Throughout his career, Nas has paid homage to 1980s hip-hop pioneers like Rakim and MC Shan, and on his new single "Nasty," the Queensbridge lyricist once again revisits his wonder years.
"It's like Tom Ford, the designer, who is one of my favorite designers. I read somewhere he's inspired by the '60s and '70s and that's why his line looks like the future now. Because he came from a great time in fashion and he turned it into his interpretation and it gives you the future," said Nas, who chose to paint a picture of his own heyday and rap about the late '80s and early '90s on his new single.
On the Salaam Remi-produced track, which leaked to the Internet on Monday, Nas tosses nods to the New York City of yesteryear by referencing Queens street legend Thomas "Tony Montana" Mickens, the now-closed Tunnel nightclub and the late Notorious B.I.G.
"I came up in a great era, so I'm always gonna live with that and that's always gonna live inside of me," Nas told MTV News. "It's relevant today more than it's ever been. A lot of people may lose their footing in the music game and stuff, but you know, it's always important to remember who you are and how you got here."
On "Nasty," Nas is delivering lyrical raps in rapid succession with a ferocity that harks back to his early days when he appeared on Main Source's "Live at the Barbeque" in 1992. According to him, that hunger has existed throughout his career, even if he didn't always put it on record. "Nah, I just tucked it. I tucked it because I wanted to do other things, experiment with other sh-- and didn't want to do the same sh-- over and over," Nas said before expounding about his return to his roots. "Hip-hop got so big that it's important to open it back up, that real sh--. No dis to what nobody else is doing, but it's important to open this real sh-- back up."
Nas is busy prepping his 10th studio album, Life Is Good, but warns fans not to get too attached to the album's title because it may change. "A lot of people around me didn't understand where I was coming from. They kinda thought I was saying, "Let's pop bottles, we're rich, everything's good." That's not where I was coming from," he said. "So there's another title that came, that kind of fits a little better, and you might hear about that. There might be a change coming real soon."