Nas admits he’s not perfect, but the rapper says he has skin thick enough to weather all the gossip about him
Back in the day, Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones was just another kid growing up in Long Island City, Queens, New York. Living in Queensbridge Houses, North America’s largest public-housing development, he drew cartoons and wrote short stories, dangled from the monkey bars, and played basketball and soccer at the nearby park. His favourite toys were his Big Wheel tricycle and Atari gaming console, and one of his favourite movies was Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.
In his mind, he’s still that kid, even though it’s nearly three decades later. So in a year when the platinum-selling rapper’s personal life is garnering more attention than his professional work, the man known today as Nas reacts with bemusement.
“It’s funny that someone would even care about some Nasir Jones shit,” says the MC, on the line from Atlantic City. “I’m still that kid from the block at the end of the day.”¦ So when I watch this shit, it’s surreal. We get a good laugh off it and say, ”˜Hey, they’re talking about me again and it’s some funny shit.’ ”
Some of the “funny shit” that has made it onto celebrity gossip blogs includes rumours that he cheated on his wife of four years, singer Kelis Rogers—an allegation he denies. Fuel was splashed onto the flames on June 4, when the “Milkshake” singer, who filed for divorce in April, posted on Twitter a number of nameless but thinly veiled messages on infidelity, saying “all the scum bag coward husbands and the less then [sic] impressive sluts” deserve each other, and that the husband “is way more at fault”, though the women who partake are “stupid and pitiful”.
“I heard that I was a cheater,” says Nas, who takes on a more determined tone when discussing the matter. “It almost sounds like I was a bad husband. Not to say I was the greatest—I’m not perfect in anything I do—but I think I deserve a fucking trophy. If I do say so myself, without sounding too cocky, I gotta say I was a hell of a husband and a hell of a dad.”
On July 22, Kelis gave birth to the couple’s first child together, a boy named Knight Jones, after 67 hours of labour that she called “three of the longest, most painful days” of her life. TMZ reported that Nas waited outside during the delivery and saw the baby shortly after, despite being turned away from the hospital the night before for being drunk.
The next day, Los Angeles Superior Court judge Louis Meisinger ordered Nas to pay Kelis a hefty US$39,498 in monthly support—$30,471 in spousal support and $9,027 in child support—and $45,000 for her attorney’s fees, according to the Associated Press. It’s a figure based on income declarations and court documents filed by Kelis’s legal team, which allege, among other things, that the rapper pocketed $11 million in a 2006 recording deal with Def Jam. Kelis also claimed that their joint expenses while married exceeded $200,000 per month, that she currently brings in only $21,616 per month in royalties, and that her survival depends on Nas. Nas argued that he only saw about $4 million from the Def Jam deal, and that his monthly income is $147,165, with $71,372 going to expenses.
One would imagine it’s an odd feeling to have one’s divorce, personal finances, and child’s birth make headlines, but this is something Nas has handled with much composure, hardly flinching at the allegations and accusations being flung his way.
“It’s unfortunate when business is out there about your personal shit, especially when you’re really not the guy to be having his shit out there,” he says. “The sad thing is, you’ve got to get used to it. My skin is so thick that I probably need to write a book for people who are not ready for anything crazy.”
Nas is currently coheadlining the annual touring hip-hop festival Rock the Bells, with Damian Marley. The two first collaborated on “Road to Zion” off Marley’s 2005 album Welcome to Jamrock, and are finishing up an album together called Distant Relatives, tentatively set for a fall release. They will be performing a few songs from it, along with solo material, at Rock the Bells.
“I always liked how reggae and hip-hop have always been intertwined and always kind of pushed each other,” Nas says. “I’d worked with people before from the reggae world, but when I worked with Damian the whole workout was perfect. I just knew when we did ”˜Zion’ that we weren’t done.”
When he’s asked what’s next for him, it’s not an album or collaboration that immediately comes to his mind, but a desire to sow his seeds and have more children—to raise, perhaps, his own clan of Joneses to play soccer and basketball and dangle from the monkey bars.
“I’ve been around the Marleys, and children and being fruitful is the Marley way, so I want to have more kids,” says Nas, who also has a teenage daughter, Destiny Jones, from a previous relationship. “I want to be surrounded by my kids, and I want to watch them grow. I was thinking about getting my Bob Marley on.”
Nas plays Rock the Bells at Deer Lake Park on Saturday (August 1).