So, who's up next? A&Rs have sought the next great MC since Afrika Bambaataa dropped "Planet Rock."
Nas was once dubbed the next Rakim. Rick Ross has been called the next Biggie (Last disclaimer: not by this author). Kendrick Lamar has been called the next Pac. Everyone from 50 Cent to Lupe Fiasco to J. Cole has been labeled the next Nas.
Who does Nastradamus foresee filling his shoes? He doesn't like that question any more than he likes lists.
"There was never a next Rakim. There's only one Rakim, and you can compare people to me, which is a great honor to me, but those guys are really on their path to becoming great Kendricks and greater Lupes," he said. "I think it took years after 'Illmatic,' after my first record, before people started to get used to me and started to get into what I was all about and what the Nas story was."
Nas' brilliance may lie in his ability to keep adapting that story through the years, whether it's from the days when he "dropped out of Cooley High/gassed up by a cokehead cutie pie" or lessons learned as father to his teen daughter, Destiny: "She heard stories of her daddy thuggin'/so if her husband is a gangster, can't be mad, I love him."
He's been the hustling street kid known as Nasty Nas and the jeweled-up don named Escobar after the world's most famous druglord.
He's been the thug, the black righteous militant, the philosopher, so it's not really weird that he has such broad appeal when he's just as likely to allude to Tony Montana as he is Huey P. Newton or Ivan Van Sertima in his rhymes.
Nas declined to say whether he'd still be rapping in 20 years, though he did offer an assessment on what hip-hop might look like two decades from now.
"It's always going to be youthful expression. It's always going to be a good time. It's always going to be poetry, in the vein of Langston Hughes. At the same time, it's entertaining and party and fun like Luther Campbell," he said, "but it's always going to just be the youth expressing themselves over the sounds that move people in the best way."
Kind of fitting he referenced a Harlem Renaissance poet and 2 Live Crew in that answer.