It's been a celebratory year for Nas, as the twentieth anniversary of Illmatic has come and gone with a documentary detailing its origins and countless retrospective looks at the career-launching record in its wake.
Now, the latest video for one of its tracks, "Represent," has dropped, and Nas took a risk by handing over the creative direction of the production to a fan—and it paid off in spades.
Rolling Stone followed Brian Katz, Nas and Mass Appeal, a cultural outlet and label Nas has backed, throughout the filming process of "Represent." Nas and Mass Appeal found Katz and his video concept pitch through a contest that promised a shot at directing the rapper's latest endeavor as the prize. Katz, a native New Yorker and longtime Nas fan, earned the opportunity with a savvy, informed take on the track: the soundtrack of 1924 film The Thief of Baghdad was sampled for "Represent," and Katz had the idea to work in images from the film and its vintage quality into the visual foil of "Represent."
The result is a video that only a fan with a keen knowledge of all things Illmatic could produce, and Nas totally picked up on that: "He did something that I probably would’ve thought of. You go back to an old film and the song that was sampled is the music from this old film. That, to me, is the sh-t." As for the change in scenery and the disconnect from New York, the environment "Represent" sprung from and references? Nas is cool with that, too. "It didn’t matter where it was shot because it’s 20 years later with someone else’s perspective, someone else’s whole take… [I]t wasn’t about me. It was about someone’s love for the song," he tells Rolling Stone. "If they wanted to shoot it anywhere – Antarctica – it doesn’t matter. That was their dream; what they wanted. I was more than happy."