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HBD, Illmatic: Check Nas' 2003 FADER Cover

photographer Phil Knott

Nasty Nas is serving Henny-soaked nostalgia this summer celebrating the twentieth anniversary of his seminal debut Illmatic. It’s an album so pronounced in form and ceaseless in slit-eyed authenticity that generations of rap fans still cite the project like scripture. Of course, Nas has always been heralded a prophet, so it’s well worth it to revisit his words with miles of hindsight, whether on wax or on page.


In the Spring of 2003, Nas appeared on the cover of The FADER wearing a cross pendant, a stoic gaze, and a hand scribbled white tee that read “GOD’S SON” and “BRAVE(HE)ART" in response to our question, “What’s important to you right now?” Expanding on his answer, republished below, Nas spoke of staying fearless, faithful, and full of fight.


NAS

The FADER, 2003


"As horrific as the world is, I hang on to my faith. No man is perfect in our struggle. And some of us give up. We [think we] fight for all the right reasons for so many years, then look back at our life and say, “What have I been fighting for?” The beauty of life is love and God. Knowing that we are all God’s sons and daughters. When I was coming up, statistics showed that black males weren’t making it past the age of 25 because of police brutality, black on black crime...So you know you gotta be a survivor and a brave motherfucker to still be standing when so many around you are gone. You still don’t give up the fight. You’re still not scared to express your art and express what you’re feeling to the world. "

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HBD, Illmatic: Check Nas' 2003 FADER Cover