The 'Hate Me Now' hitmaker - who has been involved in a long-running feud with fellow rapper Jay Z - thought the fatal shootings of Notorious B.I.G (Biggie) in 1997 and Tupuc Shakur in 1996 by rival gang members would mark the demise of the music genre.
He said in an interview with Zane Lowe for MTV Music: "We saw what happened with Biggie and the tragedies of Biggy and 2 Pac.
"Those two things hit me real hard. I knew them both of them - Biggy more but what they mean to the art form can never be replaced and when those two guys passed away I thought it was the end of rap."
However, the 40-year-old rapper believes the industry has now changed, with stars becoming more interested in making money to better one another.
He explained: "Today's music industry is a lot. You talk about it being a lot more about money. It's really about money now, and back then, during that period when you talk about me battling with J, it was about something else.
"It wasn't just about being the top guy in rap, it felt like we were leaders of nations, not that we were egos, egotistical as in I'm the leader, no not in that sense.
"What you felt surrounding us was there was an importance in what we were doing that mattered more than just success."
Meanwhile, NAS recently announced the dates for his 'Time is Illmatic' North American tour, which will coincide with the screening of his Tribeca film documentary 'Nas: Time is Illmatic'.
The tour will begin in Rochester, in New York on October 2 and close in Oakland, Ohio on October 19.
Nas' full interview with Zane will air this Sunday at 9.30pm on Relentless Ultra Presents Soundchain on MTV Music.