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Nas, June Ambrose: Countdown to ‘Life Is Good’ Album — Day 2

Isaac Brekken, Getty Images

On the fourth day of our countdown to Nas’ Life Is Good release, celebrity style architect June Ambrose unveils her thoughts about the MC’s fashion maturation. Ambrose has worked as a stylist for more than 20 years, both in and out of the music industry, and her expertise goes far beyond simply dressing superstars.

As she says, she works “from the inside out,” building on the character of the individuals she’s paired with. Having been the costume designer for the 1998 film “Belly” — a hip-hop classic — Ambrose met Nas while he was still into jeans that sagged a bit. Here she tells us of Nas’ evolution from Evisu denims to fitted yellow sweatshirts.

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June Ambrose’s Countdown

to Nas’ Life Is Good Album

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“I actually hadn’t worked with Nas since ‘Hate Me Now,’ and he’s pretty much like Benjamin Button [laughs]. It’s true. He looks younger and younger … Him and Jay-Z, they don’t age. There’s definitely a sense of maturity. He’s always had a kind of nostalgic, gentleman-like quality, even in the early hip-hop days, there was something about him that was kind of like, very laid-back, jazzy, but not vulgar in his interpretation of fashion — ever. Now I can see even more so that he wants to be more refined. He’s conscious about looking age-appropriate, where in the early days, it was every man for himself, do what you want, you know, young, but still wanting to be relevant.

I think that with rappers, it’s really important that they maintain a certain sense of themselves but also evolve with the times. He’s very relevant and conscious without compromising himself. He’s not the skinny-jean guy, but the fit has altered slightly. He prefers it sitting more streamlined in the waist where before that was never an issue. But also really wanting to wear things that his consumers from before and the ones that are just meeting him, can relate to, which is really interesting because it’s a really broad demographic, and I think the music is also a little bit more conscious. He’s talking about being a dad.

We shot the video [for 'Daughters'] and it was like, ‘Wow. I have an 18-year-old daughter. I have a daughter that’s in college.’ There’s some social responsibility that he has in his look. The button-down versus the tee shirt. All those things make a difference. We’ve always spoken in terms of what he should be in and you never really need to think as hard with him because his spirit is so loud and because he’s so quiet, it’s really loud.

He knows that I get a sense and a gist of him because of the way I work. I work from the inside out, so I always have to think for my clients, and sometimes, I have to push them. With my male clients, I always want to make it ‘his’ idea. Especially for Nas. I’ll ask, ‘What are you thinking?’ before and he’ll say, ‘Well, I wanna feel this way.’ And because [the 'Daughters' video] was so narrative I don’t think it was about making these big fashion statements whereas the first, ‘The Don,’ was about making a fashion statement. ‘Daughters’ was about lifestyle, so the wardrobe that was on him was very luxury, laid-back, easy.

At one point, there was an ongoing joke on set because I had this yellow crewneck sweatshirt, and it was like, a sorbet yellow, and we tried to fit this sweatshirt into like, five scenes [laughs]… And it was like, ‘There’s that sweatshirt again.’ And we couldn’t fit it in, it was so funny, I think it was just like, ‘What’s the deal with us?’ We were looking to have some fun although the video didn’t call for it, you know, the yellow sweatshirt was the most fun we could have in the narrative, scripted video, even the director was like, ‘You and this yellow. You’re gonna try and put him in metallic, shiny shoes.’

Since ‘Belly,’ he’s seen so much of the world, he got married, divorced, even as a man, as an artist, he’s in a different place. What was really nice [then], is that he was present, much more present than he’s ever been, and that was really refreshing, because we actually got to speak, and I felt like I was really speaking to him, and he’d found the new ‘him,’ which was really nice to see, and I’ve worked with artists where you can see that there’s a sense of emptiness and loss, but he was really conscious and really present, and that felt really good.

That’s hard when you have to reinvent yourself time and time again, but he was in a place where he knew that it was important for him to experience it and enjoy it. It’s almost like he’d missed a piece of it, and he was regaining it. I think that reflected in his style so much because his swag was rebuilt again. The confidence was there, and he’d really seen the light. It was really nice, truly a pleasure.”


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