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Escobar, a line of premium Nicaraguan cigars inspired by traditional Cuban recipes and techniques, first launched in 2018, and Nas was brought on this past August to help re-brand the company and refresh its offerings. A longtime cigar aficionado, the rapper says he was already intrigued by the product lineup, but when he heard about the company’s name — it was a no-brainer to get involved.
“When the team at Escobar Cigars initially approached me, I was immediately drawn to the brand by the exceptional quality of their product, from the craftsmanship to the enjoyable smoking experience,” Nas tells Rolling Stone. “Of course, the name instantly stood out to me as well, since ‘Escobar’ is an alias I’ve been going by throughout my career.” (Nas first unveiled the moniker, inspired by his fascination with Pablo Escobar, on Mobb Deep’s 1995 album, The Infamous).
“It was full circle to hear that the name [of the cigar brand] was inspired partially by my persona and entrepreneurial spirit,”he says, “so it was a natural fit.”
Escobar’s collection features two types of cigars: a hand-crafted “natural” cigar that is medium-to-strong bodied, with notes of vanilla and white pepper, dried fruit, caramel and herbs; and a medium-bodied “Maudro” cigar with full, rounded flavors of chocolate, black pepper, dry coffee and firewood.
All the cigars are made from what Escobar describes as a blend of “three vintage sun-grown and aged Habano tobaccos grown specifically in the rich volcanic soil of Nicaragua.” While Cuban cigars are more popular with casual smokers for their smooth taste and finish, many cigar connoisseurs favor the complexity of a Nicaraguan cigar. Escobar says its cigars — which are all legally available to purchase online — offer a smooth draw with a more dense and lingering finish.
For Nas, who became a brand ambassador for Hennessy after famously name-dropping the spirits brand on his debut album, Illmatic, working with Escobar was a chance to delve into one of his other favorite vices. “I’ve always had a love for cigars, especially early on in my career,” he says. “I truly developed an affinity for cigars as an artist since I was surrounded by people who were smoking them, whether it was relaxing or celebrating, so from there my interest continued to grow and the rest is history.”
Nas says he immediately got to work after being appointed as the new co-owner of Escobar in August. The rapper helped to redesign everything from the logo and wrapping, to the all-black packaging, which the brand says helps to “modernize” the old school cigar world.
“I was very involved in the entire rebrand of Escobar Cigars, from the re-creation of the logo to the luxurious yet edgy all-black cigar boxes,” Nas says. “I wanted the brand to have my personal touch and truly resonate with what I represent.”
The cigars have been a hit since they launched, getting shoutouts from everyone from Snoop Dogg to DJ Khaled, while driving sales online.
Up next for the brand: growing their line of cigar accessories, which currently includes cigar cutters, storage boxes and humidors. Nas also teases the release of “handmade premium blunt wraps,” saying it’s just one of “many projects in the pipeline.”
The rapper has always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and Nas says being a part of Escobar has challenged him to approach his business dealings like he approaches music: constantly innovating and finding new ways to channel his creativity.
“Growing up in New York, I always had this natural drive to be something in the business world and have grown myself and my brand from there,” he says. “As someone who is entrepreneurially-minded and takes a personal interest in consuming every industry I do a business deal or partnership with, it is important that there’s a clear passion with every project I take on.”
“Of course,” he’s quick to add, “I want to make sure that it also aligns with my longtime music career, and as I’ve been rapping about cigars throughout my time as an artist, I saw a real opportunity with Escobar Cigars. The rest,” Nas says, “is history.”