Fresh off winning Ambrosia for Heads’ contest to name the greatest Hip-Hop album of all time (based on your votes), Illmatic continues to stand the test of time. The debut album from then 20-year-old Nasir Jones is widely considered to be the perfect masterpiece, but Nas Heads are well aware that his prodigious career cannot be summed up with just one album. Multi-platinum selling and Grammy-nominated 11 times over, the Queens, New York MC has managed to transition seamlessly from Rap superstar to entrepreneur. Although, unlike his contemporaries Jay Z and Puff Daddy, Nas’ business acumen is not often mentioned in the same breath as his success in music. He has conquered the world of publishing as an investor in the Mass Appeal media network, triumphed in the fashion industry thanks to lucrative deals with Fila and other brands, and his partnership with Hennessey is one of the most successful mergers of artist and beverage in history. Also under his belt are business ventures in the worlds of online retail, tech startups, restaurants, his role in the upcoming Hip-Hop inspired Netflix series The Get Down, and more. But in his most auspicious undertaking yet, he may be facing his strongest opponent to date.
Nas is a venture capitalist. In laymen’s terms, a venture capitalist is an individual whose wealth is matched by an equally vast taste for the unknown, leading to major investments made in businesses and other projects which may or may not succeed. With all of his experience in entrepreneurialism, Nas has been steadily amassing a serious track record as a venture capitalist (VC for short), and a new interview exposes his thinking process and his perspective on how Hip-Hop and business truly are a perfect match. In conversation with the Daily Beast’s Jen Yamato, Esco says that a rapper with a budding business portfolio should come as no surprise. “Hip-Hop is the only musical genre or musical style that speaks about what we like. We’re the only ones that tell you what kind of car we like to drive, the neighborhood and the type of homes we like to live in, the watches we wear, the food we eat, and the drinks we drink…we’re like Yelp. We’re better than Yelp and we came before Google. It’s just Hip-Hop!,” he says.
The conversation, unsurprisingly, turns to Nas’ forthcoming 11th album – one that has yet to be formally introduced. As Yamato explains, there is good reason for there being such a delay since his most recent solo LP, 2012’s Life Is Good. Included in his list of very fruitful distractions include “the sneaker and apparel store he’s opening in Las Vegas, the line of lip products he launched with his daughter, and his restaurant business venture with NYC soul food joint Sweet Chick, with plans for expansion to L.A.” However, Yamato calls his newly launched venture capitalism firm QueensBridge Venture Partners the “most intriguing” addition to his CV yet. Thus far it has “invested in over 40 start-ups in tech, healthcare, Bitcoin, and companies like Lyft, Dropbox, Genius, and Tilt.” Yamato points to a recent CNBC interview with Nas’ manager and VC partner Anthony Saleh who shared that “the firm typically invests between $100,000 to $500,000 in a start-up, and helps fund about 20 companies a year.”
Certainly an astounding accomplishment for any individual, Nas’ ability to galvanize his talent from the Queensbridge Houses to the boardroom is particularly incredible, and certainly embodies the Hip-Hop spirit. As the largest public-housing complex in North America, the community in which he grew up has served as the breeding ground for plenty of Rap royalty including Cormega, Mobb Deep, and MC Shan and through his seemingly endless success in the world of business, Nas is proving to future generations of Queensbridge Houses that the world really is theirs.