NASAAN has spent a lot of time paving his own way out of the looming shadow of his legendary father with the help of his father’s friends, who saw him as his own person as well as Proof’s son. Royce da 5’9 took upon himself a special role in fostering young talent, and now both of them sat down for an interview on the Hot97 radio station.

Hosts Ebro and Peter Rosenberg started by delving into NASAAN’s story and how he became close to the Detroit rap circle that his father built. More specifically, how did Royce begin mentoring the young artist? NASAAN started saying that he was working in Royce’s strip club. His delivery was so deadpan that he sold this story for a second. But he quickly shifted the gears to a straightforward conversation, explaining the timeline.

My father was Proof of D12, so they had a relationship. Me and him are like family in a sense. I look at [Royce] like an uncle, and he took me up under his wing. I was over at Death Jam under Paul Rosenberg, and I would just always come by. Then I built a really, really great relationship with him, and he’s been a mentor and tutor to me ever since.

NASAAN introduced himself as a rapper, but rapping is just one of the facets of his artistry. He remembers how watching Eminem working made him look for his own way in the culture:

I’m more proud of myself for being a creative artist overall. Rapping is cool. I went to the studio with Marshall one time, and he was just talking about how much he LOVED rap. I was like, yo, he’s different; that’s not for me. I had to find out what was for me, and I’m just a creative. I direct and edit all of my music videos. And they’re crazy, by the way. I’m not even like toting my own horn. I think I have some of the greatest videos out right now. They’re super refreshing.

However, NASAAN didn’t grow up in Detroit, and the school years in Atlanta left a mark on his style and influences, remembers the young rapper:

My pops passed when I was seven, this was 2006. I went down to Atlanta after that and I grew up there. I had to grow and kind of foster myself. I started rapping in high school. Stuff was picking up and I would be on MTV and Complex. Then Paul Rosenberg had caught wind of it and reeled me back in. That’s when I started coming back around these guys when I was 18-19.

Royce has his side of the story to tell, and it goes way back into NASAAN’s childhood.

Me and Proof took him and my son to Chuck-E-Cheese ’cause they’re the same age. And they hit it
off immediately. It was just a one-time thing, something that me and Proof decided to do one time
before our lives got all crazy. I didn’t see you again until you said I saw you at one of Marshall’s shows. (“Music Midtown in Atlanta, the festival”, — clarifies NASAAN). I saw him, and I didn’t recognise him. Then he started coming to the studio with my son. They’re real cool now as adults. When he started coming to the studio with my son, we started to reconnect, and I was like, man, I remember you when you were a baby. He got the same face, he got his dad’s face. But I didn’t know he was going to end up being so tall. It’s a full-circle thing. It was something that we didn’t force at all. I’ve never been in the lab with him while he’s creating music, holding his hand. Strictly a mentorship type of thing.

His relationship with Eminem is not as close. There is a certain distance between them, but there is no lack of support, says NASAAN:

We’re cool. Anytime I need them, they’re there. I don’t really like bother them as much or just go that way. I’m still growing and trying to figure things out on my own. I’ve always been like that. It’s weird that you ask me about my father ’cause I used to run from that so much. Because I think being a rapper son is so corny. I used to hate telling people that. But I had to grow into it and realise that it’s kind of a blessing in way. But that’s why I stood away from it for so long ’cause I feel like even now it’s kind of weird talking about it. I feel like there’s not enough of a foundation on my own to stand on before we get into these conversations. But I’m so confident in my work that I think that maybe there are people who are the fans of my dad or Marshall who will see my stuff and be like, yo, this kid is different.

Royce understands that young talents need space to grow and find their voice, but he also knows they need support and guidance. He remembers being catapulted into the business with Eminem’s help and how lost he felt back then. So, now Royce is on a mission:

We didn’t have OG’s mentors. I think mentorship is the biggest void that’s in the marketplace in terms of the Black Culture today, for whatever reason. I’m not going to say, for whatever reason, we know why. When me and Marshall came, Marshall was stomping through and I was right behind them stepping. And all of the guys that we looked at like the gods, I’m not going to even say names, they just looked at us as competition. They didn’t necessarily embrace us. It would have been cool to get that embrace. I’m not coming at them because I understand what they were probably thinking. I think the game conditions us to be more competitive than thinking about what we can get done in solidarity. As a man, I’ve been through so much, and I feel like I was not supposed to survive many of the things that I’ve been through. So, I’m definitely here for a reason. It started with my sobriety. Once I started to share, be transparent about my sobriety, I started to get feedback from it and realise that I was actually helping people with my words. It gave me a fulfilment that I wasn’t looking for; I didn’t know that I needed. When I started to stepping in the direction of helping or making things better, I came to realise that that’s what this is about. It’s not really about me at all. You are the vessel. What can you do with this that I’m giving you that I don’t give just anybody? What are you going to take, and how are you going to make the world better? How are you going to make the people around you better? That’s the way that I’ve been stepping, and I’ve been as intentional about it as possible. I go out of my way to share as much information as possible without turning into the corny old guy that’s just preaching all the time.

Meanwhile, NASAAN faces difficulties on his way that Eminem and Royce did not hear about when they started their path. Being close to one of the most influential rap crews in the world might have its benefits, but it also brings the type of scrutiny NASAAN would never asked for. But navigating through it made him stronger.

I’m a super competitive person. I feel like there’s a narrative around something so much it’s like I’m going to try my best to break it. People knew about me because Marshall had posted me or whatever when I was a teenager. They would discredit me so much. Granted, I wasn’t the best artist, and I still had some growing to do, and I had to figure myself out. But they were giving all the life to that. I wanted to work myself out of that. After the Death Jam situation, I felt counted out. It didn’t go as planned. I felt like I lost in life essentially. Like I had one shot, and I blew it. I had to prove to myself more than anything that, no, I’m not going out like this. I’ve got this. And figure shit out. That’s when I started directing my own videos. You like showing shit, like, no, y’all have to accept me. I’m too good. And it’s just been on an upward trajectory for me ever since. I think that is growing. It’s a part of life. You’re going to lose. But I’ve learned that the losses aren’t the losses, though. They’re the wins in a sense, they’re experience. So you know how to go, how to move, and how to navigate moving forward.

Royce also talked about his recent collaboration with Detroit Pistons for a merch capsule that pays homage to J Dilla. He also mentioned the third PRHYME project he’s working on with DJ Premiere.

Watch the interview below:

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