Nas on…R. Kelly

When performing "I Can” in concert, you used to ad-lib the lyric, "Some men be rapists like R. Kelly.” Why?
Rob's incredible. I named him The R&B Thug. He's serious about his work. He's a true showman. I think I was just pissed off with the whole situation later on. I just didn't know what the hell was going on with that case. I was pissed off about it. He also caught some of the shit for running with Jay at the time. At the time, it was on. He did The Best of Both Worlds with Jay. I was just throwing jabs at anybody around the dude. Jay had threw some jabs at me on the single, "I spit Ether,” something like that. So it was just like, "Alright, let me call Aaron Hall and get back at these dudes or say what I got to say.” [Laughs]

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Nas on…Lauryn Hill

Lauryn Hill sung the hook on one of your biggest hits, "If I Ruled the World.” When was the last time you spoke to her?
I think I've spoken to her once or twice in the last five years. Lauryn is really intelligent and you have to be careful with being an intellectual and being spiritually attuned in this business. This business is a beast, it's a monster—it chews you up. It doesn't want John Lennon. When you're righteous, people want to strike you down. The forces that are against the righteous smell you coming so when you're playing that game, you have to be careful.

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Nas on…the election

What are your thoughts on the primaries? Are you a Hillary guy? An Obama guy? I know you're not a Republican.
[Laughs] I'm torn man. I know what politics can do. I know about us being politically aware what it could do in the black community if we cared more about it we could force politicians to make changes and we can become more political ourselves. I do want the black community to become more politically aware, now more than ever. But I'm torn. At the same time, I don't believe in it. I can't wait for politics to help out the people I grew up around. Maybe we can meet in the middle. Maybe we can learn how to be more involved but at the same time we have to take care of ourselves.

So, you think that no matter who is elected, they won't help the people that need help the most.
I don't see how. I think their intentions are great. I think they want to. I don't see how. I got a list of things that I need to share with any one of the candidates on things that are obvious. There's a lot that needs to be done.

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Nas on…his new album and that word

Due to the album title, you would think that there's going to be a certain theme running through every song and the album itself. Is that the case?
Nah, it's just a go-with-the-flow kind of thing. We all have our feelings on it, you know, and to cram it all into one album would take—I don't know. You know, I just want it to feel like sort of like how I feel when I use the word in conversation. I want the album to flow that smooth. Like, just the way we use it in conversation, without the negative connotation in it. Just the flow. And some songs will tell you one thing, other songs will give you a different feeling. And overall, you get where I'm coming with it. Because today, nigger could mean to me, you know, "I'm nitro; I'm nuclear; I'm on fire and will destroy anything in my path trying to stop me. I'm that nigga.” That's kind of what I feel like. Forget about all the negative that comes with that disgusting word, and the history, its disgusting history. Now, what I'm saying is beyond that. It's what we say everyday in the street. Or actually, what we say—me and my colleagues, how we parade around, how we say and what we feel on Happy New Year, you know, the greatest time of our life. And that's why I'm expressing myself having the greatest time of my life. Amidst a bunch of racist shit going on in the world, I'm still—I'm turning that around to continue on having the greatest time of my life. You know what I mean? It's a celebration for me to be doing this record, you know, representing rap music and hip-hop music, speaking for us rap dudes. It's a blessing for me to be here and even want to take on this title and shit. For me, I just feel great as a man, like, this will be something that I'll always be proud of myself for down the line.

It's interesting that you're talking about the album, but not saying the "word.” Do you say it a lot?
I mean, it's your choice. It's not a conscious thing for me to use the word. I don't think I use it the way—maybe I don't use it the way I used to use it. You know? I'm around different shit a lot, you know. And I'm growing and learning, so I don't use it that much. But I do use it enough. Enough that that's what type of record this is.

Do you notice younger people using it more? Does your daughter say it?
I don't think she's ever said it around me.

Did you know that by naming the album that, it would start controversy?
Of course there's going to be a reaction. I didn't know how they would react…I want people talking about the album once it comes out. You know the people that's into my music listen to it, dissect it, microscope it. Um, you know, kids today are not dumb. They know bullshit. That's sort of what Hip-Hop Is Dead was about. They know bullshit. And you can't just no longer have the radio reps go force-feed it to radio people. "Play this, play this, play this” to shit. Because, nah, the people are going to decide what they like and they're going to decide now. They've got information. They've got the hardware to go and look and research, you know what I mean? So the kids know what they want and this is the perfect platform—I mean, this is the perfect time for me and my music. Because they know, even when I create a hype, the hype is organic. The hype is about people in real shit. It ain't even nothing bullshit about it. This is who Nas always was. Always was. I been living to make this album. This album may sound like just a regular Nas album to most fans that know me, that know my work. Probably this would just sound like another Nas album. Even though I'm trying to make it something else, but it's already—this subject matter's always been me.