Less than a week after dropping his Hip-Hop Storytelling MasterClass and accompanying “Big Nas” single, rap legend Nas joined his close collaborator Hit-Boy and Billboard hip-hop editor Carl Lamarre for a conversation at Los Angeles’ Grammy Museum on Tuesday night (Oct. 19). The event was powered by Culture Impact Agency.
The rapper-producer duo first teamed up extensively for the Grammy-winning King’s Disease album in 2020, on which Hit-Boy is credited as the producer and co-writer on every track. The duo’s run continued with a Top-5-debuting sequel, King’s Disease II, released in August.
As Nas and Hit-Boy sat at the front of the Grammy Museum theatre, that chemistry and synergy was on full display for the crowd. With Nas appropriately donning a Mets hat while Hit-Boy repped the Dodgers, the musicians discussed their Grammy win, what they respect about one another, album features and more:
1. Nas and Hit-Boy almost missed the King’s Disease Grammy win announcement.
Nas snagged his first Grammy with King’s Disease, but he revealed that, had his business partner Anthony Saleh not texted him to tune in, he would’ve missed the announcement. Nas maintains that he doesn’t watch TV, and was on the phone with his brother when he received the message that his category, best rap album, was up next.
“Before that, we was the cool guys with no Grammys,” he said on Tuesday night. “After the realization [that we won] sank in, things became real.” Similarly, Hit-Boy had plans to watch the awards with Big Sean, but by the time he arrived to his home, Big Sean was the one to notify him of the win.
2. The duo first linked up over a discarded Frank Ocean record.
Although Nas and Hit-Boy had toyed with the idea of working together for years, they never intentionally got around to it… until a Hit-Boy-produced track ended up in Nas’ hands for his 2019 Lost Tapes 2 project. The record was originally produced for Frank Ocean, but was rejected before Nas re-wrote to the beat.
Later, a mutual friend told Nas that Hit-Boy was interested in working with him, and Nas came to his studio the next day. “Nas’ first idea for us was a four-to-five-song Valentine’s Day project,” Hit-Boy recalled with a laugh.
3. Hit-Boy has idolized Nas since his youth.
When asked when he first witnessed Nas’ lyrical genius, Hit-Boy enthusiastically said, “Oh God, I’m just blessed to be in the studio with him, let alone have this mutual respect, and him taking my ideas and what I bring to the table. It’s so inspiring to the kid in me.”
The 34-year-old continued, “When he started making albums, I was so young I couldn’t even imagine making music yet.”
4. Nas had to be convinced to include “Spicy” on King’s Disease.
The duo agreed that all of their album features come about “organically,” based on personal relationships or interest in other artists. Nas admitted to mainly listening to music released before 1980, and relying on friends (including Hit-Boy) for suggestions on modern rappers, such as Lil Durk and Don Toliver.
As for the Fivio Foreign and A$AP Ferg-assisted track “Spicy,” Hit-Boy claimed, “I had to push Nas to rock with this,” revealing that while Nas was skeptical, other people would “lose their minds” in the studio when hearing the record. Hit-Boy divulged that he asked Nas “over 10 times” to include the track on the album before Nas finally agreed.
5. Hit-Boy is instrumental to Nas’ songwriting.
Aside from being credited as the producer on every King’s Disease and King’s Disease II track, Hit-Boy also helps steer Nas lyrically. “I try to make my rhymes count,” Nas explained. “I try to be very intentional with my words. If I’m thinking too into it, too close to the idea, Hit-Boy is good at bringing me back and giving me ideas and moving me into a new direction. It’s a real collaboration.”
Nas also mentioned that he never wants to be too verbose and repetitive — during his writing process, he always thinks to himself, “You don’t need to say so much, they already got the point in the other line.”
6. Nas respects the West Coast music scene.
Despite repping the East Coast, Nas raved about the current West Coast music scene: “The West Coast is the answer to the future.” He cited Kendrick Lamar, Hit-Boy and Dr. Dre as the greats. “Dr. Dre’s production quality is so movie-like, so futuristic,” he said. “Historically, West Coast has always given hip-hop that future style.”