own tab and featuring every one of his fucking promo videos… but the NAS album is droppin and theres not a single word said about the truest most talented rapper droppin the most controversial album rap has seen in a decade

    and yall wonder why hip hop is dying…

    • DETROIT

      cosign…it’s obvious that the same powers that control the music industry also control this site.

    • Ru-So Records

      Excuse me, thats *clears throat* dead. Hip hop. You said, “…dying”. Its dead. And filled with embalming fluid might I add.

  • http://www.xxlmag.com/?p=23009 jay

    well if he was tryna make a statement.. he accomplished his mission

  • Lo-Doe

    AZ Top 5-Dead or Alive!

  • http://myspace/Ru-SoRecords Boogie The Don and Thats whats up.

    Ya know, that just MIGHT… MIIIGHT be B$4L, Bonus dollars for life! Lol, Right on the money chief! Killer shirt too!

  • EL BRECHADOR

    YO A! HANDZ DOWN U R TOP 5 DED O ALIVE MY G! MEMBA DAT! U O’REDY KNO WUT IT IZ YANAAAAAAAAAMEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEN BREATHE E-Z
    BIG HOMIE REAL RECOGNIZE REAL & U REALLY DA TRUTH! NOT 2 MENTION U DUN KILLED NAS ON EVERY FEATURE YA HAD {4 ALL HATERZ PLEASE FEEL FREE 2 DISECT DA LYRICS ON THOSE TRAX & DEN HOLLA!}NAS IS NAS CAN’T TAKE DAT AWAY FROM HIM BUT U DA MOST UNDERRATED RAPPER OF ALL TIME! DA STREETZ KNOW IT! 1.

  • http://Flucka.U.Org Broad Street Bastid

    I’m sure if nas can move close to amil this week he’ll have a tab.

  • KOL

    I’m really tired these days of people complaining so fuckin’ much! JE if your done with the mag how come every page I’ve been on features the same damn comment from you! All the people who constantly bitch about the state of hip hop need to just support the artists they feel are true to the game by BUYING their albums, SUPPORTING their concerts and online material. Don’t you realise by constantly talking about the rappers you dislike, you are fueling the interest in them by creating a debate and discussion. If you’re not feeling Wayne or whoever else is the rapper de jour fine, it costs you nothing pay him no mind. AZ always does his thing I think I’ll download this asap. Would’ve been nice if Hagler and Hearns could’ve done a mixtape together though.

  • balaramesh

    az, was always one of the best lyricist.

    i do think he is kinda swagger jacking nas. but, if he wants to “piggyback” off that theme with their collective history, its cool.

    nas, will sell no where close to 1 million records. he is not a commercial rapper. besides, 14 years olds are not going to buy his album. he consistently does about 200k – 400k on his first album during the first week. but that was pretty much since “it was written” in 1996. do the math.

    • Boogie The Don and thats whats up

      Come again? Jacking who? How might be your reasoning for concluding that?

      Perphaps it would make more sense if the storyline went this way…

      Nas: Ayo, I’m on this N1gger theme.

      AZ: F it, thats the plan.

      Peace to Nature, Foxy, Nas, & AZ. “Phone Tap” was the kind of commercial hits back then. I think Dr. Dre was on that beat. Bangers like that made you not wanna leave your seat when that man said, “We’ll be back innn 2 and 2″

  • Tony Grand$

    Much luv to AZ from “realizin the realism of life in actuality, fuck who’s the baddest a person status depends on salary, and my mentality is…” back off Illmatic in ’94. Dude held his weight like a pretty fat girl. But sonically, the Aziatic one gotta really break feet off in niggas. I’m feelin the movement but I woulda kinda curtailed the whole ‘nigger’ thing if I was him for the simple fact that I wouldn’t even wanna seem like I’m in Nasir’s jetstream. Seem sorta coincidental that they on the same page without sittin 2gether @ the table and doin the math. Az never really hit the people like Nas, be it bad or good. I banged “suga hill” like a mufucka, but it was more the track and sexy ass Ms. Jones more than n e thing. I believe he can pull off a comeback of sorts, but more so it looks a lil gimmicky to me. Prove me wrong nig, in a X-Files way (“I want to believe…..).

    • Ru-So Records

      Pass “was”. “Is” always one of the best lyricist.

      Ru-So Records

  • Silverback Gorilla

    I undastand where he comin’ from… Him & Nas don’t link like dat no more, so the best way to share views is to put out separate albums.

    Both of ‘em on my top 5 ((shrugs)).

  • owl

    these dumb/weak blacks forever play fake race-victims to get attention & money in they pockets(ie., obama, jesse, sharpton, nas the niggr, raw footage, & now n4l) they just as bad as the klan. ..& so are they followers on this site.

  • http://www.myspace.com/adrenalinetruth adrenaline the truth

    real emceee to the core yall, holdin the for down with that one. That is deep right there.

    http://www.myspace.com/adrenalinetruth
    http://www.myspace.com/adrenalinetruth
    http://www.myspace.com/adrenalinetruth

  • Tony Grand$

    Owl,
    Go get on ya sk8board with ya ipod loud ass fuck and see how many ollies you can do on the 405 freeway! GTFOH with ya 14 year old ass. Fake race victim? Okay, here’s a race for you saltine (that’s a type of cracker smart guy). Go to a place near ur trailer park and say that to the first american of afrikkkan descent that u see. Although its probably not many in ur town, and let’s see if u don’t turn into Jesse Owens rather quickly. Eminem got you lil 115 lb rednecks thinking ur cool. Sorry no dice. Stick to ur John McCains and Ronald Reagans. Men are speaking here. Just as bad as the klan, huh? Naw faggot were worse. Watch ur mouth little boy, too much CNN might get ya feelings hurt.

  • cisco

    yo A the kid i was talking about is in nyc now my email is papillon_4040@hotmail.com and i want you to hear this kid shit so that u could bag that nigga on your QUIET MONEY RECORS joint the kid is nice he tracks made already too. give duke a chance and hear him out.
    cisco 1