Why is Nas so fascinated with Africa?

If Nas and Damian Marley’s Distant Relatives doesn’t accomplish anything else, at least it made me realize that that song on Nastradamus that samples “Africa” by Toto was almost certainly Nas’ own idea.

The other day, I was reading a story in the New York Times about how Distant Relatives (which I’ve yet to hear) apparently has a lot to do with Africa, rather than, say, Nas’ native Queens, or Jamaica, or wherever Damian Marley grew up (wherever it was, I’m sure it was mad swanky), and it got me to thinking about how Nas has been fascinated with Africa throughout his career.

I tried to think of all of the various times Nas has made reference to Africa. It wasn’t easy, because I’m not one of these Nas stans. I’ve probably heard everything he’s done at least once, just from being an aging hip-hop head, but as I recently told some dude on my formspring, it could very well be the case that I haven’t heard It Was Written since the 1990s. And I’ve probably only heard either of those albums he put out in 1999 once, period. Which was bad enough. I don’t have anything against It Was Written, I just haven’t felt compelled to listen to it. Anyone else remember back when It Was Written was considered merely good for what it was, i.e. a well-executed sellout maneuver, but hardly a great rap album on a par with… I don’t know, an Ilmatic? Back before the inmates took over the asylum. The elevation of Nas’ post-Illmatic oeuvre is obviously part of the same trend in which the return of Shyne is something we’re supposed to be excited about. I don’t know if it’s because people who actually have a proper frame of reference with regard to the late ’90s have long since given up on rap music, or what.

But I digress.

Up until just now, I figured that Nas song where he sampled “Africa” was part of the late ’90s trend of rappers sampling any ol’ song from the 1980s. Remember the rap version “Electric Avenue,” or the rap version of “99 Luftballoons?” Wyclef Jean was behind a lot of that BS, but Diddy, who invented most things in hip-hop (he was even the first person to travel to Europe), was the one who kickstarted the trend. He had Biggie rhyming over a lot of random ’80s records, but that Biggie tribute song was probably the one that touched off the free for all, when people realized that you didn’t even have to be a good rapper, you just had to have a beat that dumb people and white people found catchy. And the rest, as they say, is history.

But it turns out that “Africa the Nas Song” was probably part of a separate trend, of Nas’ silly, inexplicable fascination with Africa. Nas probably told LES, who, as I recall, produced “Africa the Nas Song,” to come up with a beat that conjured thoughts of the motherland, and LES remembered that there was an actual song called “Africa,” whose groove he could wantonly pilfer, similar to how he came up with the one beat he contributed to Illmatic, and probably everything else he ever produced. How else to explain picking that song, of all the things you could sample? Even by late ’90s standards it seems like a retarded idea for a rap song.

Would Nas and LES have thought to sample it, if it had been a song about how Rosanna Arquette’s cans jiggle when she walks? (I mean, if that had been obvious from the title – that might actually be what the song is about.) Nas has always seemed fascinated with Africa, if not since Illmatic, at least since It Was Written, in which he spoke of freeing every prisoner in Attica and sending them to Africa. I realize this is a reference to one of the demands of the hostage situation that took place at Attica back in the 1970s (er, at some point before the film Dog Day Afternoon took place), but how would Nas know that? I doubt he’s familiar with the HBO movie about Attica, from the early ’90s. Even if he is, he probably shouldn’t admit to it. People who live in the projects shouldn’t have HBO anyway, on GP, but if they do/did, it makes you wonder if they’re really as bad-ass as Nas described them on Illmatic. You know Nas couldn’t have read about it, or anything else, in a book, because he admitted yesterday on 106 & Park that he hasn’t even read the book Michael Eric “Cornholio” Dyson wrote about him, and who in the fuck doesn’t read a book that was written about them, unless they can’t read? Don’t let me find out there’s some truth to that post I wrote about Nas being illiterate, because he plans on “studying” to get his GED. As if.

The most famous and perhaps most hilarious Nas reference to Africa was in the film Belly, in which he planned to “go back to Africa,” per the demands of so many racists over the years. Again, we can’t be sure this was Nas’ idea without calling and asking him (which is impossible), since the movie was directed and presumably conceived by Hype Williams. But the movie was obviously heavily influenced by Nas’ music. Take for example the cringe-worthy scene in which Nas smokes weed (probably real weed) with an eight year-old boy, which is right out “One Love,” from Illmatic. The idea to go back to Africa may have been a reference to Nas lyrics I’ve long since forgotten, because I only like Nas’ music when it’s worth a shit.

