When we were ranking all of Nas’ albums, from worst to best, we said that I Am… was one of the most under appreciated of all his projects.
Originally planned to be a double album called I Am…The Autobiography, heavy bootlegging led to Nas abandoning this idea and putting out two separate albums instead. To add to the bad luck surrounding the album, it was later revealed by photographer Danny Hastings that Nas nearly suffocated to death during the album cover shoot, which would have been a horrible fate for arguably the greatest rapper of all time.
When he was engaged by Nas to create the artwork, Hastings – who previously shot the covers for Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), Big Pun’s Capital Punishment, and Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… – had the idea to evolve the Illmatic and It Was Written album covers.
“The first one, you have him being a boy, very young,” he told MTV. “The second was a little bit older. And the third one, he was a king. He already conquered the world. He was on top of the world. He was doing a lot of big things. We came with the concept of making a King Tut sarcophagus piece.”
To create the King Tut concept, Hastings covered Nas’ face in clay, which got caught up in the rapper’s nose and nearly suffocated him. “The funny part was that the first attempt, Nas was getting asphyxiated. We almost killed Nas,” Hastings recalled. “We cleaned him up, and he was like, ‘Let’s do it again!’ Nas was a true sport.”
Bad luck and nearly suffocating to death aside, while the final version of the album wasn’t what Nas had envisioned, and is far from Nas’ best albums, I Am… still features some of the Queensbridge legend’s best songs, including “N.Y. State of Mind Pt. II”, “Hate Me Now” , “We Will Survive”, “Nas Is Like”, and “Undying Love”.
The following tracks were the ones leaked in 1998:
- Fetus (Belly Button Window) (later on The Lost Tapes)
- Small World (later on I Am…)
- Money Is My Bitch (later on I Am…)
- Project Windows (later on Nastradamus)
- Poppa Was a Player (later on The Lost Tapes)
- Dr. Knockboots (Do’s and Don’t) (later on I Am…)
- Day Dreamin’ Stay Schemin’
- Sometimes I Wonder
- The Hardest Thing to Do Is Stay Alive
- Drunk by Myself (later on The Lost Tapes)
- Wanna Play (later on Dame Grease’s Live on Lenox)
- Blaze a 50 (later on The Lost Tapes)
- We Will Survive (later on I Am…)