Nas: ‘There Is No Best Or Greatest MC’
Nasir Jones wrestles with the notion of G.O.A.T.
There is no best or greatest MC. Should never happen, doesn’t make sense. It makes sense temporarily when you’re striving to be number one. It makes sense for [the fans] to see that, but you have a long run to be the greatest. To me, people already felt like they were [the greatest] in more ways than they should have and I think that hurt them. There is no greatest of all time. We won’t know that until we’re 60 years old. I think there will be like four to five great ones at the end of the day, but there will be none that’s greater than the other. Impossible.
[Jay-Z] is the one that smacks everybody in the face that’s out there and wanted to say what he wasn’t and what he couldn’t do. The challenge is that people always count you out and even when you have a hit record and put out a hit album, you’re gonna have people dissing you. I think he’s showing you: I won’t be stopped ever. And that’s motivation for everyone else.
I would like to think I [fall in the four or five greatest] ’cause Biggie and Pac did it and they died young. It’s hard to jump up in that category, though. You might look back and say that ODB was the best because he expresses something that you might find [interesting] 20 years later. You mind find something that you never thought at this time was incredible. I never knew how incredible Marvin Gaye was. I argued with my mom who’s better: him or Michael Jackson. I had Mike. Mike’s still the man, but today Marvin is my favorite singer. You could have never told me that when I was young, ’cause I didn’t know shit. It wasn’t fair. And if somebody put me on a panel to judge, that would’ve been a disservice to music. That would’ve been fucked up. Lauryn Hill, she’s one of the greatest, not just females but artists to do it of our generation, and better than most that did it before us, and most people would probably write her off right now. I’m not a part of that crowd. That shit is eternal. It’s just forever.
A lot of people will never get Otis Redding or Sam Cooke. If you ask me who’s the best singer, the guys who are mentioned today are not even in my top 5. No diss to them. So how can we have a greatest? We can sit back with that as long as we want, but we’ll never get the right answer. And that’s the beauty of art. There’s always the one [person] who could break down these artists in a different way.
We’re the children of the greats. We’re great, but I’m talking about great. KRS-One is a monster. That shit doesn’t even make sense. There’s just no way to characterize it. [Public Enemy] was just another level, musically. Flava? C’mon, man. Today’s kids would lucky to be. Them niggas stories was way beyond. Great? We gotta be careful how we throw that word around. —As Told To John Kennedy
Nas and Damian Marley’s Afrocentric collaborative album, Distant Relatives, is in stores now.