Nas doesn't have much to say about his forthcoming album, I Am, and what he does volunteer isn't altogether coherent. In contrast to garrulous rappers like Busta Rhymes and Method Man, and erudite ones like KRS-One and Chuck D, Nas is rather soft-spoken and completely, but harmlessly, contradictory -- often in the same sentence.
"It hasn't changed much, my views on things," says the twenty-five-year-old Nas (ne Nasir Jones), regarding his focus on this album as opposed to the previous two. "The music goal is always constantly changing. It's just a lot of things been changing. All types of things."
While that confusing thought resonates, there's also the issue of the letter "I," which has begun the title of 1994's Illmatic, 1996's It Was Written and now I Am, due out Feb. 23. "It [the letter "I"] is significant, but it wasn't planned to be," he says by way of explanation. "It's just my two favorite words ["I" and "am"]. It's just to say I wanna make history. That's all it means. I wanna go down in history."
Better just stick to the basics, like what rappers guest on I Am. There's Aaliyah guesting on the possible first single "You Won't See Me Tonight," Scarface sharing the mic with Nas on "Favor For a Favor" and da dogg of '98 DMX paying respects on "Life Is What You Make of It." "That's just my nigga right there," says Nas regarding DMX. "You know what I mean? We had to do it up like that. He came through and blessed me." Reports that Nas' father Olu Dara teamed with his son for a track are unfounded, though they may drop something in the near future. "We're planning on recording some shit," Nas says. "Just not yet."
After I Am is released and undoubtedly debuts at No. 1 on the SoundScan chart -- like It Was Written, which to date has sold 1.8 million copies -- Nas plans to hit the road for an international hip-hop package tour, though specifics are unclear. What is clear is that Nas wants to release another album by the end of the year and has already begun recording it, and has additional producing responsibilities for albums from Braveheart and the Firm contributor Nature, among other projects.
Like most rappers, Nas has his sights on a film career as well, having already appeared in Hype Williams' Belly (released last November) alongside actor/MCs like Method Man, DMX and T-Boz of TLC. Later this year, Nas will make another attempt at the big screen in typically clandestine fashion. "Next one will be in the works this fall," he says. "Maybe something I wrote, something I collaborated on, but it'll be something."
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