There was one place in New York City I couldn’t leave without visiting, the iconic: Queensbridge housing projects – home of Nasir Jones and many of my other favorite Rap artists from Queens. The origins of the sound I love so dearly was founded and developed, this was where the soundtrack to my childhood came from.
I arrived at 21st Queensbridge street on the F train and as I rode up the single file escalator to street level, excited to see QB for myself. So much talent has come from these grounds, Mobb Deep, Tragedy Khadafi, Big Noyd, Capone-N-Noreaga to name a few and of course Nas. I had heard so many stories about this area from Hip Hop, I felt I had already been here in my mind and soul. This place had a lot of meaning for me and I had waited a long time to come here. It was a testimony that you can be whoever and whatever you want to be and other people’#s perceptions of you are just that, their perceptions.
As I gazed at the sign for ‘Queensbridge North Houses’, I felt nostalgic thinking back to a photo I had seen of young Nas here. His album covers had always paid tribute to his humble origins with the QB backdrop. I was overwhelmed and mesmerised by my own childhood memories and feelings.
In that very moment a young Puerto Rican man came over asked me, ‘Hey, are you lost?’ I guess I must’ve looked like I wasn’t from around here, staring at the walls haha. ‘I’m from England, I’m a huge fan of Nas and I came here looking for the Nas mural’ I said even though I hadn’t even got to looking for it yet. We chatted for a bit, he told me he used to go to school with Nas and then he directed me towards it, ‘It’s just down the street on the corner, I just don’t want you to get lost’. I thanked him, wondered around for a bit and then walked up, only a couple of minutes away and then low and behold here it was, this beautiful lifelike painting of Nas. A moment of goosebumps and chills!!
As I stood there and looked at it, soaking in the atmosphere of being in QB, a few kids walked passed also taking photos of the mural. People here were proud of Nas’ achievements and his ability to put QB on the Map, after all a random woman from England was excited to come and see QB and it was one of the first places I wanted to visit in New York! I stayed for a while and then I walked back to the station, I bumped into he same man again, ‘Did you find it?’. ‘Yes I did it was beautiful’ I said.
Back in front of 21st Queensbridge street station there was a book stall, I loved the idea of an exchange of knowledge. Run by a man called Alan, we had a brief chat,’ If you come back tomorrow I will give you a tour’ of course I went back.I browsed the selection and found this gem, ‘Looking Out My Project Window’ I also picked up this bootleg DVD. Alan said, ‘I can’t guarantee it will work but it’s only a couple of dollars’ and with that I was sold for the cover enough.
‘When I come back I am going to bring you a book for your stand’ I said. I did go back but he said ‘Oh I would love to give you a tour but I cant leave the book stand’. I was really disappointed but then his friend was passing who happened to be wearing an ‘Illmatic’ hoodie. ‘I have to be somewhere but I can show you something quickly’ he said and he took me to point out the block Nas used to live in. I was happy.
I finally got to pay homage to the home of some of QB’s finest artists.
Another one of my favorite albums by Capone ‘N’ Noreaga – ‘The War Report’ showing Queensbridge on the their album cover.