Which brings me to my point (yes, there is a point): Why is Nas so fascinated with Africa? In his songs, he speaks of Africa the way a kid whose parents don’t care enough about him to make enough money to take him to Disney World speaks of Disney World – as if it’s the cleanest, most magical place on earth. Disney World is mad clean, but otherwise it’s kinda gay. I didn’t even care for it that much when I was a kid. Six Flags had better rides. You get the idea that Nas’ fascination with Africa is based on a similar ignorance. I probably shouldn’t begrudge him his desire to learn more about the motherland, just like I probably shouldn’t mock people who were denied a childhood, but I wonder what Nas really has to tell us about Africa. Has Nas even been to Africa? We know Jay-Z’s been there, because there was that Rocawear ad with him carrying buckets of water to starving babies with flies on their faces. Similarly, if Nas had ever actually been to Africa, I’m sure we would have known about it by now.

Recommended for You

Around the Web

Best of XXL

  • Dick B.

    What music do you, Bol, listen to?

  • Dick B.

    What music do you, Bol, listen to? In other words, what rappers’ music do you, Bol, actually enjoy hearing as a hip hop fan (or head)?

  • Karlito

    Nas was in Nigeria 2008 to perform at the Soundcity Music Video awards

    • Swordz

      1) Nas actually co-worte Belly with Hype williams.

      2) Dude – your a black man – you SHOULD have a interest in where you came from!

      BOL – I think you’re good writer but dude this whole lack self-knowledge and fascination with white women is sickening to me.

      it’s mostly funny – sometimes it’s whhh – but every now and again it’s like this article – just plain embarassing!


    You can never be happy until you know where you come from.

    Bol, your fat ass came from McDonalds.

  • Jhon da Analyst

    Bushwick Bill being held by ICE in ATL. Just sayin……..

  • sealsaa

    “The elevation of Nas’ post-Illmatic oeuvre is obviously part of the same trend in which the return of Shyne is something we’re supposed to be excited about.”

    Partial co-sign. Just like any other artist, Nas has a dedicated stable of stans that praise everything he does, but on the other side of that coin you have the jaded purist who compare ever release of his to Illmatic, and naturally, his post work pales in comparison.

  • sealsaa

    “The elevation of Nas’ post-Illmatic oeuvre is obviously part of the same trend in which the return of Shyne is something we’re supposed to be excited about.”

    Partial co-sign. Just like any other artist, Nas has a dedicated stable of stans that praise everything he does, but on the other side of that coin you have the jaded purist who compare ever release of his to Illmatic, and naturally, his post work pales in comparison

  • pind

    eat dick and read a book bol

  • Rawse

    You sound like a spook. Asking why a Black man is fascinated with Africa? Yea there’s something wrong here..its just too bad you cant see what it is.

    • Swordz


      Excatly! Blog finished,

  • jaystone

    nas is fascinated about africa because of the twelve monkeys you fat cocksucker

  • Bay2tuLa

    bol ur retarded i hope xxl drop ur stupid ass

  • http://www.shabooty.com shabooty

    if i ruled the world i free all my sons and send em back to africa

  • Anonymous

    What kind of ignorant shi…. is this? No knowledge of Self what a fuc…. shame!

  • W. J. Rice

    This is a silly article, Nas has always been spitting with afrocentric undertones so it makes sense he is fascinated with Africa.

  • latino heat

    if people in the projects don’t have HBO how would you explain Oz and The Wire being so popular for so many years? i know i’ve never met a white person that watched either show. at least not faithfully.

    i was having this convo with a friend the other day. Nas is one of the only artists i can think of whose catalog actually gets better with time. i’ve been listening to God’s Son, Streets Disciple and Hip Hop Is Dead for the last month and when they all first dropped i played them for a few weeks then went on to something else. Nas’ shit is timeless. i’m gonna have to go back and listen to It Was Written, i haven’t heard it in at least 8 years and wasn’t very impressed with it back then.

    i’ve never been to Disney World but i will agree that Six Flags >>>> Disney Land. Disney Land is gay.

    *thinks about the Chapell’s Show skit where Nas ruled the world and sent all the prisoners in Attica to Africa and proceeds to lmao*

    • what

      “i know i’ve never met a white person that watched either show. at least not faithfully.”

