Keep Shooting: The Effects of Winning & Losing in Hip-Hop


Nas, J. Cole, Megan Thee Stallion, 2019

“You did not condemn us for being mediocre, you condemned us for not being divine” –Ta-Nehisi Coates (Black Panther #4)

I. God’s Forgotten Son 

April 1994. The Source inducts Nas and his highly-anticipated debut, Illmatic, into the illustrious treasury of 5-Mic albums pantheon. A laurel only gifted in response to perfection. 

Sixteen months later, the Queensbridge rapper watches peers and rivals receive trophies and acknowledgment at the 1995 Source Awards. Not once is his name called to walk upon the stage or stand at a podium—or to speak of his brilliance. During one of the loudest nights in hip-hop history, Nas sat in silence. 

The Roots’ ?uestlove, who was in attendance, observed how each loss welted Nas with bruises. The damage was unseen, but it was there. Body language speaks louder than words. In his 2013 memoir, Mo’ Meta Blues, the veteran drummer detailed what he witnessed that evening:

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