DJ Khaled’s We the Best Radio on Friday was an historic episode that featured the debut of Big Sean and Kendrick Lamar’s “Holy Key.” As a bonus for listeners, Khaled also shared a 20-second snippet of a new Nas song, which was revealed on Major Key’s tracklist as “Nas Album Done.” Yes, Khaled just confirmed that Nas’ twelfth studio album was finished.
It’s been four years since the Queensbridge rapper’s Grammy-nominated LP, Life Is Good, released in July of 2012. The album was a success, earning him his sixth No. 1 album with 149,000 copies sold, according to Nielsen Soundscan. While Nas has talked about the beginning stages of recording his album in early 2013, the real news came from him on Twitter in April when he teased the title would be coming out next month.
Dropping next album title next month.
— Nasir Jones (@Nas) April 2, 2013
Timbaland created more excitement for the project when he spoke about a song he produced for Nas’ album called “Sinatra in the Sands” featuring Jay Z and Justin Timberlake. Timbaland says Timberlake sings like Frank Sinatra. “It’s completely stupid,” Timbo added.
From there, Nas kept his silence about the album until he gave a bit more information on the direction in an interview with Huffington Post in October:
With this record, ah man … It’s the next chapter in myself as a writer. I’m really excited about every new leaf I turn. Every new endeavor. I’m excited about that and all the potential that comes with everything new that I do. And all my ideas can come to fruition. And that excites me, because there’s no limits to what I can do, in terms of trying to be an inspiration. I just want to do well for the listeners out there. Do well for the whole genre. So I’m excited.
In 2014, Nas appeared on Microphone Check with Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Frannie Kelley, where he revealed he’s been in the studio with Timbaland, Swizz Beatz, and No I.D. He explained his process of being uninspired at first, but started to get motivated again around the time of the 20th anniversary of Illmatic. Here’s an excerpt from their conversation:
It took me a while to jumpstart it. I started working with Tim, I want to say a year and a half ago. I think it was the same year I dropped my last album, Life is Good. I started with Tim and it felt really powerful; it felt like it was really powerful. And I stepped back from it. Tim’s like, “What are you doing?” and I’m like, “I just need a minute to like — I just need a minute to take it all in, just live a little and enjoy day-by-day stuff and daily stuff I’m doing.” It’s just — I didn’t want to go back in the studio that quick. I felt like I needed to be inspired.
I wasn’t really, really, really inspired, to tell you the truth, until we started to, kind of, embark on this 20th anniversary. It wasn’t ’til then that I really started to feel it. Cause I got a chance — and I gotta give credit to the documentary guys. Them showing me the footage and stuff really like — it really lets you know where you come from and everything, and where you at now. I salute them dudes, man — One9, Erik Parker, the whole crew over there that’s put that film together — because that’s helped me find the inspiration. I found it.
So I jumpstarted the album again — the new one. Because I started maybe a year and a half ago with the ideas, No I.D., I’m there. Now I’m at a place where — I laid down ideas, so the ideas I lay down then, now, I’m kind of like going through ’em and I’m fixing ’em. Now I’m at a place where I could play a song for somebody and they really get it and they really understand — they really feel it. At first I didn’t, so I’m happy to say I’m at a place where it feels right. I talked to Swizz, and we went through joints. And No I.D. and Timbaland, you know.
Later that year, Nas would tell Complex that “Sinatra in the Sands” would come out “when the time is right.” When Nas hopped on the remix to ScHoolboy Q’s “Studio,” he rapped in his opening verse “finished up my new album / single about to be dropping / Last album on Def Jam, I got so many options.” It fueled the rumor that his first single would be his monumental Timbo/Hov/JT collabo, but nothing ever came of it. Instead, Nas gifted us with the J. Dilla-produced “The Season,” teasing more music was on the way.
In April 2015, Nas once again spoke about his mysterious album during a concert in Orlando. He sent a clear message to the crowd that his album would be coming in the summer. Although Nas didn’t end up sticking to that release date.
A video posted by @godblesswestbay on Apr 26, 2015 at 8:40am PDT
At the beginning of the year, Nas appeared on Khaled’s We the Best Radio as a special guest. He shared more information on his album, notably that he was back in the studio with Large Professor and Da Beatminerz. He confirmed “Sinatra in the Sands” was a real song, but was unsure if he was going to put it on the album or on another The Lost Tapes project that’s been rumored to come out too.
At around the 6:20 mark, he shares some thoughts on finding inspiration again. Watch that below:
Kanye West tweeted in March that he promised President Barack Obama he would send beats to Nas for his next album. Nas didn’t give any details on ‘Ye beats or anything remotely close to that when Complex asked about the album in April, but he did talk about why he didn’t want to rush the process. “I’m letting the music dictate [the direction]. Words can’t explain that,” Nas said. “It’s going to be a fun Nas album.”
There was word that Rick Ross was signed on as an executive producer for his album, but he dismissed the rumor when we caught up with him in Los Angeles to discuss his Ghostbusters collaboration. “I’m a free artist, I’d be down to do something like that down the road,” he said of it happening one day. “I talked to Scarface years ago about producing an album for me. DJ Premier produced [an album]. I’m into that. Large Professor. Ross got great beat ideas.”
Khaled’s “Nas Album Done” has fueled the speculation that we will be getting a Nas album in 2016. At this point, there’s a good chance we’ll be hearing more concrete details from Nasir Jones himself in the coming months.