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Nas almost suffocated during the “I Am…” album cover shoot

Nas almost suffocated during the ‘I Am...’ album cover shoot

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.”

Read: Nas’ father played the trumpet solo at the end of “Life’s a Bitch” off Illmatic

Read: Nas’ daughter Destiny is listed as an Executive Producer on Stillmatic so she’ll always receive royalty checks from the album

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SUNDAY GIFT for @nas fans. Happy 20 year anniversary. The idea for the Nas I Am album cover was to transform Nas to continue the progression of his covers, going from a boy to a man to a king. I automatically thought of my good friend artist and sculptor @cortesstudio follow him. This guy has scuplted your favorite super hero. #latinxart excellence The sketch above is the original fax, (yup #fax) he sketch for me before he started to sculpt the piece. During the Photo session. Dave put clay on Nas' face to get a mold of his face and we almost had an accident. The clay blocked his nostril and stopped him breathing. Shit we almost killed Nas accidentally. Not a laughing matter then. We were nervous as hell.. But looking back at it.. LOL. Much Respect to the God. He was a true sport. On the second attempt we were successful we got a perfect mold of his face. Dave then constructed the rest of the bust by hand and deliver a museum looking sculpture. When we saw the final piece we were all blown away. But I had a huge problem. TECH INFO: I was essentially shooting a mirror. Because of the gold reflective paint on the sculpture there was no definition, everything was reflection. The first shot looked horrible. Creative director Ola Kudu was looking at me like, "Photochop this doesn't look right". What did we do wrong? This was a mold of Nas, an imprint of his actual face. Why wasn't looking like him. Then I realized that what defines a face in a picture is the balance between highlights and shadows. But how can you create shadows on a reflective surface. Eureka! I placed 4×8 ft white boards and black boards facing the sculpture, open a hole through the boards so I can fit my camera and instead of pointing the light to the sculpture, I pointed the light to the boards. So essentially what you see in the sculpture are the reflections of white and black boards to give you the illusion of highlights and shadows. #PHOTOGOD for realz coño CAMERA: Mamiya RZ67 110mm lens Fujifilm ISO 160 F 11 – 13 Bare strobes bounce on VFlats. VFlats facing sculpture. #nas #nasiam @kokujin2000 #illmatic @hiphopphotomuseum #hiphop #contacthigh #nychiphop #hiphopgod #hiphoplegend

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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.