During an exclusive conversation for Playboy magazine, Houston rapper-producer Travis Scott discussed the evolution of hip-hop with rap veteran Nas.
Scott personally selected the Queens MC to discuss the growth of the culture and genre that both rappers have made waves in.
Scott started off the conversation that took place in the backseat of his silver Bentley with, “How you came into the game, it was kind of crazy.”
The two then began talking about how technology and social media has changed the way music is currently released.
“Speaking of a time before all this technology, it was like, ‘Okay, I rap,'” Scott said. “You had to get to this popular producer in your city. He would hear your sh**, and maybe he’d let you record and give you a beat. Then he’d bring you to the DJ, and radio was the main problem. But now it’s like, man, I got my own social media. I can drop my sh**. I can cater to my own followers. People can look at my sh** if they want to. It’s not like the radio, where somebody can stop people from hearing me. I can yell it loud right now: I want to rap! If people want to catch on to it, they can catch on to it. And then, if you want to explain what’s going on in your personal life, you talk to your fans too. Back then you had to do a press conference.”
“You can reach the world faster—a lot faster than back then. That’s a great thing, because it was mind-boggling trying to figure out how to get this message out to people and market your record at the right time and then drop a single six weeks before the album. That’s gone,” Nas responded.
Scott then began talking about how “hip-hop used to be about bars and just a unique flow over beats. It was like straight soul, and man, you’re telling your story; it was just bar to bar, killing it, and not really about anything being catchy. It was just really raw.”
“That’s right,” Nas said. “Being an MC or a rapper, 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. All the restrictions are gone. You can be free to make your music.”
Nas added, “When hip-hop started out, you only had a top five. You had a short list of dope rappers, from Ice Cube to Slick Rick. You could count them on your fingers. Hip-hop is such a big thing now that everybody’s jumping in on it. There are so many different styles that by the time you do the thing that you do, this dude over here done started a whole new way. You got to stay on top of what’s going on just for the love of music,.”
“You said it was once about writing down the pain and all of that. 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.”
Later on during the conversation, the two talked about longevity in hip-hop.
“The hip-hop game is about staying and sustaining and keeping it going. You’re a great rapper, but they can’t just put you in a rapper box, because your music is going in so many different directions. You’re a rock star, and it always was like that. It comes from the hood. It comes from the mud and then it blows up, and then who’s going to hang around? Who’s going to be the one that sticks around and keeps giving us that excitement? That’s what makes you great, when you can maintain in this game,” Nas said.
“When I started, I never thought I could do arenas and be so big that so many people would come listen to the music and know the words. I think what makes a great artist is just the people you touch. Are they moving to your music? Are they living their life to it? Are they rocking with it or feeling inspired by it, or is it helping them get through something,” Scott said.
“This shit is a blood sport. This shit ain’t easy. This is one of the hardest games ever. I love it right now because it’s testing you. What are you made of? Can you survive? What do you have to offer in 2019? Because the moment you sleep, the moment you blink your eyes too long, your spot is taken. And that’s the excitement of it,” Nas concluded.
Glennisha Morgan is a Detroit-bred multimedia journalist and writer. She writes about intersectionality, hip-hop, pop culture, queer issues, race, feminism, and her truth. Follow her on Twitter @GlennishaMorgan