My Poetry’s Deep: Nas Schools Harvard On His Lyrics (Video)

In 2013, Nas achieved yet another one of Hip-Hop’s proudest accomplishments, when it was announced that Harvard University was establishing the Nasir Jones Fellowship in his honor. The mission of the fellowship was “to seek projects from scholars and artists that build on the rich and complex Hip-Hop tradition.” Over the last 4 years, Nas’ relationship with the esteemed institution has deepened with him speaking on panels there, and his classic Illmatic album recently being selected as 1 of 4 to be preserved in Harvard’s library.

Nas’ “Illmatic” Is 1 of 4 Hip-Hop Albums Being Preserved in Harvard’s Library

Now, Harvard has called on Nas for an education on his lyrics. Sitting with poetry professor, Elisa New, Nas explored the lyrics of his Illmatic single, “It Ain’t Hard To Tell.” During the short clip, the two discuss the song, and similar to conversations hosted by Genius’ Rob Markman, they break down some of the lyrics line by line.

One of the most fascinating parts of the discussion is seeing how once a work of art leaves the artist’s hands, it becomes a living, breathing entity that continues growing. In an exchange about the line “I dominate break loops, giving mics men-e-strual cycles,” Professor New suggests that the cycles represent a metaphor that refers back to the break loops. Nas says that he did not intend the reference, but also acknowledges that it’s fitting and is now a part of the lyric’s meaning.

“My poetry’s deep, I never fell. Nas’s raps should be locked in a cell. It ain’t hard to tell…”