Nas, “Hey Young World” (Originally Published November 2011)

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Is that by Marvin Gaye?
Marvin Gaye. And, at one point, it was Shaved Fish, by John Lennon. And another time it was one of EPMD’s albums. Like, Unfinished Business. You know? Or The Great Adventures of Slick Rick.

Oh, is that the one where he’s on the cover? He is like this? [Tyler jumps off his chair and crouches down, posing like Slick Rick on the cover of the album.]
Yeah.

And then there’s, like, a city behind him?
Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Yeah, I know, I know that one. I know that one. My favorite album is In Search Of…, by N.E.R.D. I think that’s the greatest shit ever. And then, probably, like, The Marshall Mathers LP. And then, I don’t know, maybe Love Deluxe, by Sade. Oh! And Hell Hath No Fury, by Clipse.
Really? Sade’s Lovers Rock album—that is one of my favorites.

Oh, yeah. That came out in 2000. That shit’s legit.
In the new record, I like “Babyfather.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Sade is awesome. She’s so cool. Have you met her?
I wish.

I do, too. She’s super low-key. That’s cool, though.
That’s the best.

Being low-key is awesome… Your verse with fuckin’ Joe and Mariah Carey, the “Make It Last Forever (Remix),” from 2000, that’s one of my fuckin’ favorites. And Pleasure U Like—the verse with Jon B, from “Finer Things.” I was a big Jon B fan when I was younger.
This is crazy. This is crazy, man. That’s cool.

That shit’s so tight. Do you ever go go-karting or, like, to amusement parks or anything?
Nah, nah, nah.

Go go-karting. It’s fun as fuck. I went last week. Sore as shit the next day. ’Cause then, if you go with your friends and shit, it’s like a competition on the low. Then y’all just be bumping into each other, like, “No, fuck that! I want to win!” It’s amazing.
Dude, maybe I should hang with you more.

You should hang out with me for a day. We went egging the other night, and I hit this lady in the back of the head. And she, like… It’s kind of fucked up, but it was funny.
That’s incredible. The fact that you do… We was in junior high school, back around the way. And, you know, that was a big thing in Halloween. Everybody was egging up everything. That’s crazy. I’m glad that stopped, ’cause everybody would get hit with eggs. Everybody.

They don’t really do that as much. ’Cause out here in L.A., for sure, even with people my age, except for my group of friends, they just try to act older than they actually are. And, like, “I’m too good to be doing that.” And “I’m mature.” I’m like, “Nigga, you are 18. What are you doing?”
But I think it’s fucked up you went egging and hit somebody in the back of the head.

It wasn’t even on purpose, though. I just threw it, and she fuckin’… Like, it just, it hit, and you just see it, like… That shit was hilarious, though.
I know that just traumatized her for the rest of the year.

Oh, man. I got egged once, though. Like, I got hit in the chest, and I guess it was karma. I don’t know. It sucked. But later on, you’re like, Damn, that was actually funny. It’s like getting shitted on by a bird. It sucks at the moment, but a week later, you’re like, That’s funny as shit. Have you ever played Grand Theft Auto?
Yeah, yeah, I did.

Did you like it?
Yeah, when it f rst came out. I don’t play video games, though. I’m not into ’em. But the ones that got the crazy graphics and shit, I got to try it. When Grand Theft Auto first came out, I was on that, though.

Your daughter’s name is Destiny, right?
Yeah.

How old is she now?
17.

That’s sick. I remember the song you dedicated to her off Street’s Disciple, the second disc.
Yeah.

I love that beat. That song’s legit.
Aw, thanks, man. It’s crazy, because when she was young, she was a baby, I thought, Aw, man, I’m gonna quit this rap shit before she becomes old enough to even know what I’m doing, what I did for a living. I never thought that I’d be still doing it while she’s a teen, growing up. And I’m still in the game. It kind of fucks me up.

It’s kind of weird, huh?
It’s weird as fuck sometimes. But then, other times, it’s, like, perfect. It’s, like, I’m glad it worked out this way. ’Cause then I would have to be telling her, “No, I really was a somebody in rap. Like, you got to believe me!”

She’d be like, “What the fuck you talking about, nigga? I’m about to go to the mall.”
Exactly, exactly, dude. That shit is amazing.

Did you ever think, like… Okay, you dropped Illmatic. How old were you? Like, 18?
When I started it, I was 18. I dropped it when I was 20.

So you was my age when Illmatic came out?
Yeah. The frst thing I did was “Live at the Barbecue.” That was ’91.

So, right, when you was coming out, I wasn’t even born yet, basically? I was born in 1991, so I was probably just popping out. Did you think, 20 years later, you would still be, like, here? Like, you’re having a fuckin’ interview, about to do another magazine shoot. Like, did you think, 20 years from now, back then, that there was even a chance that you could still be doing that?
At that point, I only cared about making the biggest impact in rap. But I didn’t care about 20 years from… No, I got to say no. I didn’t. I didn’t really think that much on it. ’Cause at that time, dudes were peaking at, like, their fourth album, and that was it. Like, a lot of guys before us, they would, after their third or fourth album, that was it.

They was done.
You know what I mean? So I didn’t think I would be up to right here.

That’s ’cause you, Em, Jay, Snoop, like, you guys all started when you was exactly my age. So we could relate right then and there. But it’s just weird that you guys—’cause I even asked Snoop, and he was like, “I didn’t even think that I could go this far with that.” And the fact that you guys are still here makes me just always think, like, Fuck, could I?
Oh, you definitely can. People—someone like you is, you’re interested, for a lot of reasons. So someone like you, you can’t wait to see what’s next. You can’t wait to see how you’re going to deal with what you’ve been experiencing now that you’re in the rap game or in the music game. It’s going to be great and exciting for you as you go along.

This shit’s crazy. I have, like, a goal list in my head, and it gets checked off, like, all the time. And it’s just the weirdest shit. This game is crazy. It’ll drive you crazy, too. Like, I didn’t expect a lot of stuff . And it’s a lot to deal with, ’cause, like, people don’t know, but I’m running a business. Clothes, basically. Like, we got our own label. I didn’t just sign a regular little deal. I own that. Touring. I have a show with Cartoon Network that I’m writing and I’m starring in. Not only that, like, I have to put the whole team on my back. It’s a lot of us. And not just the music section. Like, I try to look out for everyone in my crew—even the photographers, niggas that skate. And I got my family. So it’s a lot to deal with. How did you deal with just, out of nowhere, people like, “Oh, shit, Nas! Oh, Nas! Nas!” Labels coming at you, and you just out of nowhere had fame. Like, how did you deal with that?
Well, for me, it was really easy in the very beginning, because only thing I was concerned about was not going to jail. ’Cause I was still not removed from the block. So when I first got a check, it was my check, but everybody around me was still in the grind. So we had plans to make moves with that check, you know? Street moves with that. And, you know, you had that thing, but, you know, you really can’t straddle the fence. You can’t have one foot in the street and then one foot in the light, where you can change your life for the positive. You can’t do it. It won’t work.

Yeah, that shit’s hard.
It won’t work, and it’s stupid to even attempt to stay in the street and then still think you’re supposed to get something out of this legit world. You know what I mean? If you’re going to get legit, go all the way. So it was simple for me, because I kept it normal. I kept it cool. I stayed around the way until I got too busy to be there.