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Nas Remembers the Making of Stillmatic & Hip Hop Is Dead

With Hip Hop Is Dead, do you feel like that album marks you becoming an elder statesman in the game?

I didn’t go for that. That’s not what I was looking for, but for an MC point of view and a competitor point of view as an MC, yea, I was with that.

Did you have any reservations about sampling “Iron Butterfly” for the second time because you did it on “Thief’s Theme” before?

No, that was the joke. Hip-hop is dead. I’m gonna do the same beat again from my last album that was my last single. This is gonna be the shit again. And will didn’t even know it at the time, when he played it for me and I told him that’s why I have to do this record. For me it was perfect. I know people didn’t get it, but it was my little joke.

The album also marks you working with Dre for the first time in 10 years. How did you guys reconnect?

You know, just hounding Dre ’til you get him. I just had to hound my man, you know what I mean? Once he opened up, he had a moment. I jumped right in there. I flew right in, got in the studio. [I’m] always excited to see him in the studio.

Game was on the track, but that was after he got kicked off Aftermath. How did that happen?

That almost didn’t happen, but again, hounding Dre. Staying on him, staying on him, staying on him. “Come on, I need this.” You know, [I] stayed on him.

Was he initially like, “I don’t  want to put Game on the track or something like that?

Nah, he never said that. It was just, we wasn’t gettin’ any response. We needed a mix and master the song, so we wasn’t gettin’ any response on anything. We had to stay on him. He’s a busy man.

You also had the “Black Republican” joint with Jay on the album. What was that session like?

It was a party. Not like tons of people. Easy party. That was actually us warming up to working together. We never got a chance. Maybe I over-thought it. I needed the beat. I mean, we needed the beat to be crazy. We wanted Dre to do it, then we wanted ‘Ye to do it. And I had a timeline and shit. It never would have came out, so I go back to the thought of, “This is rap music. This is bangin’ on the lunchroom table and makin’ a freestyle, so, don’t over-think it. Here it is. Take it, guys. This is what it is.” We wanted to get off a crazier joint, but never got around to it.

I know your fans wanted a video for the song.

Yea, we sat down with Spike Lee about it. We had a lot of controversial, crazy Spike Lee ideas. It was a moment, but we never got around to doin’ it.

Speakin of videos. I was watching the “Can’t Forget About You” video and you had Natalie Cole. How did that happen?

She was kind enough to bless us with her presence. The estate was kind enough to let us use Nat’s vocals on the record. At the same time, we did a swap. I did somethin’ on an old Nat King Cole record, so, we were able to make that swap and it was cool. It was somethin’ I was proud of. I wish that if Nat was here, he’d be proud.

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