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Nas: My Life in 20 Songs

From before 'Illmatic' to 'Life Is Good,' the storied Queens rapper looks back on two decades of music

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"Live at the Barbeque"

Main Source's Breaking Atoms (1991)

I specifically meant for that verse to spark my whole existence in rap music, so I approached it that way and I felt like, "This is it. You only get one chance to make a first impression, so I went for it." I had the feeling in my head, so I wrote it right there on the spot. I think it was in [Queens recording studio] Power Play. It was pretty quick. 

I still got rejected by a lot of record labels after that. But they should have [rejected me]. This was toward the end of probably the best rap music has ever been, so you couldn’t just walk and get on like that. For me, [getting signed then] may have been a year too early, but if it worked out right, it would have been really great for them as well. It was a very serious business and a very serious thing back then. But my three dream labels at the time were Cold Chillin', Def Jam and Columbia.

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