Think about your favorite musician for a minute. Do you remember the first time you heard his or her voice? Can you relate each album or song to a different stage or major occurrence in your life?
How many times have you seen him or her (or them) in concert, let alone met and engaged them in conversation? Can you recite lyrics off the top of your head and explain their meaning as if your life depended on it? Are you a true fan?
Luisa Diaz is a die-hard admirer of a certain Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, the New York City rapper known simply as Nas. She can not only answer "yes" to all of those questions, but also permanently carries that admiration on her skin. We spoke to this young lady and asked her about the origin of her fanaticism, her tattoos, and her favorite Nas songs.
Rocks Off: When did you fall in love with rap and music in general?
Luisa Diaz: Well, my parents and I are from Mexico, so I grew up listening to mostly music in Spanish. Lots of Vicente Fernandez, Los Bukis, Selena, and La Mafia were played at home. But one day, when I was a my cousin's house, I heard my first rap song: "Cramping My Style" by UGK off the Too Hard To Swallow album.
I can truly say that song changed my life. The combination of the smooth beat, the female lyricist, and Bun B... it was just so fascinating to me.
RO: That's... awesome! You should catch up with Bun B and let him know.
LD: I did, once! He probably doesn't remember, but I told him the story and then I rapped his whole verse back to him. I felt so awkward, but he was nice about it.
RO: What was the first Nas song that you remember hearing?
LD: "The World Is Yours" from his first album. It was at a house party and I was immediately hooked. I think I said "Who. Is. This?!" out loud. To which my cousin replied "that's Nas. He's really good."
So because I'm a big nerd, I went to the library to find out more about him and became obsessed. There was a notebook that I carried which had handwritten lyrics of all of his songs. I would spend hours writing and rewriting his rhymes.
RO: Explain how you relate to Nas and his rhymes to the extent that you do.
LD: I'm a product of a broken home. My parents divorced and I had a rough life [in] childhood, getting into trouble and not fitting in. I was the weird one, the black sheep of my family because I loved comic books and rap music. I was forced to listen to my tapes and CDs exclusively through headphones because my mom did not want my brothers to hear "that kind of music."
Nas helped me through all of that. Every one of his albums represents a different chapter of my life. Houston was a tough place to grow up in the '90s. But lyrics like "I walk the blocks like, whatever God..." from his song "A Message to the Feds, Sincerely, We The People" on Street's Disciple, gave me courage. His music was my escape from my disruptive home and environment.
RO: That verse happens to be your first tattoo, right?
LD: Yes, I got it in 2007 while I was in school at the University of Arizona. The rest of them are more recent within the last three years. I'm not finished yet. I still need to get the albums Untitled and Life Is Good on there, then I have plans for his "The Don" pinky ring that he wears, a Lost Tapes tattoo, and something in honor of Distant Relatives, his collaboration with Damien Marley.
Oh, and he promised to write down his favorite quote in my notebook so I can get that as a tattoo one day. And maybe get the Egyptian pharaoh/sphinx cover from the I Am album.
RO: How many times have you seen him in concert, and of those times, actually spoken with him?
LD: I've seen him perform 13 times. By far, my favorite show ever was a Distant Relatives show I attended in 2011 at the Boulevard Pool at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. I've met and had a conversation with him five times, including during All-Star Weekend 2013 here in Houston earlier this year.
The first time I showed him my tattoos, he went crazy. He said "Yo! Is that real?! That is dope!" And he tried to smudge it with his thumb to verify if it was a tattoo or just temporary ink or something. He's very smart and very soft-spoken offstage. Very cool with me and all of his fans.
RO: Thank you so much for sharing your story and tattoos with us.
Below are Luisa's favorite tracks from each of Nas' albums:
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
The tenth song, "Queens Get the Money" from the album Untitled, is not available on Spotify, so here is the YouTube link. See more photos of Luisa and Nas on the next page.