Most of the world first heard Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones when he was featured on a record with Main Source called “Live at the Barbecue”, his first album Illmatic was released in 1994 and has since been revered as one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time. For over 20 years Nas, as he is better known, has remained a staple on every “Best Rapper Alive”, “Top 5 MC’s” “Greatest Lyricist” and any other list you can think of. His life and career is admirable and motivating and seems to still be unfolding as the 42 year old emcee closes out another major year.
Like millions of others around the globe, I was taught many life lessons listening to his music and feel that he is the most relatable artist I have ever heard. Period. It came as a surprise to me to hear whispers in local barbershops about how Nas has “fallen off”, “doesn’t do anything anymore” or is “no where to be found”. Once I finished laughing my ass off, I decided to pull together a list of things Mr. Escobar has been up to in the past 365 days. I chose not to include the many festivals, event hostings, private events, corporate gatherings and product releases that he was apart of simply because this article was long enough. However I am sure I missed a few accomplishments so if you are familiar with any leave it in the comments below and we will update it as needed. Turn up your favorite Nas album and enjoy the ride. Salute to the ILLest ever.
And The Award Goes To… – Grammy’s, BET Awards, MTV Awards, EMMY Awards – sure he has won or been nominated for all of those (multiple times) but this year he was awarded the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal from Harvard. Joining a long list of individuals from Muhammad Ali, Oprah Winfrey, Shonda Rhimes, Maya Angelou and many others. The award is presented to individuals across the globe in recognition of their contributions to African-American culture and the life of the mind. This is an amazing accomplishment and we must recognize what this means for our culture and shine more light on things like this more often. Congratulations good sir!
Welcome to the Universe – This year the good folks at Marvel decided to reimagine some of the more classic hip-hop albums in true Marvel fashion. The Illmatic cover that everybody is familiar with was transformed into a Spider Man album cover. Confused? No that is not Peter Parker it is his African-American replacement Miles Morales who was first introduced in 2011. I would imagine this image is blown up and hung somewhere in the rappers home.
Image: Marvel Comics
Salute the Idol – Another major accomplishment for Nas this year would have to be performing with his idol – Slick Rick for the iconic rappers 50th birthday.
Let’s make HSTRY – Nas and his HSTRY clothing label collaborated with legendary photographer Jamel Shabazz to create an exclusive three piece t-shirt collection that was sold in limited quantities. Being a huge fan of Shabazz this must have been a great project for Nas to be a part of.
It’s 2015 and somehow simple minded individuals assume that because a rapper doesn’t have a new radio hit at that exact moment then they must be broke or out of the game. Obviously this is far from the truth and Nas is a prime example. He is far from a newcomer when it comes to investing and getting to new money and 2015 has been no different. Let’s take a look at some business ventures he has been apart this year.
Obey Your Verse – Sprite returned with their Obey Your Thirst campaign and switched things up by turning their signature cans into billboards featuring some of the most influential bars from hip-hop music. Which by default means Nas should and was included in this collection along with Rakim, Drake and Biggie.
Movin’ Birds – We were super excited once we learned that Nas was partnering with our good friends over at Sweet Chick, a chicken and waffles (and much more) spot in New York. With already two locations, one in Brooklyn and one in the Lower East Side we can only expect to see many more locations popping up soon. Shout out to the homie John Seymour for creating a dope and respected brand. Great food, a cool vibe, and interesting cocktails at a great price! #SweetChickLife
Lip Service – Although we are not sure of his exact involvement in the brand we are sure he is helping his daughter; Destiny Jones as she launches her new company LIPmatic. Destiny is producing some impressive New York inspired lip gloss that seems to be doing very well thus far.
Fashion Sense – Nas opened the doors to his sneaker and fashion boutique in 2014 and relaunched his clothing line HSTRY at the end of the same year. After building the foundation, he spent this past year launching new collections, hosting events and growing social awareness (and sales) for both brands.
The Only One – Linking with private watch dealer Steven Brown, Nas launched an online high-end timepiece boutique – Ownly One. The website gives consumers the opportunity to purchase the finest watches in the world.
From The Bridge – This is where things get very interesting. For those of you that do not know, Mr. Jones is a Founder of Queensbridge Venture Partners – through which he and his team invest in various tech, lifestyle and entertainment companies. Quick research shows that he has invested in roughly 70 companies since founding the group. 2015 saw aggressive investments in companies and brands including –
LANDR – Cloud based production platform
Lyft – Peer-to-peer private transportation app
BitFury – Designs and develops chips for blockchain transactions
Whistle – Dog fitness tracking / monitoring wearables
Parachute – Interior design website
Pluto TV – Video content streaming service
SeatGeek – Mobile-centric ticketing service
and many other companies.
Other notable investments (prior to 2015)
Dropbox, Casper, DeviantArt, Mass Appeal Magazine, Stance and Walker & Co Brands
For more information visit – www.qbvp.com
Everybody Assemble – Through his Queensbridge Venture Partners investing firm Nas, along with Google, Microsoft and Hirepurpose, will fund scholarships for groups that are lacking access to the tech field. QVP will specifically fund scholarships for African-Americans and Hispanics. Individuals will be able to attend General Assembly—a coding school with locations in New York City, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, London and Washington, D.C. with these scholarships.
TV, Movies And More
Nas is no stranger to the big screen after starring as Sincere in the 1998 film Belly, as well as a handful of cameos and roles in other films. In 2015 we have seen him become more involved in both the big and small screen as he tackles different roles from actor, voice over, executive producer and soundtrack producer. Hopefully we will see more visual productions from Nas in the coming years.
Time is… – Ending 2014 with a bang he released Nas: Time Is Illmatic a full length film documentary on the creation of his first album and how he became a respected figure within our culture. The film was moving, inspirational and provided a look into Nasir Jones the man and the artist. 2015 has seen the documentary syndicated on various platforms and online services.
Deeply Rooted – Also airing at the end of last year was an emotional episode of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.. In this episode Nas learned about his ancestral beginnings and even sees photos (and a receipt) of the man who purchased his 3rd Great-Grandmother. The episode has been replayed various times in 2015.
With The Boys – One of the first offerings we received in 2015 that involved Nas was a video from film editor Neal Usatin’s website of “Too Many Rappers”. The song is from the Beastie Boys off their 2011 Hot Sauce Committee Part Two album. The video had never been seen and randomly released. This was a cool glimpse back into time.
FOTB – If you watched restauranteur / cultural icon Eddie Huang’s Fresh Off The Boat television show then you must have seen it’s main character rocking a classic Illmatic t-shirt in the pilot episode. This was indeed a hat tilt to Nas and the clip is even used in the opening credits so it is actually visible in every episode.
Advantage, Nas – Ok, so I don’t have much time for television so I did miss this when it aired. ESPN tapped the Queensbridge rapper to be the voice for a new commercial about the U.S. Open and tennis. It came out amazing check it out below.
Real Hip-Hop – Collaborating with The Guardian, Nas produced a short documentary that explores hip-hop culture worldwide. The film visits many countries and captures how the culture has permeated to the global audience.
Fresh – Finding time in his busy schedule he was able to not only star in but also produce a documentary with director Sacha Jenkins titled Fresh Dressed. The film is amazing and features many notable figures from Kanye West, Pharrell Williams, Diddy, Dame Dash and more.
Changed Lives – Nas made an appearance in Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives a documentary that explored the impact of a one of the greatest Hip-Hop radio shows ever.
When The Dust Settles – Shake The Dust is a feature documentary, which Nas was executive producer, that tells the story of break dancers around the world in third-world countries that are intrinsically linked by dance and the Hip-Hop culture.
The Land – Returning to Hollywood, Nas is set to be Executive Produce of Erykah Badu’s indie drama The Land. The film will also include Machine Gun Kelly, Michael K. Williams and Moises Arias. It is set to release in January. He will also produce the films soundtrack.
On The Track – His music has also appeared in three motion pictures and a television series – Creed (“Bridging The Gap”), Run All Night (“Nasty”), Dope (“The World Is Yours”) and Wild Life Festival (“N.Y. State of Mind”)
2016 – According to IMDB, Nas will appear as himself in two documentaries set for release in 2016. Jinx! Buy Me a Coke & From the Woods: The Discovery of LYB. Little is known about either film but we will keep you updated if things change.
We are still waiting for the next Nas album to drop but 2015 found “God’s son” dropping a guest verse on multiple records. Although he didn’t release many he surely found the right projects to jump on. From East to West, South to North, trap to pop Nas proves his flow belongs everywhere!
Justin Bieber – “We Are” ft. Nas (produced by Andre “Dre” Harris & Donovan “DK The Punisher” Knight)
This track appeared on the deluxe version of the Biebs’ Purpose album which has since gone platinum selling over 700,000 copies.
Madonna – “Veni Vidi Vici” ft. Nas (produced by Madonna & Diplo)
This track came as a huge surprise and was featured on the deluxe version of Madonna’s 13th studio album Rebel Heart.
Rick Ross – “One Of Us” ft. Nas (produced by Calvin “Calvo da Gr8” Kenon, Jr.)
Probably my favorite record on this list “One Of Us” was featured on Black Market, the eighth studio album from Ross.
Pimp C – “Friends” ft. Nas and Juicy J (produced by Juicy J)
This recently released record can be found on Pimp C’s posthumous release Long Live The Pimp on Mass Appeal Records (which is also owned by Nas but we will get to that later)
Usher – “Chains” ft. Nas and Bibi Bourelly
I’m not sure where this record will go but we could expect to hear it on Usher’s next album. The politically charged track is fueled by an emotional visual experience viewable on Tidal http://chains.tidal.com/.
Jeezy – “God (Remix)” ft. Nas (produced by TM88 and Southside)
Church In The Streets was the most recent offering from Pastor Young and “God” was by far one of the stand out joints and with the Nas assist it makes it that much better.
The Game – “Ghetto” ft. will.i.am and Nas (produced by will.i.am)
The Game released the much anticipated The Documentary II album and disc one featured a collaboration with both Nas and will.i.am called “Ghetto”.
De La Soul – “God It” ft. Nas (produced by G_Force)
The dope boom-bap record features some Nasir vocals but can not be found the new De La album.
Fashawn – “Something To Believe In” ft. Nas and Aloe Blacc (produced by Dj Khalil)
Nas hops on the third track from Fashawn’s latest release The Ecology. Produced by Dj Khalil the track has a real smooth feeling and the assist from Aloe Blacc adds to the emotion.
Dave East – “Forbes List” ft. Nas (produced by Tunesquad)
Dave East has quickly become one of our favorite artists of 2015 and Nas lends a hand to his Mass Appeal Records signee on his Dj Drama hosted Hate Me Now tape.
Scarface – “Do What I Do” ft. Nas, Rick Ross and Z-Ro
It’s been awhile since we heard some new Face and this joint is hard. Insert Ross, Nas and Z-Ro and its a solid piece from his latest album Deeply Rooted.
Clearly, Nas has had an incredible year and if it serves as foreshadowing for 2016 then I can’t wait to start on the wrap-up for next year. Nas get at me for that interview!!