      Perhaps you don’t meet many white people. Similarly, I always laugh when people say stuff like “black people don’t like soccer,” because pretty much the entire continent of Africa would beg to differ. Hundreds of millions of soccer moms – maybe that’s what Nas is looking for.

  • eddiesixes

    “Michael Eric “Cornholio” Dyson”

    thank you.

  • gaddic

    is like asking Talib kweli or MOS Def their fascination with black unity and marcus garvey philosphies
    Ask yourself why you are NOT fascinated with the continent where your parents and their forefathers came from, their culture and history?
    There’s something you’re not seeing!

  • Sha

    The question is not “Why is Nas fascinated with Africa?”. The true question, Byron, is Why aren’t you? I personally think you have a few issues to deal with. I would never knock a person for wanting to educate themselves further. Furthermore, I have been extremely impressed with the words NAS spits WITHOUT having a degree. I would challenge you to come up with something that touches the masses the way he has. Tearing black men down is a style you’ve mastered. But why haven’t you built YOURSELF up? With all of the degrees you’ve amassed (sarcasm) I’m sure you are well on your way to curing cancer or solving world hunger. But… You’re entitled to your opinion. No matter how fucking ignorant and anti-black and anti-human. Real talk.


    nas and big went to africa

  • that nigga

    Has Nas even been to Africa?

    They recorded some songs in Africa on this album. The video was on this site.

    AND @ SHA: Some of the realest shit I ever read in this section. And so true.

  • Anonymous

    u sir suck

  • T-marT

    it was written, damn! it was written is freaking insane to this day. thats classic nas its obvious you dont mess with him. who hasnt heard nas’ shit atleast once?? wow 1 time in the 1990′s. 1996 is like prime time for NY artists to drop hear Mobb deep and Jay-z put out albums the same year



  • http://officialfreejay.wordpress.com/ officialfreejay

    I don’t really know how to feel about this song on account of I am not really into Nas’s type of music. I mean some of his old stuff is extremely good don’t get me wrong but still i’m not really feeling this song at all.

  • http://www.bboycult.com $yk

    I could go off on a tangent right now on Bol.

    But I know what he’s doing.


  • a neega from africa

    I agree with story i like nas and shit followed this neega from the days of “it was written” and that neega has never come to africa to pay his respects i mean even Jako (may he rest in peace) was here and bought a hotel that imploys africans meaning that he did something for africa wat has nas done…….pause …..i’ll wait….. yes NOTHING

  • http://www.robboffard.com Rob Boffard

    Nas has two notable associations with Africa, neither of them impressive. A few years ago, he played a private corporate gig in Port Elizabeth – quite what the rest of the country was supposed get remained unsaid.

    Recently, he sold South African MC HHP a verse for the latter’s song Keledimu, for a price of around $10,000. That same verse was reused on Friends from Distant Relatives. Not a good look.

  • http://hotasballs.wordpress.com steezolini

    “wev’e even been to one country, that they call africa” e.p.m.d

    nasir’s ignorance is legendary.good rap singer, unsuccessful person.

  • Karlito

    errr I think I should repeat:

    Nas was in Nigeria in 2008 to perform at the Soundcity Music Video awards (google that)

    He also took time to hang out and bond with people

    y’all do know Nigeria is in Africa right? West Africa to be exact.

  • conspiracy

    all black people, no matter what color (light or dark) have divine biological rights to learn/study/know/research/share/opionionize and enlighten themselves to the planet Earth’s central continent, Africa.

    it may be turned to a shithole cuz of white european thieving murdererers, but by some magical events of karma and plottin and scheming by revolutionary rebels will get BLACK PEOPLE BACK IN CONTROLLING OWNERSHIP/DECISIVE RULING POWER OF OUR OWN HOME CONTINENT AND PLACE OF ORIGIN.

    how many of you USA niggaz scared of the infinite depth and height of African history? same with us Canada niggaz…. it will be 1000 years of peace with Yashua, some real holy african angel, and all the missing aspects and facts of knowable history throughout over time that have been hidden, destroyed and undiscovered WILL COME TO THE FIRE OF LIGHT AND INTO THE MEMORIES AND THOUGHTS OF ALL PEOPLE WANTING TO KNOW THE UNLIMITED UNIVERSAL TRUTH(s) about -nubians-

    dumb niggaz are smarter than smart whites, if you look at gaining knowledge and situational survival. (MOST WHITES JUST GET/GOT THEY SHIT FROM SOMEONE ELSE SCAMMING OTHER EXPLOITED AND OPPRESSED PEOPLE)

    nigga, KILL -any enemy- in the name of freeing your rightful and beautifully glorioius culture

  • caino

    Isnt everyone desendents from Africa?? not just Black people?? just asking!!

    l like Nas (Gods Son is my fave!) but he sometimes spits stupid shit on a rhyme!

