Arts & Entertainment, Music

Case Study: Writing Challenges


Lesson time 04:21 min

Nas breaks down his song “Rewind,” in which he decided to tell a story backward, to explain how thinking outside the box through writing challenges can help you improve your skills, move the genre forward, and do something no one has done before.

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Topics include: Case Study: Writing Challenges


[MUSIC PLAYING] - I came up with the song Rewind as sort of a punishment to myself because I didn't feel creative that day. It's funny, I didn't know-- I didn't know what to write about that day. I'm in the studio. We're in Long Island. I'm with Large Professor. He's working on tracks. And he plays something I liked. The original T La Rock It's Yours drums, I loved. So we were listening to that song and he just chopped it up and made it into a beat. And I felt like it was getting late and I wanted to get home soon and chill. So I said, I need something because I couldn't come up with anything good today. I'm just going to make a story that starts at the end and make it go backwards. [HIP HOP MUSIC PLAYING] Listen up, gangsters and shorties with their hair done. Pull up a chair, son. Put it in the air, son, dog, whatever they call you. God, listen. I spit a story backwards. It starts at the ending. The bullet goes back in the gun. The bullet holes close on the chest of its brother. We're back to square one. Scream and shoot. Don't, please. He put his fifth back on his hip. It's like a VCR rewinding the clip. He put his hand-- something like that. If it's going to go backwards, then everything has to go backwards. Not just the story but the words coming out these people mouths. So you just say the words backwards just to really keep the whole thing tight. It was one of the fastest songs I ever wrote because I wasn't trying. I wasn't trying hard. The next day, we heard it and we said, it's a keeper. It fits. It's right. And that became one of my most talked-about songs because I couldn't figure out-- I couldn't find a song that I wanted to write that day. So I didn't want to go home empty-handed so I made a simple song going backwards. (RAPPING) Listen up gangsters and honies with your hair done. Pull up a chair, honey, and put it in the air, son, dog, whatever they call you. God, just listen. I spit a story backwards, it starts at the ending. The bullet goes back in the gun. The bullet holes close in the chest of a nigger. Now he back to square one. Scream and shoot. Don't, please. I put my fifth back on my hip. It's like a VCR rewinding the hit. As a writer, I think you should give yourself writing challenges like I did with Rewind. Pick a topic. Pick something that no one's done, something that is simple. But it's up to you to make it good. Any idea, and you make it good. Make sure you put that much into it so that it's descriptive, it's good, it's on beat, and you say things and do things that no one's done. The world is your oyster. And you have your paintbrush, which is your pen or your phone or your computer or whatever you write on. And you can do whatever you want there. It's your world. There are no rules. Eminem's song Stan, where he talks about a fan, it doesn't happen. That's not something that happens in rap. And on top of that, it's a trag...

About the Instructor

From the landmark album "Illmatic" in 1994 to the Grammy-winning "King’s Disease," Nas has been exposing truth through rhymes and vivid street poetry for more than 25 years. Now he’s sharing his journey, the evolution of Hip-Hop, and a brand-new song with you. Hip-Hop, lyricism, flow—learn how to tap into the power of your own voice and turn your experiences into music with one of rap’s all-time greatest artists.

Featured MasterClass Instructor


Grammy-winning rapper Nas shares his journey through the evolution of Hip-Hop, breaks down some of his biggest hits, and writes a brand-new song.

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