VIBE: You faced some criticism for mixing up Napoleon with Alexander The Great in “I Can” [“Egypt was the place that Alexander the Great went“]. With Distant Relatives being so heavily packed with historical references, do you ever go back and factually double-check your rhymes?
Nas: You can sit back and say, “Let me perfect this” and “Let me perfect that,” but I was never that kind of artist. I’ve made albums where I slurred words, I’ve done crazy shit. People feel that. When [Rev] Run says “It’s three of us but we’re not the Beatles,” he thought the Beatles had three people. It didn’t matter. “I’m the king of rock,” not the Beatles, is what matters.
As far as the line in “I Can,” Alexander the Great and all those guys all affected each other. You can’t read about Napoleon without hearing about Alexander The Great, and vice versa. You might read one book about it, but that’s that author’s account of what happened. Someone else might say a whole different story, but if I speak on what happened in one man’s book, then that’s what it is.
Distant Relatives might be the most no-mistake album I’ve ever been on. It’s important because Damian knows Jamaica well; I know Queens well. We’re talking about the Dark Continent, the most mysterious continent in the world. Not only that, but there’s a lot of African music throughout. So we want it as accurate as we can be when we’re talking about the birthplace of civilization. —As told to John Kennedy