Hip Hop Head and author Justin Jones is currently in the final writing stages of his second book ‘Hip Hop Was Dead: The State of the Culture 2003-2007’. That book covers a 5-year era of Hip-Hop and how the culture was affected during that period. Mr. Jones took some time out, though, to chat with me about his debut book Street Dreaming: Reading Nas’ It Was Written.
Reviews & Dunn: Growing up when did you discover your passion for Hip Hop?
Justin Jones: I’ve been in love with hip-hop since I heard “Nothin But A G Thang” by Dre & Snoop. I was a kid then but that’s where it started. As I got older I started to look for ways to contribute to the culture, and writing about it came natural.
Reviews & Dunn – What was the inspiration behind writing your book?
Justin Jones: There were a couple of reasons, my cousin who got me into hip-hop passed away in 2019, I wanted to pay homage to him. Also, I’m a huge Nas fan, and I was reading a book by Michael Eric Dyson called ‘Born To Use Mics’ about the ‘Illmatic’ album, so I came up with the idea to do a similar thing with the ‘It Was Written’ album
Reviews & Dunn: How many drafts did you go through?
Justin Jones – Initially I went through three drafts. I started it at the end of 2020 during the pandemic, and it took me about 9 months to finish once I really got started
Reviews & Dunn – What was your research process?
Justin Jones – I used Dyson’s ‘Born To Use Mics’ book as a blueprint, but I had to dig through various interviews of the years of not only Nas, but the producers of the album too. Since the book covers the political climate of NYC during that period, I went through a few New York Times articles about what was happening in the city back then.
Reviews & Dunn – Ideally what do you want readers to gain from the book?
Justin Jones – Hopefully people can read the book and realize what was really going on in Hip-Hop socially and politically at that time. It’s also for certain critics of Nas’ commercial output to really gage why he went commercial after ‘Illmatic’
Reviews & Dunn – Nas’s acting debut Belly is a love it or hate it film. What are your honest thoughts on the film?
Justin Jones – Haha! It’s a cult classic, but even I have to admit some of the acting was horrible. I still love the opening scene at The Tunnel nightclub though
Reviews & Dunn – Is there any R&B artist you would have loved to see Nas collab with on a Best of Both Worlds projects in the near future ?
Justin Jones – Lalah Hathaway. They’d make beautiful music together.
Reviews & Dunn – What is your least favorite Nas song?
Justin Jones – Probably “Make The World Go Round”
Reviews & Dunn – From his expansive catalog with Spike Lee directing which Nas song would you like to see as a short film similar to “Thriller”?
Justin Jones – Well allegedly Spike Lee wrote a treatment for “Black Republican” the collab w/ Jay Z, and he was going to direct it. It would’ve been iconic to see the two GOATS of our time make a visual for that.
Reviews & Dunn – Is there anything you would like to add and where can fans find you on social media?
Justin Jones – Yes, follow me @jayanthonyjones on IG, the book is available on Amazon, and stay tuned for the next book I’ll be releasing at the top of the year.