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Nas and Pharrell in NYC

The hip hop superstars deny rumours of The Neptunes splitting and talk about the American election, booze, and, err, Gandhi.

A few days ago Dazed Digital got crunked up in NYC. As well as eating a burrito the size of a small baby, discovering a cool speakeasy bar on St Marks Place (Please Don’t Tell), and watching McCain lose the second Presidential election debate, we ran into hip hop superstars Nas and Pharrell who were in town to play a Smirnoff Experience show at Capitale with Grandmaster Flash, Kelis, and Buckshot from Black Moon.

Representing the new skool were Spank Rock and Amanda Blank, who told us Dazed Digital’s video of Santogold was better than the final product. Awesome! Anyway, Nas and Pharrell found a few minutes to answer some questions that had been troubling us. They were really enthusiastic. Honestly. 

Dazed Digital: Pharrell, there’s been a lot of blog speculation over the last few weeks that The Neptunes are finally their own ways – is that true?

Pharrell: No it’s not true. Every once in a while people want to write things. And they do. All these soundbites. That’s what cameras do all the time. If you notice with OJ there’s a picture of him with his arms tied behind his back and his face looking really sad. But that was because they had tied the cuffs too tight on him and they took that frame and used it to demonstrate how sad that he was because he was going to jail. I was watching that like, “Wow, dude ain’t crying”, and the media painted the picture that he was hurting. My point to you is that people take the smallest moment and turn it into anything. I don’t know where it came from.”

Nas: That was a great answer.

Pharrell: (chewing gum and looking kinda pissed) I’m exhausted, we’re all over worked. I don’t know if you guys are imaginary right now or if I’m really sleeping. The way the recession is right now, we’ve definitely got to work a lot harder. If we ask for a ton of money it’s because we are spending our time. What people don’t realise is that after this you can go back to your day job or home. We have to continue to do this 15 or 16 hours a day and also create. We can’t recite lines like a Broadway play, we have to create this stuff.DD: Nas, what are you doing here?Nas: We’re putting on a concert for the event and Smirnoff wanted me to be a part of it, so we’re putting a show on. I’m not collaborating with anyone (Ed: he later shared the stage with N*E*R*D and Kelis).

DD: Nas, the last time I saw you shared onstage was in Brixton Academy and someone started to shoot a gun a few metres behind me. What do you remember from that gig?

Nas: I remember taking my shirt off and jumping down to the crowd. London is live, that’s all I can say.

DD: That's all? Okay. This event is sponsored by a vodka company. Have you ever woken up with an empty bottle in your hand?

Nas: Too many times. Not this morning though. I’m chilling today man, I’m doing this for the music.

DD: I’m personally feeling rough. Last night I went from the top of the Roc to the L.E.S…

Nas: Good for you man! That’s where it’s at! You hit the spots. But I’m not pumping the drinks tonight, I’m pumping the music up.

DD: Fourteen years after Illmatic how has your “New York State of Mind” changed?

Nas: The New York state of mind is grown up – it’s looking at it from a whole different angle, a whole different floor, a whole different building.

DD: What does that exactly mean?

Nas: It was young, and now it’s mature. It’s grown. New York City is that city, you know? I got that whole embodiment of New York in me, the whole understanding has changed. It gets no better, nowhere in the world. Nowhere. This is it baby, New York.

DD: Hip hop has changed so much, but one constant is the rap world’s love of Scarface, which was released 25 years ago. What is your favourite Scarface rap?

Nas: Part of the reason I made “The World Is Yours” is because of Scarface, and part of it is because of Slick Rick’s “Young World”.

DD: Deep. Your new album caused some controversy as it depicted your scars on your back, not your face. A bit like Jesus. You once got strung up on a crucifix for a video – are you a hip hop martyr?

Nas: Yeeeaah. I’m a hip hop everything. Everything that got some meaning. I didn’t know all this would happen, I was just thrown into the middle of a cyclone, a monsoon, and I just maintain. That’s what it is.

DD: You came out with “Dead Presidents” and now you’re talking about Black Presidents on your new album – what’s your view of the American elections?

Nas: I wanna see Obama win, for one because he’s an African American and he deserves to win because we’ve been down too long in this country for him not to be our President at this point in time. And two I want him to win to piss off ignorant, dumb, redneck racist people. I’m gonna love to see their faces. Black racists, white racists, any racists I wanna see em pissed off.

DD: Okay, well here’s three random people. Say the first thing that comes into your mind. Number one – Sarah Palin.

Nas: Governor of Alaska.

DD: Gandhi

Nas: A great man actually, I’ve always thought that.

DD: Spongebob Squarepants.

Nas: Ha! Whatever!