Fashawn Celebrates Nas' 44th Birthday: 'My Man Graduated to Grand Master Level'

Burak Cingi/Redferns
Nas performs on day 3 of Wireless Festival at Finsbury Park on July 9, 2017 in London.  

"He's the epitome of mastery and longevity."

Because of his exemplary lyricism, Nas has etched a lane as one of hip-hop's luminaries. With a fistful of classics under his belt, including his magnum opus, Illmatic, Nasir Jones will always be considered an iconic MC. 

In addition to being a legendary wordsmith, Nas has flourished tremendously as a business man, especially when it comes to recruiting quality MCs for his Mass Appeal imprint, reeling in West Coast rhyme-slayer Fashawn and New York's lyrical demon Dave East to his roster.

This year, both MCs have made a splash in their respective ways. Last month, East's Paranoia project debuted on the top 10 of the Billboard 200, while Fashawn unleashed his lyrically-savvy Manna EP, which garnered positive reviews. 

Billboard caught up with Fashawn on Nas' 44th birthday, Thursday (Sept. 14)m to speak on memories of him first listening to his mentor, signing to him and defining his legacy as a whole. Check out Fash's thoughts below. 

On First Listening to Nas

"I was so young. The year was like '94 and I was either 4 or 5 years old at the time. I was probably 5 years old and I just remember seeing this guy and seeing his image first before I actually heard what was coming out of the speakers. Like, I guess my big sister had the TV on mute and I just remember Nas being in an all-red outfit on and the video was 'It Ain't Hard to Tell.' As soon as I saw it, I ran to the screen to just turn the volume up. After I heard what was coming out of his mouth, man... I was just an instant fan and been one ever since.

"Shout out to Ralph McDaniels who directed that and my the channel called The Box. At the time, that was the shit that we watched. You called and whatever video you wanted to play, they'd play it for you. I definitely called at least a 100 times for that."

On Signing With Nas' Label Mass Appeal 

"I just remember when I first got the news, it was surreal, man. I feel like just the other day, I was winning tickets on the radio show to go see a Nas concert and now I'm smoking cigars with him and drinking champagne. It's a different realm we in now, but when I first heard that he wanted to sign me, it was probably August of 2013.

"I was in Fresno, California, and my manager gave me a call and he just flat out told me that Nas wanted to sign me. I didn't really believe it until he flew me out to SXSW in Austin, Texas. That was when I was able to first meet him and shake hands with the God and all that shit, man. From that moment, it was history. After Austin, Texas, I've been riding with the homie ever since."

On Nas' Legacy:

"Longevity and mastery. My man graduated to grand-master level as far as the pen-game and music mogul, etc. But to reach this point, you gotta have longevity, you have to have those characteristics that are gonna keep you in the industry for a decade plus. I think when it comes to perfecting the art of rap and the art of rhyming, my man is beyond that. He's the epitome of mastery and longevity."