I found this recent Nas interview on the net… How did 'The Unauthorised Biography Of Rakim' come about? "Yo, you know what's crazy about that, man? When I did that, I didn't really think it was a good song. I was trying to take that off my album because I didn't really think nobody would get it. I thought Rakim was before a lot of people's time, and they wouldn't understand it, wouldn't even get it. So I’m happy that you even noticed that record right there." "The song's the unauthorised version - meaning like most biographies, it's not 100 percent true. it's based off what someone said, it's not an autobiography. I met him when I was 16 also. I was recording demos in his studio time, at 16 they took me in. So I had to just pay that respect back." "We pay tribute to people when they're dead, and that's not cool: I think we should show the love to artists while they're here. we gotta start supporting each other, not just when they gone. Rakim's such a legend that I had to do it like that" The hip-hop audience tends to consign artists to the scrap head a lot earlier than happens with rock or jazz artists. People like Rakim, Public Enemy and KRS-One are either forever being compared with what they did in the '80s, or are ignored by a new generation of fan. Why do you think that is? "I think that's because hip-hop back then had never seen old age, so it was a new thing and a young thing, and in many ways it still is. KRS-One said on "I'm still Number One". He said: '50 years down the line we can start this'/'Cos we'll be the old school artists'. I think Public Enemy can come around, it's just there was no audience for it to grow. We had grew with them - they had 'Fight The Power', and had done everything socially that they could do. They'd spoken out against injustice. And I think they needed a break - there needed to be an emergency moment where we had to see them again, whether onstage on tour again, or releasing a new record." "It's all timing, and I think it's time for us to start seeing these people again. They did need a break just so they could get more supporters, people like us supporting them. They needed us to become men - we were teenagers, kids growing with them, and now we're old and we can understand what this is and support it as a community now. It can survive". Ten years on from 'Illmatic', you're now one of those hip-hop artists with longevity and history behind you. You've had to make comebacks, but usually because that debut overshadowed things. When 'It Was Written' came out people accused you of abandoning the observational writing and going for gangster dollars. How did that reaction feel? "Well, you never know when people are gonna give up on you, when you're gonna lose 'em. You never know until the record is released, you just have to go with your gut feelings. It's important to balance your name in the commercial world without compromising what you do. You can't listen to what people are saying 'cos they don't really - they're not in your mind when you're doing it, they're not sharing your mission. They're not there creating, they're not gonna keep your family fed, they're not there to motivate you. So you can't listen to what they say too much - you've gotta stay on your path." "I recorded a few songs for my next album after 'Illmatic' and they were grimy, they were hard. Something happened - the songs leaked out with just one verse on 'em. Marley Marl had them on radio - I was doin' 'em at Marley's house. And it just changed my flow. So what happened was, I said, 'Nah, this has to be a masterpiece, and I'm saying more than I'm walking down the road smoking weed with my pants sagging and my Tims, in my left is my gun, got a ***** on the side'. I said, 'Nah, that's not who Nasir Jones is - that's not who Nas is. They think they know who Nas is, but I can't wait to show 'em who Nas is'. And I got together an album that represented who Nas is. 'If I ruled The World', 'Black Girl Lost'... the things who I really was." "And thank God I did that. I realised the kids were saying 'Give us another 'Illmatic', but years later I said, '****! If that was the next album, I would have been finished.' Not just because it wouldn't have sold, but more importantly because I wouldn't have had any drive to continue. I would have felt like, '****, my body of work only says I’m about getting high and shooting dice and hanging on the block, and that's it'. And because that's the way I went to the studio to record it, just talking about everything without a care in the world for song structure, musical arrangement, clear and crisp sounds, taking your imagination to the next level, it was just one side. So I think God I didn't do that. It would have been cool if I had been able to do that album, then still been able to make 'It Was Written' next you know? But I just think that I would have lost the drive to do it." At the end of the Rakim song you said you were going to do a similar one about KRS-One next. Have you started on that track yet? "No, but I got some real good ideas about it. I really wanna do that one because his fame, his whole sh*t came from battling my neighbourhood! I mean, he made 'The Bridge Is Over', which is a hip-hop classic, about my projects! KRS-One is one of my heroes, icons, a great mentor and friend, so I wanna take my time with his." What are you listening to at the moment? "Ice Cube, the 'Death Certificate' album, and Scarface's 'Greatest Hits'." Are you going back and choosing to hear old stuff for a particular reason? "Yeah. I don't feel the real in music. I feel that everybody's copying. Not everybody - there are some good kids. I think Talib Kweli's good. But other than that, there's not a lot of good today. People are just following the dollar - that's what messes it up. If I could be making music in another era, I'd choose any of 'em: '50s, 60s, 70s, 80s... The '80s was so amazing. You had everything from DeBarge to the Police to Duran Duran to George Micheal to Boy George to Run-DMC to Malcolm McLaren to Evelyn Champagne to ... You had so many different kinds of music - punk, everything, man. It was so much better. I mean, today's music, compared to the '80s, dude? It's sad." "I had fun in the '90s with hip-hop. I had fun with the Biggies and the 2Pacs and the Wu-Tangs and Cool J, Dre and all that. Today, since 2000, there's been probably three new guys - maybe four of five now. But in the '90s there was Wu-Tang and myself, Mobb Deep, you had Black Moon, you had Jay, you had Biggie, 2Pac, you had the whole Death Row camp, Rass Kass, and that was hip-hop. R&B you had people like Boyz II Men, Jodeci, Mary J Blige, you know? This was all new for the '90s, and that was good, that was pretty cool. The '90s was pretty tight. And now? I don't know what's happening." Since the whole thing with Jay-Z, have you sat down with him and talked and shook hands? "No" How would it go down when it does happen? "I don't know. I've no idea." Were you interested to hear he's become the new head of Def Jam? "No but that makes sense though" Were you surprised he retired from rapping? "Erm... No, not really." Can you see a day that might happen to you? "No."