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Nas

Beginning with his classic debut, Illmatic (1994), Nas stood tall for years as one of New York City's leading rap voices, outspokenly expressing a righteous, self-empowered swagger that endeared him to critics and hip-hop purists. Whether proclaiming himself "Nasty Nas" or "Nas Escobar" or "Nastradamus" or "God's Son," the self-appointed King of New York battled numerous adversaries for his position atop the epicenter of East Coast rap, none more challenging than Jay-Z, who vied with Nas for the vacated throne left in the wake of the Notorious B.I.G.'s 1997 assassination. Such headline-worthy drama informed Nas' provocative rhymes, which he delivered with both a masterful flow and a wise perspective over beats by a range of producers: legends like DJ Premier, Large Professor, and Pete Rock; hitmakers like Trackmasters, Timbaland, and will.i.am; street favorites like Swizz Beatz, Megahertz, and the Alchemist; and personal favorites of his own like L.E.S., Salaam Remi, and Chucky Thompson. Nas likewise collaborated with some of the industry's leading video directors, including Hype Williams and Chris Robinson, presenting singles like "Hate Me Now," "One Mic," and "I Can" with dramatic flair. Throughout all the ups (the acclaim, popularity, and success) and downs (the expectations, adversaries, and over-reaching), Nas continually matured as an artist, evolving from a young street disciple to a vain all-knowing sage to a humbled godly teacher. Such growth made every album release an event and prolonged his increasingly storied career to epic proportions.

Born Nasir Jones, son of jazz musician Olu Dara, Nas dropped out of school in the eighth grade, trading classrooms for the streets of the rough Queensbridge projects, long fabled as the former stomping ground of Marley Marl and his Juice Crew as immortalized in "The Bridge." Despite dropping out of school, Nas developed a high degree of literacy that would later characterize his rhymes. At the same time, though, he delved into street culture and flirted with danger, such experiences similarly characterizing his rhymes. His synthesis of well-crafted rhetoric and street-glamorous imagery blossomed in 1991 when he connected with Main Source and laid down a fiery verse on "Live at the Barbeque" that earned him up-and-coming notice among the East Coast rap scene. Not long afterward, MC Serch of 3rd Bass approached Nas about contributing a track to the Zebrahead soundtrack. Serch was the soundtrack's executive producer and had been impressed by "Live at the Barbeque." Nas submitted "Halftime," and the song so stunned Serch that he made it the soundtrack's lead-off track.

Columbia Records meanwhile signed Nas to a major-label contract, and many of New York's finest producers offered their support. DJ Premier, Large Professor, and Pete Rock entered the studio with the young rapper and began work on Illmatic. When Columbia finally released the album in April 1994, it faced high expectations; Illmatic regardless proved just as astounding as it had been billed. It sold very well, spawned multiple hits, and earned unanimous acclaim, followed soon after by classic status.

The two years leading up to Nas' follow-up, It Was Written (1996), brought another wave of enormous anticipation. The ambitious rapper, who had begun working closely with industry heavyweight Steve Stoute, responded with a significantly different approach than he had taken with Illmatic: where that album had been a straightforward hip-hop album with few pop concessions, the largely Trackmaster-produced It Was Written made numerous concessions to the pop-crossover market, most notably on the two hit singles, "Street Dreams" and "If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)." These singles -- both of which drew from well-known songs, Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" and Kurtis Blow's "If I Ruled the World," respectively -- broadened Nas' appeal greatly and awarded him MTV-sanctioned crossover success. This same crossover success undermined some of his hip-hop credibility, however, and a minor backlash by purists resulted.

Nas addressed his critics on "Hate Me Now," the second single from his next album, I Am (1999). The effort had originally been planned as a double-disc concept album comprised of autobiographical material, but when some of the tracks were leaked, I Am was scaled down and released as a single disc, with the DJ Premier-produced "Nas Is Like" chosen as the lead single. Besides "Nas Is Like" and "Hate Me Now," which both broke into the Billboard Hot 100, "You Won't See Me Tonight" and "K-I-S-S-I-N-G" also charted as singles. Originally scheduled by Columbia as a follow-up album comprised of the pirated material from the I Am sessions, Nastradamus (1999) -- released in time for the holiday shopping season, roughly six months after its predecessor -- was instead comprised almost entirely of new material, recorded quickly to meet the late-November release date. The album failed to garner the abundance of critical praise that had become customary for Nas. Moreover, unlike its two predecessors, Nastradamus failed to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 album chart, peaking at number seven instead, and failed to go double platinum. Though relatively disappointing on these counts, Nastradamus still went platinum and spawned two charting singles, "Nastradamus" and "You Owe Me," so the album wasn't a failure, just disappointing.

