While shooting the cover art for his third album I Am…, Nas almost suffocated from clay. To be able to get a mold of Nas' face for the Pharaoh mask, famed portrait photographer Danny Hastings and his team had to cover Nas' face with clay. While Nas face was covered in the clay, they made holes in his nose so he could breathe, some of the clay got stuck, almost suffocating Nas.
“The funny part was that the first attempt, Nas was getting asphyxiated. We almost killed Nas… We cleaned him up, and he was like, ‘Let's do it again!' […] Nas was a true sport.” Danny Hastings told MTV News
Danny Hastings also revealed to MTV the I Am… cover art was inspired and built on the theme of Nas' previous covers, his 1994 debut album Illmatic and 1996's It Was Written. “The first one, you have him being a boy, very young. The second was a little bit older. And the third one, he was a king. 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.”
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Danny Hastings also shot the cover art for Big Pun's debut album Capital Punishment, Wu-Tang Clan's debut album Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), and Raekwon's debut album Only Built 4 Cuban Linx.