It's been 20 years since hip-hop first heard Nasir Jones spit a rhyme. Two decades since a 17-year-old crack dealer from the Queensbridge projects made his recording debut on “Live at the Barbecue,” from Main Source’s classic Breaking Atoms album. He was known as Nasty Nas back then, and he made an immediate splash with jaw-dropping lines like, “Kidnap the president’s wife without a plan” and “When I was 12, I went to hell for snuffin’ Jesus.” Three years later, in 1994, he dropped his first album, Illmatic, at the tender age of 20. Since then, he has blown up into a bona fide hip-hop superstar, critically revered, popularly adored, selling more than 13 million albums in his career. Several other of Nas’s landmark works also celebrate anniversaries this year: It Was Written, its 15th; Stillmatic, its 10th; and the controversial Hip Hop Is Dead, its fifth. His last disc, Untitled, dropped in July 2008, so it’s been more than three years since die-hard Nas heads have gotten their dose.

Now Nas is preparing for the release of his 10th official album, Life Is Good, which is set to hit shelves in time for holiday shopping. Released through Def Jam Recordings, it will feature guest appearances from three members of the rising Los Angeles collective Odd Future.

Odd Future, a.k.a. Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, is the brainchild of 20-year-old rapper/producer Tyler Okanma, a.k.a. Tyler, the Creator. After a year or so of building a buzz by putting free material on the microblogging platform Tumblr, Tyler and Co. exploded into the limelight in February, after a super-high-energy performance, their first ever television appearance, on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. In April, they signed a deal with RED Distribution/Sony, for Odd Future Records, and in September landed a TV show of their own, Loiter Squad, on the cable channel Adult Swim. They also sell their own clothing line through their website.

Tyler, who taught himself to play piano when he was 14, directs all the group’s videos and designs all the album artwork, and he skateboards as much as he can in his free time. His first for-sale solo album, Goblin, came out in May, on XL Recording. It was met with praise in some circles but decried as misogynistic and homophobic in others. While Goblin has sold only 129,000 copies, Tyler’s oversized impact on the pop-culture landscape was confirmed at the MTV Video Music Awards in August, when he won the Best New Artist award for “Yonkers,” a song in which he threatens fellow MTV faves B.o.B and Bruno Mars with murderous violence.

Tyler was four months and 17 days old when “Live at the Barbecue” came out. But he’s been a huge Nas fan since childhood. So XXL thought, What better way to honor a legend with 20 years in the game than by having an upstart newbie interview him for the cover story?

On a warm afternoon, at Siren Studios, in L.A., Nas and Tyler sat in the dressing room, surrounded by racks and stacks of fancy new clothes, while breathing in fumes from Mister Cartoon’s paint cans downstairs, for part one of a three-part interview that ran over an hour and a half.

Tyler, the Creator: God’s Son is my favorite album by you.

Nas: Aw, thanks. Why? ’Cause the word “God”?

Tyler, the Creator: Nah, it’s like, I got… Okay. That came out in 2003, around the XXL issue with you and, like, Jungle and them.

Nas: Yeah.

Tyler, the Creator: The [January/February] issue. And I bought it with that. I don’t know. That shit just... Like, “Heaven” is my shit on there.

Nas: Aw, man, thanks.

Tyler, the Creator: “Zone Out.” Your verse on there was fuckin’ retarded.

Nas: Word? Thanks, man.

Tyler, the Creator: That whole album was just legit.

Nas: Appreciate it.

Tyler, the Creator: And my second is probably Street’s Disciple.

Nas: Get the fuck out of here.

Tyler, the Creator: Yeah.

Nas: Because it’s a Last Supper thing?

Tyler, the Creator: Nah, nah. It’s just, like, the beats on there. “Thief’s Theme” is my favorite fuckin’ song from that album. That shit is fuckin’ retarded. I love the video, too.

Nas: Appreciate it, man.

Tyler, the Creator: I always forget the fuckin’ name… “Nazareth Savage”?

Nas: Yeah.

Tyler, the Creator: You fuckin’—

Nas: Wow, wow.

Tyler, the Creator: You fuckin’ spazzed on that. I don’t hear people talk about it that much, so…

Nas: I was about to say nobody ever mentioned that record to me, and shit.

Tyler, the Creator: That shit is, like, legit as fuck.

Nas: Nobody ever did. Word.

Tyler, the Creator: I love that shit.

Nas: I mean, I can see how you can get that, man. That’s…your shit. I see what you’re doing, you know? Your shit is, like, honest, like, real. You feel like you question, like…religion? You feel like you’re here to say something, too. And who the hell was King James, you know? I mean, how is he different from who we are today, or whatever? So we tell our story today, the way we see it.

Tyler, the Creator: That’s legit. I think that’s why I like Street’s Disciple. Like, you just spitting on there. Like, you just fuckin’ just going in on each fuckin’ track. Even the one with Maxwell and shit. Like, that’s a party record, but you were just going in.

Nas: Yo, that’s crazy, ’cause I think I might have been the first hip-hop dude to get Maxwell on a track, man. We were label mates. And I’ve always been a fan of his shit, too.

Tyler, the Creator: It came out legit, though. It came out, then I bought Stillmatic, like, a week after it dropped. That shit was legit as fuck. It’s weird. I listen to it all the time. And now I’m, like, sitting here. It’s cool, though.

Nas: It’s crazy, dawg. ’Cause I wouldn’t think that someone your age would even have time to check some shit out from—



Tyler, the Creator: That’s all I did when I was younger. Like, seven years old—get birthday money, go to Best Buy. Like, fuck, when I was nine, in 2000, I got, like, 30 bucks in Best Buy, and I went and bought Amel Larrieux’s Infinite Possibilities album and fuckin’ Voodoo, by D’Angelo. And everybody, like, everyone my age was like, “What the fuck you’re doing? Go get Pokémon cards.” I just collected music.

