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Rapper Nas on Dylan, Jazz and Why He Changed

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Name Dropper
The Title of His Controversial New Album

THE RAPPER NAS got people talking about his new album months before its release by announcing it would be titled with a racial epithet. However, he eventually backed away from the plan after some major retailers said they wouldn't stock an album bearing the n-word; it will be released without a title Tuesday. Born Nasir Jones, the New York rapper cemented his place in the genre with a widely hailed debut album, Illmatic, released in 1994 when Nas was 20 years old. Since then he has increasingly positioned himself as a musical commentator. For instance, his previous album, Hip Hop Is Dead, took issue with the state of rap music. We spoke to Nas about Billy Joel, jazz music and why he changed the name of his album.

WSJ: Your father, Olu Dara, is a jazz musician. What have you borrowed from jazz?

NAS: Jazz has a feeling to it that pushes me. I can hear the tempo and I can hear flows that I want to produce. It gives me direction for what I want to do with my words.

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