  • darren

    I amazed and saddened that a black writer has such a foolish point of view. Nas has been to Nigeria and proformed numerous time in africa during his career. I suppose if nas was constantly rapping about killing his black brothers, selling drugs and how much money he has, then would everything would be ok? More black men should be fascinated by africa, and not the rides at six flags. Thats the problem right there, no cares about their history and their roles in society. If they did, black people would flourish in all aspects of life. Even small minded writers.

  • http://rapdepot.com Rap Depot

    The first comment was interesting….I’d like to know what rapper Bol might be a stan for also lol. If that’s even possible, he doesn’t seem to like anything.

  • DV8

    Six Flags >>>>>>>>Universal Studios >>>>>>>>>>>Disneyland.

    IDK maybe Six Flags and Universal Studios are a tie.

  • LuNaTiks2Cents

    this post comes from a blackguy that prefers whitewomen so no suprise here.

  • wee wee

    You already answered your own question on why Nas writes about Africa when you said you believed since he’s a high school drop out he got all of his knowledge from Nation of Islam members from his hood.

  • RudNare


    & I good Sir coming from the South…Africa that is, am baffled by your ignorance! & to think that I thought U were the sharpest pencil out the box *to-use-your-phrase* U probably one those people who think we have lions & shyte, walking down the streets *tsk-tsk* Get to the nearest consul or embassy & get U’re 1-dimensional world-view adjusted!

  • http://www.black-starr.com HvdL

    this is what they are doing for afrika:

    “Its proceeds will go to a project in Africa, with the possibility of building a school in Congo”

  • http://www.myxss.com Cabrini108

    I’m sorry but this was a horrible article. Not only was it all over the place, straying from place to place with no continuity. Not only do you keep repeating phrases like ‘Nas has always seemed fascinated with Africa,’ YES we know that’s your point now prove it, stupid!
    But also your knowledge on Nas is also very…..very poor. The dude reads more books in a week than you probably do in a month. It’s well known Nas is a compulsive reader, therefore you trying to imply that he doesn’t read or is possibly even illiterate, is just foolish.

    Nas talks about alotta films and books in his raps that a project kid is not expected to know about. Shit where are you from again? Are you really that ignorant?

    The only part i can agree with is Nas’ glamourisation of africa. Many ‘concious’ rappers do it. This point is even discussed in Dyson’s book.

  • http://www.audiblehype.com Justin Boland

    Africa is the cradle of humanity and civilization. Africa is home to an apparently natural nuclear reactor that’s billions of years old. Africa is larger than the United States, India and China, combined. A better question would be, why is anyone with a brain NOT fascinated by Africa?

  • wale

    he has been to nigeria twice an south africa once, so get ur facts right

  • a neega from africa

    All you cats don’t get it f**k how many times the neega been here and there he has done nothing noticably visible to africa to show his love for the motherland…i mean like Rob Boffard said ‘sellin a neega a reused verse is just messed up just coz we from africa don’t mean we want your scrapps”i say if you want to help someone help them from your heart don’t do it half heartadly…

    so coming down here and giving us over priced shows ain’t showin love…i can pay R500 for an R.kelly show not a Nas show…R. kelly makes hits and classics Nas has one hit an album so do the math..

  • Lucy

    Hella negros are pro africa this
    obsessed with africa that
    nas included
    but exactly how much has he actually done to help africa?
    White people are helping africa the most and that’s the truth. No hard feelings
    but black people don’t give back as much as other races,
    HBCUs are a great example
    as someone who’s half african i got to go ahead and partially agree with bol maybe even commend him
    at least he’s straight up about his lack of interest in africa
    most black people dont know shit about africa
    they keep up this kwanzaa mumbo jumbo
    and do all this pro black kente shit,
    but they dont know shit, not trynna know shit, and dont want to know shit
    that’s just the way it is,
    and people never want to hear the truth especially if it’s not pretty
    and @ a neega from africa
    dont ever compare r. kelly and nas again
    they’re not even the same genre okay and nas despite all his ignorance
    is definitely worth the 500 dollars over r. kelly
    no true hip hop fan wants to see an old washed up r&b almost has been
    over nas

