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Nas Talks 'Life Is Good,' Wanting Eminem and Jay-Z for "Daughters (Remix)"

First, let’s get it out of the way. Nas’ Life Is Good is worth the proverbial hype. The tenth release from the celebrated Queensbridge, New York lyricist is also his best effort in years—a work that is as brutally honest as it is ambitious. Yes, much of the talk surrounding the project revolves around its startling, barebones personal content, a project that finds Nas brilliantly detailing his very public divorce with R&B vixen Kelis, his tax issues and fatherhood. But to Nas’ credit, Life Is Good is more than just bold a dissection of tabloid headlines. It’s hopeful, infectious, defiant, redemptive and at times nostalgic. VIBE caught up with Nas to discuss his bold new work and his legacy within the hip-hop landscape. It’s Nasty Nas, y’all.—Keith Murphy

There’s been a lot of talk about the influence Marvin Gaye’s landmark Here, My Dear had on you during the recording of Life Is Good. How much of an impact did that album have on your creative writing process?
A lot…just Marvin’s overall genius. It’s an album that I really love and a lot of people still have never heard it. Marvin wasn’t afraid to put it all out there. He was very open with [the break up] of his marriage.

From the album cover, which highlights Kelis’ wedding dress, to some of the personal details you reveal about your own divorce, were you initially apprehensive about sharing personal details of your relationship?
It just came naturally. It really bothered me because we are in the Internet age. There was no way to avoid everything that was out there. To me that’s what shaped this album. I couldn’t escape all the stuff about my marriage or questions about [my finances]. So my answer was putting Kelis’ green wedding dress on the album cover. The music and the reality of my life go hand-in-hand. Life is poetry and that’s what this new album is. I haven’t had a record out in a long time. This is the way I got it all off of my chest.

Can you talk about what the creative process was like working with No I.D.?
With No I.D. at first it took us a while to really see what train we were both on. We both seemed to agree on a lot of things, but to work together we had to make sure we were on the same page. His take on the album was for me to just be myself. Forget everything else…just do what’s real. That’s always been the formula with me and Salaam [Remi]. So it was no different with No I.D. We would just spend sessions talking. Those conversations really kept me on point. No I.D. is a brilliant dude.

One of the songs on Life Is Good that showcases your fruitful collaborative relationship with No I.D. is the single “Daughters,” which talks about your at times rocky relationship with your teenage daughter Destiny. Can you describe the first time she heard the song?
She was there when I was recording it. We were in a big studio so Destiny was doing other things, but she walked into the room where I was recording it and heard a few words and said, ‘What’s going on?’ The whole room just started laughing and she kind of smiled and walked backwards out of the room. She didn’t know what it was about and she didn’t want to listen to it, but later on she heard the song.

And what was the verdict?
I think she understands where I was coming from. She can hear me saying that I wasn’t always around and I wasn’t always the best dad, but I care. And there are a lot of fathers like me. To me, ‘Daughters’ lets all those fathers out there know, ‘Hey, don’t end up like me in terms of not being there all the time.’ You should really pay attention to the most precious thing in the world. Destiny and I hang out all the time. She never beefs with me about it.

What did you learn from working with Swizz Beatz this go around?
Working with Swizz was great. We both have been through divorce. Me and Swizz both been through baby mama drama. We both have an undying love for hip-hop. And we are in great places in our life. He’s probably in a better place when it comes to his love life because Swizz is married to the amazing Alicia Keys. But we’re both in a great place in our lives.

There are some very savvy features on this album such as Rick Ross, Anthony Hamilton, and the late Amy Winehouse. Were there any other artists that you wanted to collaborate with that didn’t make it on the album?
One of the only other rappers I thought about was AZ. And I wanted Eminem for a remix for “Daughters,” but he had already expressed that he’s spoken so much about his daughter throughout his career that he had done that subject too much. And me and Jay-Z talked about doing some things, but our schedules were so crazy.

That would have been worthy of pushing back the album, huh?
[Laughs] Well, I know we both are probably going to be upset that he didn’t make it onto the album because I really look forward to working with Jay. But I didn’t want a lot of people on the album since it’s been four years for me. Next album I’ll do more features, but on this one I didn’t want to have a lot of people on the album. I also have Mary J. Blige on vocals. I’m drawn to that soulful sound.

There seems to be a real synergy between you and Rick Ross. Were you surprised how well you complimented each other lyrically?
Not really. People see him as a Biggie…but I see him as an Isaac Hayes or a Barry White when it comes to his actual sound. He has soul. His voice is soulful. And where he raps from is very soulful. That’s how he resonates to me. So that’s why I wanted him on the record.

