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life Is good: Why Nas Is Making His Hip Hop cash Kings Debut At Age 44

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On a late-summer season Wednesday morning, legendary rapper Nas is lounging in a Scandinavian-stylish conference room on the reduce new york headquarters of the venerable hip-hop media outlet Mass attraction. Even before he first graced Mass appeal's cowl in 2002, he turned into a mainstay in its coverage, one of the crucial influential hip-hop artists ever.
The rapper Nas.Franco Vogt
but he's no longer here for one other Mass appeal story. nowadays, Nas, 44, is a co-proprietor of the enterprise. It's a part of his sprawling assignment capital portfolio that comprises stakes in startups from Casper to Dropbox—investments made frequently through his fund, QueensBridge assignment partners (named after the housing tasks in manhattan city where he grew up). relatively respectable for an artist who somewhat grudgingly carried out business success and all the time appeared extra comfy rapping about African historical past than launching garb traces.
"i used to be track guy for years, after which abruptly it's like I hit an age … I guess it become simply the age, or just knowledge," Nas explains in his signature baritone rasp. "Felt like now's the time."
ANDRES JAUREGUI; photograph: KEVIN MAZUR/GETTY photos
basically 25 years after the release of his first album, Illmatic, Nas lands on our Hip-Hop money Kings record of the correct-earning rappers for the first time after raking $35 million last 12 months. That's because of forty-plus suggests and a huge Hennessey endorsement—and his cut from the sale of Ring, a smart doorbell maker, to Amazon. whereas Nas may additionally have ignored out on the sneaker and streetwear deals of the late 90s, he's proved to be a later-in-life industrial force and somewhat of an not likely trailblazer along with his startup investments.
Andres Jauregui; photo: Steve Jennings/Getty images
Take his involvement in Mass attraction, which occupies two flooring of a SoHo WeWork building, an industrially classy house finished with a pet snake shedding skin in a neon-lit aquarium (a gift from the rapper young Thug). Mass enchantment became revived five years ago via Peter Bittenbender, cofounder of the artistic studio Decon, and Sacha Jenkins, cofounder of Ego commute magazine.
Nick DeSantis; picture: C Flanigan/Getty images
The latter spent tons of his youth in Queens, where Nas grew up with blues taking part in father and a mom who worked for the Postal carrier before releasing Illmatic, nevertheless regarded by way of many the most efficient rap album of all time. Jenkins identified Nas' talent early and saved involved as Mass appeal advanced.
"Sacha related all of the dots and referred to as Nas, just like, 'Do you want to help?'" Bittenbender recollects. "That absolutely wasn't part of what he was doing at that element, but he had a historical past [with] the brand, so it made loads of feel."
Nick DeSantis; photograph: Christopher Polk/Getty photos
Nas came on and invested a six-figure sum in 1,000,000-dollar round alongside Decon and early-stage enterprise White Owl Capital partners. Mass appeal resurfaced in 2013 with plans to turn into a quarterly print e-book. That strategy has due to the fact given technique to a multimedia method.
these days, Mass appeal's editorial output exists in most cases on structures like YouTube, which is domestic to its familiar video sequence. There's "Rhythm Roulette," where Mass enchantment challenges producers to make a beat from three data chosen randomly from a local list save whereas blindfolded, and "Open space," which elements interviews with superstar visitors.
Nick DeSantis; photograph: Tabatha Fireman/Getty pictures
Mass enchantment has additionally extended into different areas, launching its own inventive company and spinning out specials just like the hip-hop documentaries Rapture and sparkling Dressed. Nas contributed to each, arranging an introduction to YouTube's tune chief Lyor Cohen—onetime head of Def Jam facts—who then introduced on Mass attraction to work on a Google crusade around hip-hop's forty fourth anniversary featuring an interactive photograph orchestrated by using the hip-hop pioneer Fab 5 Freddy. Nas also helped Mass appeal installation interviews with noted pals like Kanye West and Diddy for fresh Dressed.
"Hip-hop became so embedded within the lives of so many people who make choices," Jenkins says. "Now [Nas is] a relocating piece of social capital. That capital is tied into his artwork, and that paintings has opened all these doors, you be aware of? Now people understand that the paintings itself is tied to way of life, and culture is tied to commerce."
Nas has adopted an identical method for his different investments. His suggestion struck across the time he met Andreesen Horowitz cofounder Ben Horowitz and bonded over a shared love of hip-hop and barbeque at a dinner arranged by using fellow Mass enchantment investor Steve Stoute circa 2012 ("I'm a large foodie," the rapper says). Two years later Nas founded QueensBridge venture companions together with his manager, Anthony Saleh, and Rashaun Williams, a Goldman Sachs alum, who helped him source deals.
Nick DeSantis; picture: Kevin Mazur/Getty pictures
since then, either through angel investing or through QueensBridge, Nas has ended up with stakes in dozens of startups, together with a lot of these scouted by means of Andreessen Horowitz: Lyft, Genius and Coinbase, to name a couple of. he's, of course, not the simplest rapper with fairness stakes. lots of the other Hip-Hop cash Kings have invested in Silicon Valley darlings, from Jay-Z (Uber, inventory-trading app Robinhood) to Diddy (Spotify), notwithstanding Nas seems to be essentially the most prolific.
Nas: Nick DeSantis; photo: Taylor Hill/Getty images
Most currently, Nas helped launch Mass appeal information in 2014 and prior this 12 months launched his latest album, Nasir, on the label. This got here after he managed to convince prevalent track group to let him out of the closing listing on his deal; the checklist significant also joined him as an investor in Mass enchantment.
"There wasn't a time when [rappers] didn't think about investing," says Nas. "It just so happens that the area is opening up."
reach Zack O'Malley Greenburg at zgreenburg@forbes.com. cowl image by using Franco Vogt for Forbes.

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