Travis Scott sat down with Nas in a rare Bentley for Playboy’s “Speech Issue” to talk about the state of hip-hop. The two rappers, 26-year-old Houston-born Scott and 45-year-old New Yorker Nas, represent two generations of rap, and both have had a major impact on the genre.
As Playboy puts it, with Astroworld, Scott “translated his warped atmospheric soundscape into a two-leg experiential stadium tour of the same name.” Elder statesman Nas, meanwhile, “moved the needle with his revolutionary debut album, Illmatic.”
As well as music, in the interview, the two spoke about the effect of the internet, their influences, and the tension between art and politics. Check out some of the best quotes from the article below.
On how the game has changed
Scott: “It was just really raw. Nowadays, people might not see it that way, but it’s the same thing. It’s just as raw. But technology, man. We came up on iPhones, you know what I mean? We’re at a point now where we don’t even write our raps down. We’re just going straight off the dome in the booth.”
Nas: “You got to change with the times. I can stay me, sure, but the challenge is to stay with what’s going on. If you look at the great ones from back then, a lot of them have four albums; they had short careers. That’s changed now.”
On the impact of the internet
Nas: “You can reach the world faster — a lot faster than back then… because of the internet. We can go do a song right now and put it up. We don’t have to ask nobody. The record industry actually follows what we do, especially once you make your name in the game.”
Scott: “I got my own social media. I can drop my shit. I can cater to my own followers. People can look at my shit if they want to. It’s not like the radio, where somebody can stop people from hearing me.”
On each other
Scott: “Personally, when I was coming into it, I was never into rap-rap. I had to learn to like it, because I didn’t understand it… So when I heard it, it just sounded foreign. But the swag, you know what I mean? The way you carried yourself. Just growing up listening and dialing into your albums, you hear the art of telling a story. I feel like I was a kid who was just by myself, alone in my mind all the time. I always had this, like, deep, just floating consciousness.
“When I was old enough to understand what you [Nas] were spitting, it was just like, ‘Oh, shit.’ Now that I know music, I can see how you came into the game. Like, man, I was online watching when you came out at a show, and you spit that verse.”
Nas: “When I first saw you coming up with the action figure, I was like, ‘Damn, I wish I could have thought of that.’ And then I just heard your music, and I said, ‘This dude is coming.’ You was doing something I wish I did when I was in my 20s, which was not giving the camera much.
“I live vicariously through you when you do that, bro, because I feel you on that. You here to do the music and leave your stain on this world. Whether you be in front of them cameras or not, you don’t even care.”
Scott: “The past generation knocked down so many doors where, you know, they were spitting a lot of pain, man. They was dealing with a lot of police stuff. We’re still dealing with that now, but it wasn’t so free. Now we got more of a voice at the label.”
Nas: “Nowadays the pain has changed. We’re after different things. We broke past the barriers. We understand what we need to do and we’re in control of what we’re doing, and no one can stop it now. No one can tell us what to do, what we can’t do. Rap music can’t be stopped now.”
On mixing art and politics
Scott: “I wouldn’t say I don’t feel compelled to speak on political issues; sometimes you just don’t want to speak too much on stuff you don’t know much about. It’s not like I’m not thinking about what’s going on in the world. I’m an expressive artist, but with media and shit, it gets misconstrued.”
Nas: “Politics definitely affects the way I think, but the way I write is my day-to-day life. I did a song talking about daughters because I have a daughter. “Daughters” was nominated for a Grammy… One thing we can’t allow politics to do is take over our mind and make us fall into their game. What’s going on in the news could consume our lives. If that happens, life doesn’t go on. We need to continue going on.”
For more, head to Playboy to read the whole article.