Arts & Entertainment, Music

Learning from Hip-Hop Legends


Lesson time 11:06 min

This lesson covers how listening to music legends influences your art and can inspire you on your own musical journey. Nas talks about his music idols, the growth of Hip-Hop, and the lasting impact of Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Going Mainstream: Growing Hip-Hop’s Influence · Tupac and Biggie · Illmatic and Beyond


[MUSIC PLAYING] - It's important that people know the evolution and origins of hip hop because it's the most exciting thing ever. And you're robbing yourself of a great education or a great treat to know how it started, where it started, who started it, how it evolved, or how did these labels form-- Def Jam Records, all of these labels-- Cold Chilling Records-- all of these great records, all of these production techniques that were started back then. I like to watch stuff on BB King, Muddy Waters, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Elton John, Queen, Elvis, Sinatra. I want to know about these guys and they're not even rap. So it's cool that now we can go back almost 50 years and trace where-- how this thing got to where it is today and then you can learn from them. You can learn from the pioneers and it could help you today. You know, when you go back and listen to those artists I named, you're going back, listening to musical geniuses. Not to take away from us today, but these guys wrote original music. They didn't sample. They may have been inspired by other tunes and did their own versions of it. That was their way of sampling artists. They would hear something-- a blues song would inspire a rock song and a rock song would inspire a R&B song. And then Queen, "We Will Rock You", that's a rap song. He was rapping. So that's one of the first rap songs ever heard. That got played on the stations that played black music because it was that feeling, it felt like hip hop, and it was hip hop. So these guys were geniuses, guitarists, pianists, drummers-- these are the guys we sample but they made that stuff from themselves from scratch, like, that's missing today. So we're going back to a lost art when we go back and listen to these artists. One of the most defining moments for me, I was watching the movies "Wild Style" and "Beat Street". First off, they were no hip hop movies so these were like the only hip hop movies we got and these guys documented a time period we knew that there was no limits for it. We knew that you didn't just have to listen to hip hop, you could watch a story about hip hop. Not just a story about hip hop, a movie starring hip hop artists. "Crush Groove" with Run DMC and Fat Boys, another big defining moment because it took hip hop just off the radio and the mix shows and the concerts. It took it to the main stage, the world stage. In the '80s, the artists that I saw coming up were just some of the most profound, incredible sounding artists I ever heard. I go back to Melle Mel from the Furious Five, LL Cool J when he came on the scene, Public Enemy just taking on social issues like no other music group in the world, especially at that time. After you see what Rakim did, what Kool Moe Dee did, what Kool G Rap did, what Cool J did, you're trying to find what they didn't do. And I was looking for what they didn't do. I was developing my style while listening to them. At some point, I had to find a pocket that th...

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.

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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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