How Barber Battles Breathed New Life into a Career: Barber Nas
It’s been almost 30 years since Nasee Yehuda, better known as Barber Nas, earned a few bucks from his first haircut. Even as a teen, Nas knew that barbering would help him reach his professional goals, which meant providing opportunities to the people in his community.
Just seven years ago, Nas opened his own shop on the West Side of Chicago, Illinois. Since then, he’s built a reputation for being a hardworking, honest man in a part of the city where that’s not so common. Kids in his neighborhood look up to him. And other barbers respect him.
After devoting so much time to the industry, Nas began to ask himself a question that professionals in every field face—what’s next? Over the years, Nas used barbering to show so many people a more positive road. But where could he go from there?
Nas got into the industry to be a beacon of hope despite the disparities facing his community. But genuinely connecting with so many different clients and lending a helping hand to so many Black youths left Nas wondering what he could do next at the age of 40.
Keep reading to learn how Nas used the fuel from winning 54 barber battles to refocus his career and gain motivation like never before. Learn how this industry professional was able to breathe life into his work and find a new way to help others. And find out why we chose him to participate in our Black History Month campaign, which is devoted to people who stay devoted.
Making a Dream Come True
Anyone familiar with the West Side of Chicago, who knows where to get a haircut, can tell you about Madison Street Barbers. The shop that Nas owns and operates is just a few blocks away from the United Center. And people all over the world know that magic happened in this area, when the Chicago Bulls won championship after championship, during the nineties.
Nas named his shop after Madison Street. For those who don’t know, Chicago streets resemble a grid-like system. And the intersection of Madison Street and State Street is the origin, which means that Nas named his shop after a street that is literally located at the very heart of his city.
“When I was a kid—that’s where all the people were getting great haircuts. That’s where the dope shops were at. And that’s where all the celebrities were going. So, I said to myself at an early age, ‘Okay, I’m going to get a shop on Madison Street one day, because I want people to feel a type of attachment and feel like they’re a part of this city,’” said Nas.
When it comes to having a bond with Chicago, the attachment doesn’t stop there. Nas said that his main goal has always been to inspire Black youths to take the right path. And that meant he wanted kids to look at him and know they could achieve success by doing something positive.
“There’s a lot of negative influences in this area. And I’m here just to help young people who want to change and who want to do something better—they can come and find me. I don’t always have to go look for every one of them. They all know where I’m at. That’s why I’m here,” Nas said.
Barber Battles Became the Hustle
There’s no doubt that Nas achieved the goals he set out to accomplish. Nas stayed in touch with the community that he loved. And he’s given jobs to hard working people. But accomplishing what he set out to achieve before he turned 40 years old made him question his direction. So, Nas took steps to enroll in a program at the Illinois Media School.
“I literally was about to enroll in media school. I talked to the advisors. They told me how many loans I would have to take, required classes—everything. I was that burned out cutting hair. So, I was like, ‘Okay, I’m going to go to media school, because I like to talk. And I can keep spreading a positive message.’ I was literally supposed to go back and sign a contract. All they needed was a John Hancock. And I’d have been committed to loans and everything,” Nas said.
But Nas said there was something simply holding him back. And that same something also inspired him to earn a license to teach aspiring barbers inside a formal classroom. Over the years, he’d given tips, while mentoring anyone and everyone. But earning an instructor’s license in 2016 helped things click. But he still needed a way to reach and inspire students.
In addition to showing people the ins and outs of cutting hair, he wanted to encourage his class. So, he kept asking his classroom to compete in student barber competitions. He wanted to help people the best way he knew how and that was to give them confidence. But he couldn’t get his students to sign up for barber battles without doing it himself, he said.
The Trophy Addict
What happened next made Nas feel more connected to the industry than ever before. Just like when he started barbering, he began looking towards the future that the world of barbering could and would bring. And that inspiration came from attending and winning barber battles.
Over the next few years, Nas took home a total of 54 trophies, medals, belts, and plaques. And many of the awards were from major competitions sponsored by Wahl, America’s Beauty Show, and Major League Barber.
“I’m talking about winning juggernaut competitions,” he said. “I would leave, Saturday night, Sunday morning and come back Monday morning. It didn’t matter. If I didn’t have a model, I’d find one when I got there. The only thing on my mind was that I’m coming back home to Chicago with a trophy. And I did almost every time,” he said.
After years of winning trophies at different competitions, Nas earned a second nickname. Because of his performance at barber battles, people started calling Nas the Trophy Addict. Once he earned that title, it meant that slowing down and changing careers wasn’t going to happen anytime soon.
“When you come from a place where you really didn’t grow up with many people believing in you and there’s really not a lot of positive influences and you really don’t have anything to drive you—once you get that, that mojo going, you feel like Jordan!” Nas said.
Through barber battles, Nas was able to achieve another level of success while representing his community. Today, Nas places his awards indiscriminately throughout his shop. Some of the awards stand behind his chair while others are closer to his barbers. To Nas, they serve as a reminder of what hard work and dedication are capable of accomplishing.
From Barber Battles to Educating
Because of his success at barber battles, Nas earned more respect in the industry than at any other point in his career. Celebrity barbers started contacting him. Industry professionals offered Nas more opportunities, which included working as a Booksy Ambassador and Wahl educator. But first and foremost to Nas, his students felt more inspired than ever by his accomplishments.
“An important thing about being an educator is the look on people’s faces when you’ve shown them something or demonstrated something that they can use. That’s something they’ve gained, and I can never take that back. That student can take my knowledge to other respective shops and share it with other people,” Nas said.
It’s impossible to know where a student is going to take the knowledge that Nas gives them. Somebody could teach their son, daughter, cousin, or uncle. That student could become a shop owner and teach countless other barbers. But more importantly to Nas, the knowledge that he shares can and will “live forever,” he said.
For Nas, the road ahead will without a doubt involve teaching others. People have learned his name and want to learn more from him. The road ahead involves continuing to use Booksy to help him organize and manage his always busy schedule, as he continues to put others first.
“The future for me is more education. I want to keep inspiring and motivating others—as many people as I can. Maybe I can open my own school up or open more Madison Street Barbers with the same mindset to make everybody better and make sure all the barbers are educated. One day, I might have a school that’s filled with education and just people who feel passionate about this industry,” Nas said.