Words by Nas 

Photography by Matthew Salacuse

I represent the art side of hip hop — because, even in its most primitive stages, hip hop as a whole is an ever-evolving masterpiece. A spectacle we can create for all to behold. A form we should honor and respect.

A young person recently said to me, “you know, there’s rap, and then there’s real rap.” So I don’t worry about the kids today; they know the shyt that’s wrong and the shyt that’s right. You can’t really pull kids to the side and say “that’s not real rap” because to them it’s real; they’re rapping in a style they like to rap in. They’re all developing their craft. I wouldn’t want to be the guy who comes out and tells them that what they’re all into is not real.

These days, I’m into cats like Action Bronson, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Tyler, The Creator, Meek Mill. These cats all have something to say. Fresh energy is everything — new inspiration can fuel the birth of a dynasty.

As a youth coming up in Queensbridge, I felt this sense of desperation. We were growing up so fast; I would lose friends to the streets constantly. I wanted to have a baby when I was a child — many of us did — because we felt like there was no tomorrow, that there would be no legacy for people to reflect on the day after tomorrow. That’s what happened to so many of my friends. I lost my man NiƱo. Drawz. And lots of good dudes who will be remembered by a chosen few, forever.

There was that saying going around: “Black kids don’t live past the age of 25.” If you think about Biggie and Pac, they were taken away from us when they were so young. It felt like there was a curse on my generation. Then again, that violence still holds true today. Look at what’s happening on the streets of Chicago — and in the Congo.

Read the rest HERE.