Nas’ Poignant Black History Letter Pays Homage To Black Music’s Cultural Impact And Legacy

Nas has teamed up with Google to celebrate Black History Month with an open letter praising under-heralded jazz icons and the continued impact of their legacy on American culture. The letter, titled “We Continue To Rise,” appears on Google’s Arts & Culture page and is accompanied by a short video of Nas reading an excerpt from the letter over a jazzy instrumental and images of some of the legends he celebrates.

Name-checking both musical behemoths and relative unknowns like Wes Montgomery, Robert Johnson, Louis Armstrong, and Sarah Vaughan and linking them to hip-hop stalwarts Slick Rick and Eric B. and Rakim, Nas stressed the importance of Black music on Black history. Likewise, he points out that Black history is American history, reflecting that he “was raised to understand that every month was Black History Month.”

He also recalls his own first experiments with music in the form of a guitar that his jazz musician father kept in the living room. While he notes he wasn’t great at playing that particular instrument, it instilled in him the love for music that would take him from the Queensbridge housing projects to the Kennedy Center to perform with the National Symphony Orchestra.

Music is powerful in that way, and Nas’ letter serves as a poignant reminder of its impact in our everyday lives and our shared history. Check out the full text below.

Music has scored my life since day one.

Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 – WOW. That music really touched me. And the theme music to Marvel cartoons like the Amazing Spider Man and Iron Man – we used to sing those songs in kindergarten. Most kids have flashing memories of being served lullabies by their parents when they were shorties, and in this regard, I humbly fall, eyes closed, into that plush “most kids” box.

I was blessed to have love from both of my parents, and it just so happens that my father’s love for music took him around the globe via his own sonic excursions, both live and recorded. Pops would come back with mad loot (cash money, that is) from around the world. It was a testament to his globetrotting and a cool little nod to me that said, young blood, when you’re ready, the world is yours.