Rap god Nas has reveled in a career spanning over 20 years from his critically acclaimed debut Illmatic released in 1994 to his most recent full-length effort, 2012's Life is Good, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
In the four years since his last LP, the hip-hop storyteller has been living the good life (opening the chicken and waffles hotspot Sweet Chick, investing in various start-ups) and hinting at a twelfth studio album.
Below are all the signs pointing to a new project from the hip-hop G.O.A.T. (so far).
The reason for delay
On a recent visit to Jimmy Kimmel Live (Oct. 12), the host pressed Nas about the album's delay. "I gotta live life. I gotta experience things. Sometimes music can shift society, not even talking about me. We're making some music out there that the world can hear. When I first started out, I didn't know this thing could be so global. So now it's like things are changing, music is changing," he explained.
Nas has said on other tracks that his album is done. On the September 2014 remix to ScHoolboy Q's song "Studio" featuring BJ the Chicago Kid, Nas declared at the top of the record, "Finished up my new album/Single bout' to be dropping /Last album on Def Jam/and I got so many options."
This past July, DJ Khaled dropped his heavily anticipated Major Key album and dedicated Track 3 to God's Son with "Nas Album Done." Even the rhymer born Nasir Jones offered in the second verse, "My album done, n---as, wait and see."
The release date(s)
At a show in Orlando, Fl. last April, Nas announced that his new album would be dropping soon. "2015, new album this summer," he said at the time.
Then a glimmer of hope for new Nas material came in November 2015 when Nas' manager Anthony Saleh (who also manages Future) sat down with Elliott Wilson and Brian "B.Dot" Miller on the Rap Radar Podcast, saying, "All my artists are dropping albums next year." Fingers crossed this still holds true and Nas Stans will see an LP before December.
In April 2014 on NPR's Microphone Check podcast, Nas sat down with A Tribe Called Quest's Ali Shaeed Muhammad and Frannie Kelley, and revealed that he was working with No I.D., Timbaland, and Swizz Beats on his upcoming album. He also said that the ideas had flowed "maybe a year and a half ago."
"Now I'm at a place where - I laid down ideas, so the ideas I lay down then, now, I'm kind of like going through 'em and I'm fixing 'em," he explained. "Now I'm at a place where I could play a song for somebody and they really get it and they really understand -- they really feel it."
In February 2015, Timbaland also previewed a track he was working on with the Queensbridge native in a 15-second Facebook clip.
Despite initial reports, Nas debunked rumors that Rick Ross would be executive producing the album, telling Complex this past May, "There's no truth to that but I'm a free artist. I'll be down to do something like that down the road." He also didn't rule out the possibility of the Bawse EPing a project in the future. "Don't be surprised somewhere down to the road something like that could happen. Shout out to the boss Rick Ross."
Nas' next album may feature a Jay Z and Justin Timberlake collaboration (they previously worked on Hov's Magna Carter Holy Grail cut "BBC," which also starred Beyonce, Pharrell and Timbaland). In a July 2013 interview with Revolt, Timbaland spoke about his work on the project, saying, "Nas got a song right now with him, Jay, and Justin that's completely stupid. It's called "Sinatra in the Sands.""
Nas confirmed the existence of the record and expressed his respect for both artists in an interview with Huffington Post. "Those are the guys who lasted the test of time, and those guys are at the top of their game. They're just great company to be in," he said.
Nas also broke down the message in the song: "More like from a musician's standpoint, someone who've been around. Because Sinatra has been around and he has a long, long standing with the stage and the audience for years. And he evolved. His talent got better just like wine. And I think that's something a lot of people want to achieve. So that's what this song is really about. Striving to be the best you, like Sinatra had become."
The set may also feature his protegee and new Def Jam Records signee Dave East, who also signed with Nas' Mass Appeal Records in October 2014. While in Atlanta for the BET Hip Hop Awards last month, East hinted in an interview with Billboard that he may be appearing on Nas' new album, simply saying, "I might be on it."
While no official title has been offered for the Life is Good follow-up, Nas tweeted a message to fans in April 2013 saying the album title would come in the next month. Unfortunately, the day never came.
Dropping next album title next month.- Nasir Jones (@Nas) April 2, 2013
Nas has been making spot appearances with featured verses on songs like Usher's "Chains" also featuring Bibi Bourelly and Robin Thicke's "Deep." If his politically charged sixteens are any indication, Nas could be tackling police brutality and the plight of African Americans even more on his upcoming effort.
On "Deep," he rapped:
The problem's gettin' worse, a modern 1970, Johannesburg
Man, it hurts to see a cop kill a black man alert
News flash, police shoot blacks, distort facts
Quick attack, unarmed men, murder them
It's captured on cellphone video and they still let 'em go
When will they stop killin' 'em? Askin' why is they killin' for?