This is probably the most stripped down Nas album fans have heard in a long time. Did you have any of the Def Jam suits complain that you weren’t being commercial enough with this release?
Let’s be real, this is a business. It’s always about money, but when it came to Life Is Good I told Salaam and No I.D. that I wanted to make music that was age appropriate and real to who I am. And that was still connecting with today’s hip-hop fan. But the truth is, we don’t know that market. We don’t know who that consumer is. So that no longer became the focal point for this album. Now it’s about doing what we love. To make music with No ID and Salaam, who were both poppin’ in the ‘90s and still poppin’ today, they were the perfect producers to work with me. This record took on a feeling of an era that’s been gone for a while.

Having worked with Nicki Minaj, what are your views on some critics who say she is not real hip-hop?
I think the hip-hop purists are purists through and through. They’re here to criticize all of us. That’s just how it is. We as MC’s criticize each other. That’s the nature of hip-hop. But to say that Nicki is not hip-hop is inaccurate. She wouldn’t be here if she wasn’t hip-hop. We saw her come up in the streets and virally with all the YouTube videos. She earned her position. She came up through the ranks. She came from nothing and became the one female that’s holding it down for hip-hop.

Before you released your landmark album Illmatic, you were barely 18-years-old when you made your recording debut on Main Source’s “Live At The Barbecue” in 1991. What goes through your mind when you listen to that verse decades later?
It gives me the chills. I’m thinking to myself, ‘The balls of this young man!’ [laughs] The curiosity in his rhyme and the heart and the voice. I was saying to the world, ‘It’s about to go down…I’m about to do some things.’ From that point on, I would have never known that I would be the guy with probably the longest hip-hop career that has been able to stay strong and have a meaning. I feel like I’ve been able to keep it diverse and creative. I think I’ve had the longest career of strength, focus, and still being able to sell records. I think I’m that guy.
I’m still blessed with the opportunity to make music and pass out a message like life is good to the world.

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YG Takes The "Stop Snitchin" Rule Back To Slavery Days In New Video

YG is trying his hand at more cinematically stimulating music video fare for his newest release. For the past two weekends at Coachella, the Compton, Calif. rapper worked through grief and treated the massive crowd to a brand new single from his forthcoming album, 4REAL 4REAL.

During his Coachella set, "Stop Snitchin" called out loose lips from the likes of Tekashi 6ix9ine and others, but the official video released today (April 24) pivots in a totally different direction: to slavery. In the slightly comical visual, YG plays one of several slaves who plots to escape the plantation in search of freedom. However, an individual reluctant to flee falls behind on the night in question and, as the song title suggests, rats them out.

Don't expect the video to be any sort of conscious offering—it gets a little weird when he's hanging from a tree—but if you need a chuckle-inducing break from a stressful day, let a dancing, old cloth-wearing YG be your relief.

As you wait for the fast-approaching release of his album, now due on May 3, watch the video for "Stop Snitchin" up top.

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Lil Uzi Vert Returns With "That's A Rack" Music Video: Watch

Lil Uzi Vert is back! The rapper just dropped the music video for "That's a Rack" on Wednesday (April 24).

Nudity must be the theme of this video. The visuals open with Uzi weaving through rows of naked violinists and cellists. As it progresses, the camera shifts to naked women bathing and posing in blue paint.

"That's a Rack" arrives shortly after Uzi decided to come out of retirement. It follows "Sanguine Paradise" and "Free Uzi." "Free Uzi" was reportedly removed from streaming services, however, due to "licensing issues and copyright concerns."

Lil Uzi Vert is prepping for his next album, Eternal Atake. It's unclear when the album is slated to drop as Uzi has previously cited scheduling and production issues.

Watch the video for "That's A Rack" above.

 

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A post shared by 16 (@liluzivert) on Apr 23, 2019 at 4:28pm PDT

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Beyoncé performs onstage during 2018 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival Weekend 1 at the Empire Polo Field on April 14, 2018 in Indio, California.
Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Coachella

Homecoming: The 5 Best Moments Of Beyoncé’s Documentary

Once Beyoncé became the first African-American woman to headline in its nearly 20-year history, we knew Coachella would never the same. To mark the superstar’s historic moment, the 2018 music and arts festival was appropriately dubbed #Beychella and fans went into a frenzy on social media as her illustrious performance was live-streamed by thousands. (Remember when fans recreated her choreographed number to O.T. Genasis’ “Everybody Mad”?)

With a legion of dancers, singers and musicians adorned with gorgeous costumes showcasing custom-made crests, the singer’s whirlwind performance honored black Greek letter organizations, Egyptian queen Nefertiti, and paid homage to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Aside from the essence of black musical subgenres like Houston’s chopped and screwed and Washington D.C.’s go-go music, the entertainer performed “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as “The Black National Anthem,” and implemented a dancehall number, sampling the legendary Jamaican DJ and singer, Sister Nancy, to show off the versatility of black culture.

