Nas encounters his 3rd Great-Grandmother’s Bill of Sale, a devastatingly telling document, and imagines what his enslaved ancestors’ daily lives might have been like, from hardships and pain to marriage and celebration.
Many African Americans have traced their roots through an ancestry DNA test. Nas becomes the first rapper to do so–and on TV.
The hip hop icon was invited by the PBS show “Finding Your Roots” to take a look to his past. But while Nas said he was up for the chance to trace his family tree he was unprepared for what was found.
When he viewed 1859 documentation of one of his ancestors being sold as a slave, he said he was shaken.
“First I was enraged when I looked at the bill of sale,” Nas said during a Television Critics Association panel discussion. “I was like, that guy that owned property owes me some cash. My people made him really wealthy, so maybe I should find his family and talk.”
The information about his family history, he said also made him think about his ancestors’ contribution to America, he said, “and now I’m on a mission to find out more.”
Nas’ family’s tale is among those told on season two of “Finding Your Roots,” hosted by Harvard University scholar, author and filmmaker Henry Louis Gates Jr., debuting Sept. 23.
In all, the series will air in 10 parts and will trace celebrities’ ancestry. Ben Affleck, Jessica Alba, Tina Fey, Sting, Stephen King, Billie Jean King, Derek Jeter, Courtney Vance, Khandi Alexander, writer/actress Anna Deavere Smith and chef Ming Tsai are among those who will also participate.
The show does DNA testing of a saliva sample and then does a detailed family history that Gates presents on camera to the guest. Most are surprised at the results. Alba’s heritage, for example, was traced to the ancient Mayans.
As far as Nas, when he was asked if his new awareness of his history will influence his music. He said, nothing is planned “but I think in some way it will happen on its own.”