Being legendary is more than a title, especially in hip hop. This designation requires having the goods to back it up and the credibility to execute fire projects that withstand the test of time. From Illmatic to King's Disease, Nas has proven that he embodies all that the genre represents as a musical entity. He recently teamed up with Sprite along with some of the best rappers in the game to celebrate the culture in all its glory.
The rapper spoke with EBONY about being one of New York's finest rappers and celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip hop with an equally iconic brand.
EBONY: You appeared in a Sprite commercial in 1997 that epitomized New York and the tenets of hip hop. Why was it important for you to align with the soda brand for this special partnership in 2023?
Nas: Sprite has always supported the culture and genre, and I’m happy to be partnering with them again, especially this year to celebrate 50 years of hip hop. I felt like I had to help them honor the culture with some of our legends and rising superstars—like Rakim, Latto and Glorilla. It’s about acknowledging multiple generations whose love of hip hop got us here.
Can you speak to the synergy Rakim, Latto and Glorilla bring to the campaign and what you enjoy about their specific styles as artists?
Each of us brought our own element to the campaign, contributing what makes us unique as artists. Bringing that uniqueness to a classic like "Rapper’s Delight" allowed us to champion hip hop’s history while also embracing its evolution. Our collaboration on this campaign embodies how the culture has, and continues to, bring people together.
Although it has not always been celebrated, hip hop is at the core of American—and global—culture. How does it feel to know that the world is honoring 50 years?
In some ways it’s a beautiful thing and in others it’s like you have no choice. Too much of what we see around the world came from this thing we all contributed to. Hopefully this is the beginning of a lifelong celebration.
You are regarded as being an icon and legend across the genre, with many crediting you as their major inspiration. How does it feel to know that you are so respected by your peers and contemporaries?
It’s an honor. I don’t take it lightly. It inspires me to keep going, but also appreciate what I’ve done. It’s weird as an artist to hear it sometimes because it comes from such an honest place, you don’t think about getting praised for it. I appreciate it, though.
You were on an EBONY cover two years ago. What hip hop icons would you like to see us pay homage to next, from any generation, living or brand new?
Slick Rick, OutKast and Rakim would be super dope.