One year after #Beychella’s historic set, the insightful concert film, Homecoming, began streaming on Netflix and unveiled the rigorous months of planning that went into the iconic event. The 2-hour 17-minute documentary highlights Beyoncé’s enviable work ethic and dedication to her craft, proving why this performance will be cemented in popular culture forever. Here are the best moments from Beyoncé’s Homecoming documentary.

The Intentional Blackness

“Instead of me bringing out my flower crown, it was more important that I brought our culture to Coachella.”

Throughout the documentary, Beyoncé made it known that everything and everyone included in the creative process leading up to the annual festival was deliberately chosen. “I personally selected each dancer, every light, the material on the steps, the height of the pyramid, the shape of the pyramid,” says Beyoncé. “Every tiny detail had an intention.” When speaking on black people as a collective the entertainer notes, “The swag is limitless.” Perhaps the most beautiful moments in Homecoming are the shots that focus on the uniqueness of black hair and its versatility. What’s appreciated above all is the singer’s commitment to celebrating the various facets of blackness and detailing why black culture needs to be celebrated on a global scale.

Beyoncé’s Love And Respect For HBCUs

#Beychella — which spanned two consecutive weekends of Coachella’s annual festival — was inspired by elements of HBCU homecomings, so it was no surprise when the singer revealed she always wanted to attend one. “I grew up in Houston, Texas visiting Prairie View. We rehearsed at TSU [Texas Southern University] for many years in Third Ward, and I always dreamed of going to an HBCU. My college was Destiny's Child. My college was traveling around the world and life was my teacher.” Brief vignettes in the film showcased marching bands, drumlines and the majorettes from notable HBCUs that comprise of the black homecoming experience. In the concert flick, one of the dancers affectionately states, “Homecoming for an HBCU is the Super Bowl. It is the Coachella.” However, beyond the outfits that sport a direct resemblance to Greek organizations, Beyoncé communicated an important message that remains a focal point in the film: “There is something incredibly important about the HBCU experience that must be celebrated and protected.”

The Familiar Faces

Despite being joined by hundreds of dancers, musicians and singers on-stage, the entertainer was joined by some familiar faces to share the monumental moment with her. While making a minor appearance in the documentary, her husband and rapper/mogul Jay-Z came out to perform “Deja Vu” with his wife. Next, fans were blessed by the best trio to ever do it as Kelly and Michelle joined the singer with renditions of their hit singles including “Say My Name,” “Soldier,” and more. On top of this star-studded list, Solange Knowles graced the “Beychella” stage and playfully danced with her older sister to the infectious “Get Me Bodied.”

Her Balance Of Being A Mother And A Star

Originally slated to headline the annual festival in 2017, the singer notes that she “got pregnant unexpectedly...and it ended up being twins.” Suffering from preeclampsia, high blood pressure, toxemia and undergoing an emergency C-section, the entertainer candidly details how difficult it was adjusting post-partum and how she had to reconnect with her body after experiencing a traumatizing delivery. “In the beginning, it was so many muscle spasms. Just, internally, my body was not connected. My body was not there.” Rehearsing for a total of 8 months, the singer sacrificed quality time with her children in order to nail the technical elements that came with the preparation for her Coachella set. “I’m limiting myself to no bread, no carbs, no sugar, no dairy, no meat, no fish, no alcohol … and I’m hungry.” Somehow, throughout all of this, she still had to be a mom. “My mind wanted to be with my children,” she says. Perhaps one of the most admirable moments in the film was witnessing Beyoncé’s dedication to her family but also to her craft.

The Wise Words From Black Visionaries

Homecoming opens with a quote from the late, Maya Angelou stating, “If you surrender to the air, you can ride it.” The film includes rich and prophetic quotes from the likes of Alice Walker, Nina Simone, Toni Morrison, and notable Black thinkers, reaffirming Beyoncé’s decision to highlight black culture. The quotes speak to her womanhood and the entertainer’s undeniable strength as a black woman.

Blue Ivy’s Cuteness

Last, but certainly not least, Blue Ivy‘s appearance in the concert film is nothing short of precious. One of the special moments in the documentary zeroes in on the 7-year-old singing to a group of people whilst Beyoncé sweetly feeds the lyrics into her ears. After finishing, Blue says: “I wanna do that again” with Beyoncé replying with “You wanna be like mommy, huh?” Seen throughout Homecoming rehearsing and mirroring Beyoncé’s moves, Blue just might follow in her mother’s footsteps as she gets older.

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