Nas and 50 Cent may not seem like they have a lot in common at first glance. One the imaginative street griot of grimy Queensbridge, the other the tough-talking mogul who seems at least as interested in video games and tie-in drinks as rap these days. But these two Queens titans have had a long-running relationship that has turned them from friends and collaborators into enemies who throw disses back and forth.
But no matter how the two artists are getting along personally, their Queens roots will always link them. On his latest album Life Is Good, Nas turns nostalgic, which means looking back at some of the hood figures who strode through the borough like giants during his formative years. 50 in part made his name by talking about those very same figures, in a shockingly open way that may in fact have led to his infamous shooting. His 2000 song “Ghetto Qu’ran” named Queens hustlers’ names with an unprecedented directness.
A look at these two artworks — one an album by a jaded artist who sees his childhood through rose-colored glasses, and one a song by a hungry up-and-comer determined to make a name for himself even at the cost of his personal safety — reveals a lot of surprising commonalities. Below, the five prominent Queens hood figures mentioned by both men: