Nas once announced that hip-hop was dead, now the superstar rapper insists the genre is enjoying a renaissance.
"I find that there are always new artists coming into the scene, making things exciting," he says in his husky voice. "We'll always find new acts but I feel that now it is good. Compared to six or seven years ago, we're in heaven."
Nearly two decades after he unveiled his superb debut album, Illmatic, the rapper born Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones in the notorious housing projects of New York's Queens should know where the scene is at.
Known for his honest and up-front lyrics - not to mention collaborations with everyone from Damian Marley to ex-wife Kelis - Nas brings us up to speed during a phone interview from his home in Manhattan.
"I'm just working on music," the 39-year-old says. "I'm just hustlin', singin', and just getting by. Survivin' is the main thing though."
Nas, whose live sets are renowned for their energy and unrelenting passion, is due Down Under next month to headline the Movement Festival alongside Bliss N Eso, Chiddy Bang and 2 Chainz.
"Heading to Australia is a massive journey, so I'll just be happy to get there," he laughs.
"Once I hit the stage, it's all about the people, man. Movies, reading, sleeping, is what I'll be doing on the flight. It's all about the people though, so when I step on to that stage you won't be seeing a tired Nas. I bring it live every time."
The last full-length record Nas put out was the chart-topping Life Is Good, released late last year just months after the US Internal Revenue Service filed a federal tax lien to recover millions of dollars in unpaid taxes dating back to 2006 when Nas unveiled his widely acclaimed album, Hip Hop Is Dead.
While Nas is known for his original lyrics and diverse beats, he admits he finds inspiration from across the globe, as well as from the past.
"At the moment, I've been listening to a lot of Terrence Trent D'Arby, R. Kelly and, of course, Michael Jackson," he says. "Michael is the greatest and I had to sample his music on my first album. My debut single (It Ain't Hard to Tell) samples Michael's 1983 single Human Nature and I don't see where I'd be without his influence."
Nas has aspirations outside of music - and isn't afraid to share them.
"I'd like to help people throughout the world, whether that be food, music or medicine. I'll also never stop writing, so put that down. Anything in the arts I want to be involved with. I want to share what I was involved with in the housing projects. The way I approach music is special.
"Before I hit the stage, I often have some Hennessy (cognac)," Jones continues. "I also surround myself with good people. I think I'm in good company."Nas plays the Movement Festival at Red Hill Auditorium on April 30. Tickets from Oztix and Ticketmaster.
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