Nas Photographer Recalls Near-Death 'I Am' Cover Shoot

'We almost killed Nas,' Danny Hastings tells 'Mixtape Daily.'

Celebrity Favorites: Danny Hastings

[artist id="1000"]Nas[/artist] proclaimed hip-hop was dead with the title of his 2006 album, but [article id="1664314"]celebrity photographer Danny Hastings[/article] recalls that it was God's Son who almost met his demise in 1999 during their photo shoot for Nas' third LP, I Am.

The concept of the album art was to take the cover theme from Nas' debut, Illmatic, and build on it. The 1994 LP featured a picture of a young Nasir Jones, with the Queensbridge projects as the backdrop. On the MC's 1996 follow-up, It Was Written, Nas appeared in front of the same backdrop, just a bit older. For his third album, Hastings wanted to continue to document the rapper's growth.

"The first one, you have him being a boy, very young. The second was a little bit older. And the third one, he was a king," Hastings said. "He already conquered the world. He was on top of the world. He was doing a lot of big things. We came with the concept of making a King Tut sarcophagus piece."

In order to carry out their artistic vision, Hastings and his team had to take a complete mold of Nas' face. This required that they put a clay-like substance over the rapper's grill, poking little holes in the nostrils so he could breathe. However, something went terribly wrong, and the clay began to go up Nas' nose, causing him to suffocate. "The funny part was that the first attempt, Nas was getting asphyxiated. We almost killed Nas," Hastings said, laughing in hindsight.

Hastings, who is known for shooting famous album covers like Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx and Big Pun's Capital Punishment may have become known for something much more sinister. Luckily, the photog and his team quickly rushed to the Queens lyricist's aid and were able to save him. "We cleaned him up, and he was like, 'Let's do it again!' " Hastings remembered. "Nas was a true sport."

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