  • a neega from africa

    I agree with lucy…and I live here “lucy” so I know what you mean but thats in our blood even neeg** here odn’t give back to thier own comunity…But on the other hand i agree with them that don’t give – neegaz just don’t appreciate and white folk do it for a reason thats coz they all retire to africa and take all the nice spots…i mean a peace of coast goes from being affordable to being only for billionaires WTF…. so as far as you are right you also need to consider that white folk will never help you unless its set to benefit them thats a fact

  • Smel

    I used to always quote the end of Belly: “Then we woke up…Africa FOR REAL”

    No footage of the motherland, no specific country, just AFRICA FOR REAL. lol

    But yeah Bol just put up something to get alot of comments (which worked). I doubt he’s even reading the comments lately, since he took a break from his real site.

    Pretty good strategy. Throw up something ignorant and slightly controversial to ensure that there are enough comments to keep your job secure as you virtually ignore it. I’m impressed.

  • GuNNz98

    Africa is beautiful and yet it is one of the most fucked up places on earth. i would not want to go live out there. oh and, duck sauce>>>>bol

  • Diak


    I’ve been a fan of your blogs because…you’re such a jerk looking for the ultimate reaction, you sound like that coon in Boondocks, the bounty (black outside, white inside) nuh refusing his genetic heritage.
    Man! you can’t front…your ancestors are from Africa, at least recognize that!
    You love whitee gals, good for you but asking why someone is interested in his/her roots…come on dog!

    But I like 90% of your opinions, which means

  • Shabaz

    Nas has bn to Africa YES! He was in Nigeria Twice in 2008 Ist quarter of the year for a performance and to receive an award, and also later Dec2008 to perform at the star mega jam festivals alongside NELLY as international acts.
    I really donot enjoy reading dis guys blog esp on NAS, cos He’s very Biased…He’s a Fool to be exact. Chk out the blog he wrote when Nas and Damian marley first perfomed last year..at rock d bells concert. He totally condemned it, while witnesses at the show confirmed its greatness… u see…Bryan Crawford is a suckers for online traffic

  • Anonymous

    1. Nas been to Africa. His brother was born in The Congo. His dad lived in Nigeria for several years and changed his name when he came back to America.

    2. Black People should be facinated with Africa like WTF??

    3. Africa aint just poor kids, u hella brainwashed. Africa gave birth to the first civilizations, dumb ass

  • Blacka Kinf

    1. Nas been to Africa. His brother was born in The Congo. His dad lived in Nigeria for several years and changed his name when he came back to America.

    2. Black People should be facinated with Africa like WTF??

    3. Africa aint just poor kids, u hella brainwashed. Africa gave birth to the first civilizations, dumb ass

  • Prince Nosa

    U need to study Africa bro, and look beyond what u c,seek knowledge and be informed b4 u speak on an issue

  • Antoine

    This article was way too long. Why you would waste your time antagonizing the brother for making heartfelt music is beyond me. I’m very disappointed in this blog. The music the man makes is motivation and a reflection of millions of Africans in the diaspora hearts. That is concern for the continent of there fore fathers. I can write a book on this crab, hate, white worshiping bull you just spewed but I won’t waste anymore of my time. Peace and love. Study brother. If this concerns you so much search for some answers. Stop hating on African Americans that are trying to show concern.

  • john

    i gotta say your pretty wac, bol, nas ether jay-z, bite it, swallow it, stop getting fruity with your emotions, stop hateing on nas he’s on this life of journey, and dont hate because he’s more in touch then you are, or you wouldent be ignorant, and yes nas has been to africa, and yes he has been to africa, and you sure are not a fan, but even worse you claim to be a hip hop head, you use words like yo, so im guessing your from new york, and you work for a hip hop magazine how is it that you dont know shit about top rapper in the majors, i bet your old ass mama know more about him then you do… go ahead and swallow it…

  • http://getthelag.info/www.xxlmag.com/ www.xxlmag.com

    Why is nas so fascinated with africa.. Dandy :)

  • G89

    no surprise Nas fascinates with Africa as he never was there. wtf is wrong with you Bol? dont fuckin tell me Nas should come to Africa to be passionate about this land. you don’t have to attack an elite with nonsense so that we recognize you from the neighborhood.

  • ghost

    thanks for wasting my time by reading this sh!t, you are the one whose ignorant.