Nas Explains That Voice On ‘Who Killed It?’ From ‘Hip-Hop Is Dead’: ‘I Was Bingeing James Cagney Movies’

Although its premise has long since been disproven, Nas’ album Hip-Hop Is Dead was one of his most successful albums commercially and remains in the upper half of his catalog in fan esteem — except for one song, the 1930s gangster movie-influence “Who Killed It?” While it’s technically a creative and innovative approach to the storytelling tracks for which Nas is known and loved, the song does find the Queens icon employing a cartoonish, film-noir detective voice that still puts off hip-hop fans to this day.

On Sunday night’s episode of Desus & Mero on Showtime, the two New York natives finally confronted the rap legend to find out why he chose to go with such an eyebrow-raising technique. Surprisingly, Nas is game; he’s probably far too deep in his career to be defensive about 15-year-old albums, but he still has a pretty good sense of humor about it as he admits, “I wilded out. I was bingeing on James Cagney movies at the time… It was like a joke to do that record and then I left it on the album — it happens.”

This leads to a broader discussion about the importance of details in Nas’ storytelling over the years, as well as a light flex about Nas having time to watch Regis And Kathy Lee in the morning. Also discussed during the interview: Nas’ relationship with DMX, his restaurant chain Sweet Chick, and his latest endeavor, a brand of cigars.

Watch Nas’ interview with Desus & Mero above.