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Nas was in attendance last night for the premiere of VH1′s Tanning Of America: One Nation Under Hip-Hop premiere, where he was featured on a panel moderated by Gayle King and featuring the likes of Al Sharpton, Fab 5 Freddy, FUBU founder Daymond John and longtime manager—and author of The Tanning Of America: How Hip-Hop Created A Culture That Rewrote The Rules Of The New Economy—Steve Stoute. After the first two episodes of Stoute’s four-part series aired, moderator King asked Queensboro’s finest about his thoughts on his upcoming documentary, Time Is Illmatic, debuting at the prestigious TriBeCa Film Festival this April.
“I don’t see myself as the most mainstream around, I just see myself as, I’ve been around,” Nas said on being asked what it was like to be accepted by the mainstream via the film fest. “I wanted to see what it was like… I definitely stepped into the mainstream stage for a little while, partied and had a good time, and then I went back to what I was doing.”
Nas, who has eight platinum albums to his name, has never been the highest-charting rapper—though he can boast three No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200—but that hasn’t stopped him from being widely regarded as one of the greatest rappers of all time. But in the context of Tanning, which maps the convergence of hip-hop into the mainstream, he’s still got plenty to say on the matter. Sharpton, for his part, was able to sum up what happened to Nas when he started being recognized for the art he was creating.
“Nas never wanted to go mainstream,” Sharpton said during the panel discussion. “Instead, the mainstream went to Nas.”
King also asked him about the difference between hip-hop and rap, and whether he spends much time thinking about what separates the two.
“Sometimes. Sometimes I don’t worry about that,” he said. “Hip-hop is Sugar Hill Gang, the early stuff setting the world on fire, and rap was the commercials… That’s not what the realness is. There’s a difference.”
Previously: Nas’ New Documentary Will Premiere At The Tribeca Film Festival
Nas Is Rereleasing Illmatic
By The Numbers: Nas’ First Six Platinum Albums
Nas Will Celebrate Illmatic‘s 20th Anniversary At Kennedy Center
50 Rappers Snubbed By The Grammys