Tyler, the Creator: Wow, wow.

Nas: Do you like cheese?

Tyler, the Creator: I love cheese.

Nas: Cheddar or Swiss?

Tyler, the Creator: Swiss. Cheddar for the most of my life. Today, it’s Swiss.

Nas: Sick. That’s cool. I love fuckin’ cheddar. That’s my shit.

Tyler, the Creator: Why? Why did you ask?

Nas: I don’t know. I just want to know.

Tyler, the Creator: I don’t know. What do you do, like, in your spare time? Do you play Xbox or anything?

Nas: No, I’ve actually spent a lot of time being lonely as fuck, you know? It’s, like…you just do nothing.

Tyler, the Creator: Right. No TV?

Nas: No TV. I love…like, movies.

Tyler, the Creator: Movies. So you watch movies?

Nas: You know, DVDs, Apple TV.

Tyler, the Creator: What’s the last movie you’ve watched that you could remember?

Nas: Midnight in Paris.

Tyler, the Creator: I don’t know what that is.

Nas: Woody Allen. It’s his last film. I like Woody. It’s a good movie. You would like it.

Tyler, the Creator: Have you seen 30 Minutes or Less? It just came out.

Nas: Nah. I don’t know…

Tyler, the Creator: It’s funny as fuck. Are you into comedy?

Nas: Yeah, big—

Tyler, the Creator: Or are you into, like, action or drama?

Nas: All of it, but a big comedy fan. Big comedy fan. Love comedy, dawg. Yeah. Richard Pryor is my hero, you know what I mean?

Tyler, the Creator: He’s cool. I don’t know if it’s an age thing, but I haven’t really watched any Richard Pryor films. I think Dave Chappelle is amazing, but he probably got all his shit from Richard Pryor.

Nas: Yeah, well, Richard was big when I was young, in the movies. But I didn’t get his stand-up. I used to think stand-up was garbage, ’til I got older and I realized this man was in Hollywood, a Black man in Hollywood. A genius. And he was onstage just letting it out. Then I got it later, and I thought he was the bravest person on Earth. Just saying all the shit he’s saying. He’s on cocaine. He’s this. He’s that. He married a White woman. He’s done this. He’s just real. It’s honest. It wasn’t made-up shit to make you laugh. It was just honest shit. I’m like, Damn!

Tyler, the Creator: Yeah.

Nas: Intense shit.

Tyler, the Creator: That’s cool. I’ll try to watch his thing next tour I go on or some shit.

Nas: Yeah, check him out. He’s, like, he don’t give a fuck if you laugh or not. He has to get this shit off his chest. And I see that in Dave Chappelle. Dave Chappelle is, like…he’s incredible.

Tyler, the Creator: Yeah, he fuckin’ rules to me.

Nas: Yeah.

Tyler, the Creator: He’s the shit. What’s your favorite color?

Nas: Shit, that’s a good one, man. I think it might be orange and burgundy, and orange-going-into-burgundy.

Tyler, the Creator: So, like, a gradient into it. I think, if orange meets burgundy, it’s a little purple in the middle.

Nas: Yeah, it adds some purple in there. Just that blend going in like that.

Tyler, the Creator: That’s some shit. I’ve never heard orange or burgundy, or would’ve thought that I would’ve heard orange or burgundy, as someone’s favorite color. That’s fuckin’ awesome. That’s legit. Do you have a favorite album?

Nas: It changes, you know? It was the I Want You album.

Tyler, the Creator: Is that by Marvin Gaye?

Nas: 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.



Tyler, the Creator: Oh, is that the one where he’s on the cover? He is like this? [Tyler crouches down, posing like Slick Rick on the cover of the album.]

Nas: Yeah.

Tyler, the Creator: And then there’s, like, a city behind him?

Nas: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Tyler, the Creator: 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.

Nas: Really? Sade’s Lovers Rock album—that is one of my favorites.

Tyler, the Creator: Oh, yeah. That came out in 2000. That shit’s legit.

Nas: In the new record, I like “Babyfather.”

Tyler, the Creator: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Sade is awesome. She’s so cool. Have you met her?

Nas: I wish.

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

Nas: That’s the best.

Tyler, the Creator: 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.

Nas: This is crazy. This is crazy, man. That’s cool.

Tyler, the Creator: That shit’s so tight. Do you ever go go-karting or, like, to amusement parks or anything?

Nas: Nah, nah, nah.

Tyler, the Creator: 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.

Nas: Dude, maybe I should hang with you more.

Tyler, the Creator: 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.

Nas: 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.

Tyler, the Creator: 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?”

Nas: But I think it’s fucked up you went egging and hit somebody in the back of the head.

Tyler, the Creator: 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.

Nas: I know that just traumatized her for the rest of the year.

Tyler, the Creator: 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?

Nas: Yeah, yeah, I did.

Tyler, the Creator: Did you like it?

Nas: Yeah, when it first 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.

Tyler, the Creator: Your daughter’s name is Destiny, right?

Nas: Yeah.

Tyler, the Creator: How old is she now?

Nas: 17.

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

Nas: Yeah.

Tyler, the Creator: I love that beat. That song’s legit.

Nas: 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.

Tyler, the Creator: It’s kind of weird, huh?

Nas: 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!”

Tyler, the Creator: She’d be like, “What the fuck you talking about, nigga? I’m about to go to the mall.”

Nas: Exactly, exactly, dude. That shit is amazing.