Nas may be performing his debut album Illmatic at the Rock the Bells festival each weekend, but it's his forthcoming video for "Nasty" – the first single off Life Is Good, his tentatively titled 10th LP that'll hit shelves later this year – that really brings the MC full circle: The hip-hop veteran took a film crew to his old stomping grounds to capture his roots.
"The whole video's a linear progression back from opulence," Jason Goldwatch, who directed "Nasty," tells Rolling Stone. "We didn't cast. We just set up and people started approaching us through Snack, Nas's friend who is sort of the cultural mayor, so the people in the video are actually from that street. Between takes, Nas leaned over to me and said, 'I didn't really fucking understand how important us doing this here was.' "
In the "Nasty" clip, the artist tools around in style, stepping out of an expensive car alongside actress Antonique Smith, who played Faith Evans in the 2009 Biggie Smalls biopic Notorious. As the video rolls on, the rapper eventually returns to his old apartment in New York's Queensbridge housing project, sporting a tank top while readying a new verse in a humble homemade studio.
Goldwatch says he's submitted what he hopes will be the final "Nasty" cut, but Nas is taking his time with it.
"We're editing right now, I want to make sure it's representing in the right way," says Nas.
While he's open about the video, the MC is tight-lipped about contributors to Life Is Good – though he did share that he's spent time recording with Salaam Remi, who produced "Nasty," and Jay Electronica, who crafted "Queens Get The Money" from his Untitled LP. He's also looking for a track Texas rapper Scarface gave him a few years back. Fellow Illmatic rapper AZ may be featured on the album as well – which would undoubtedly thrill fans hungry for the pair's collaborative sound introduced on "Life's A Bitch."
"There's a certain sound in hip-hop that I love so some of the album may give you a Nineties feel," Nas says.
He adds that the Lost Tapes II album, whose release ground to a halt late last year as the battle between Def Jam and Nas became public, may see the light of day.
"It's still up in the air if I'm going to put out Lost Tapes II as an extra album," he says. "Hopefully we can find a timeline but the first thing is Life Is Good."