Nas' classic debut Illmatic is often counted among the greatest rap albums of all time, but it failed to earn him any Grammy love. In fact, despite an illustrious rap career, Nas is 0-for-9 at the awards show and could win his first Golden Gramophone tonight (February 10) at the 2013 Grammy Awards, where he is nominated four times.
So how can any artist as revered as Nas not have any Grammys on his mantle?
"If you look who's won over the course of his career, there was always something a little shinier, a little bit more friendlier," Nas' longtime producer and friend Salaam Remi told MTV News on the eve of the show. "He wasn't the most commercial kid on the block, the most popular kid, but might've been the realest one."
Queensbridge's poetry king has been nominated for Best Rap Album three times in his career: first in 2000 for his I Am LP and then in 2008 and 2009 for Hip-Hop Is Dead and Untitled, respectively. He's lost to Eminem (The Slim Shady LP), Kanye West (Graduation) and Lil Wayne (Tha Carter III). Tonight, Nasir's 10th solo album, Life Is Good, faces some pretty stiff competition in the Best Rap Album category as he goes up against heavyweights like Drake (Take Care), Rick Ross (God Forgives, I Don't) and 2 Chainz (Based on a T.R.U. Story).
The timeless rap vet is also up for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song for his single "Daughters," as well as Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for his posthumous Amy Winehouse duet "Cherry Wine."
Remi, a veteran producer who got his start working alongside Marly Marl and contributed to the Fugees' 1996 smash LP The Score and Amy Winehosue's Back to Black, produced on six of Life Is Good's 14 tracks and has been producing for Nas since his 2001 Stillmatic LP.
Salaam insists that Nas doesn't create to gather awards. "It's not to get the Grammy stuff, but our vibe and mode even while recording the album was: We won already," he said of their creative mind-set. "It wasn't that we won the Grammy. We won still being positive and forward with life in the first place."
Nas echoed a similar sentiment in a separate interview with MTV News correspondent Sway Calloway at a pre-Grammy party on Friday night. "I look at it like we already won," he said. "No matter what, we winners, Sway!"
As a producer, Remi received certificates of participation from the Grammy committee for his work on both the Fugees' and Amy Winehouse's award-winning LPs but has never won an award himself. This year he is up for Producer of the Year, thanks to his production work with Miguel, Usher, Anthony Hamilton and, of course, Nas. He's just happy being part of the process, he says. "For me, my position is being a catalyst of the artist, not necessarily about me," Remi said." I'm just happy to help and push the needle forward."