Nas Shows Why He May Be The Greatest MC To Own A Record Label
This year, Nas’ Mass Appeal Records is celebrating its fifth anniversary. The New York City-based label has put out a steady stream of releases since 2014. Some highlights include Run The Jewels’ RTJ2, Dave East’s Kairi Chanel, and the posthumous J Dilla LP, The Diary. The imprint has also worked with Fashawn, Gangrene, DJ Shadow, Boldy James, and a post-death release from Pimp C. In 2018, the Mass Appeal was behind Black Milk’s Fever, named one of Ambrosia For Heads‘ Top 15 Albums that year.
Nas’ label wants to continue to make key introductions. In conjunction with an upcoming tour, today (February 5), the team releases The Starting 5, Vol. 1 compilation. It is eight songs that cast a spotlight on the current roster, which includes veteran Fashawn as well as label newcomer, Brooklyn’s Stro.
“Apostles” is a fitting first track. Nas appears on a Statik Selektah production, to provide a scoring assist to Fash’ as well as Cleveland, Ohio’s Ezri, who are both heading out on the road. Statik laces the song with piano keys and haunting layered vocals for dramatic effect. Fashawn, whose acclaimed Exile-produced debut Boy Meets World turns 10 later this year, raps first. He spits about escalating stock in the game as one of the best. The Fresno, California says that just like in his street days, quality is his brand.
Nas spits after Fashawn. In trademark form, he raps with a proverb. “A king is often alone / Even in a crowded home / He’s silent, let it be known / He trusts nobody, not family or friends / You’d be surprised on, what he relies on, consequences of men.” Then Nas gets political, calling the current President “a true traitor to our respected republic.” He then says that he is not one to politic with other label heads and play industry back-slapping. “Now I’m a label head / And I ain’t sign Fash’ as an artist / I rock with Fash’ as a partner.”
Ezri, whose gripping “Be Right Back” video was a strong introduction in late 2017, closes out the moment. “Y’all too busy chiefin’, I’m busy achieving,” he spits at Rap peers more concerned with blunts than bars. Fittingly, at the close of the song, Statik—who has worked closely with DJ Premier over the years—scratches Da Youngsta’z, the same vocal responsible for Gang Starr’s 1994 hit.
Starting 5, Vol. 1 also features Black Milk, Stro, 070 Phi, and others.
#BonusBeat: The tour dates, which are reportedly now free events thanks to sponsorship, with RSVP:
2/6 – Santa Ana, CA – The Observatory – Constellation Room
2/7 – San Diego, CA – House of Blues – Voodoo Room
2/8 – Los Angeles, CA – The Roxy Theatre
2/10 – Oakland, CA – The New Parish
2/11 – Portland, OR – Hawthorne Theatre
2/12 – Vancouver, BC – Biltmore Cabaret
2/13 – Seattle, WA – Chop Suey
2/15 – Salt Lake City, UT – Metro Music Hall
2/16 – Denver, CO – Globe Hall
2/18 – Minneapolis, MN – 7th Street Entry
2/19 – Milwaukee, WI – The Backroom @ Colectivo Café
2/21 – Chicago, IL – Reggie’s Rock Club
2/22 – Pontiac, MI – The Pike Room
2/24 – Toronto, ON – The Rivoli
2/26 – Montréal, QC – Le Belmont
2/28 – Cambridge, MA – Middle East Downstairs
3/1 – New York, NY – S.O.B’s
3/2 – Philadelphia, PA – Milkboy
3/3 – Washington, DC – DC9
3/5 – Atlanta, GA – Vinyl