In the late-'90s wake of the Notorious B.I.G.'s assassination, Nas reigned atop the New York rap scene alongside few contemporaries of equal stature. In addition to his endless stream of hits by the industry's most successful producers -- "If I Ruled the World" (produced by the Trackmasters), "Hate Me Now" (Puff Daddy), "Nas Is Like" (DJ Premier), and "You Owe Me" (Timbaland), among others -- he co-starred in the Hype Williams-directed film Belly (1998) alongside DMX and contributed to the soundtrack. Furthermore, Nas led a short-lived supergroup of New York rappers known as the Firm (also comprised of rappers Foxy Brown, AZ, and Nature, with producers Dr. Dre and the Trackmasters) and assembled a broad coalition of fellow Queensbridge rappers for the QB Finest compilation (2000). Amid all of this publicity, though, criticism began to mount. For every crossover fan Nas won with his dramatic MTV-aired videos, he lost support among purists, some of whom felt he had sold out, abandoning hip-hop ideals in favor of commercial success. The relative disappointment of Nastradamus was symptomatic of this downturn.

A series of incidents in 2001 provided a key turning point for Nas' decline. The rapper's personal life was becoming increasingly complicated; he encountered relationship trouble with the mother of his daughter and, of greater consequence, his mother began suffering from cancer. To make matters worse, longtime rival Jay-Z pointedly dissed Nas on "Takeover," the much-discussed lead-off song from his acclaimed Blueprint album (2001). (It didn't help that Jay-Z had risen atop the New York rap scene, giving him ample justification to call out Nas, who had receded from the public eye while he dealt with his personal issues.)

Nas responded strikingly in December 2001 with Stillmatic, the title a reference to his classic Illmatic album, which had been released nearly a decade earlier. Stillmatic opened with the song "Ether," a very direct response to Jay-Z, followed by the aggressive lead single "Get Ur Self A...." These two songs in particular rallied the streets while the moving video for "One Mic" received heavy support from MTV. Throughout 2002, Nas continued his comeback with a number of guest appearances, among them Brandy's "What About Us?," J-Lo's "I'm Gonna Be Alright," and Ja Rule's "The Pledge," as well as yet more news-making controversy, this time involving his no-show at popular radio station Hot 97's annual Summer Jam.

Amid all of the drama, Nas managed to salvage his esteemed reputation and reclaim his lofty status atop the New York scene. Stillmatic earned immediate acclaim from fans and critics alike and sold impressively, while Columbia furthered the comeback campaign with two archival releases, one of remixes (From Illmatic to Stillmatic [2002]), the other of outtakes (The Lost Tapes [2002], which notably includes some of the pirated I Am material). Then at the end of the year Columbia released a new studio album, God's Son (2002), and Nas once again basked in widespread acclaim as the album sold well, spawned sizable hits ("Thugz Mansion," "Made You Look," "I Can"), and received rampant media support. Two years later Nas returned with Street's Disciple (2004), a sprawling double album that delved deeply into various issues, most notably politics and his impending marriage to Kelis. The two-sided "Thief's Theme"/"You Know My Style" single dropped in summer 2004, several months before the album's release, and was followed that fall by the proper lead single "Bridging the Gap."

Street's Disciple came and went, however, without the level of commercial success that had become customary, as it struggled to go platinum. More troubling, new kid on the block 50 Cent took a swipe at Nas on "Piggy Bank," a call-out song on The Massacre (2005), further bringing the veteran rapper's status into question. In a surprising turn of events later that year, Nas made a surprise appearance at Jay-Z's much-hyped I Declare War concert in October 2005. Together the two rivals performed "Dead Presidents," Jay-Z's 1996 debut single; the classic song, produced by Ski Beatz and featured on Reasonable Doubt (1996), features a prominent sample of "The World Is Yours," a 1994 classic by Nas. The reconciliation of Jay-Z and Nas opened the door to a deal with Def Jam. The record label, overseen by Jay-Z as president at the time, signed Nas and, in turn, released Hip Hop Is Dead (2006). The album didn't sell especially well, but it did inspire a lot of commentary about the state of hip-hop and included a much-anticipated collaboration with Jay-Z, "Black Republican." A politically charged self-titled album, at one point considered to be titled N*gger, materialized in 2008, and not without some controversy of its own. Following his divorce from Kelis, Nas released Distant Relatives, an album-length collaboration with Damian "Junior Gong" Marley, in 2010. Two years later, his divorce was addressed on the venomous Life Is Good, an album that featured Nas holding Kelis' wedding dress on the cover. ~ Jason Birchmeier
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Daughters (Single)

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Track List: Hip Hop Is Dead

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Track List: Nasty (Single)

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Track List: The Don (Single)

Comments

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forumtek
.This is fantastic art!
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forumtek
This is fantastic art!
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alderipu396
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therealdolem i k e
love me some nas. verbal talents
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tibaheam
Nas is such an intellectual young man, every time I hear this song it gives me goosebumps. Both Nas and this song is the business!!!!
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Yo, I'm 53yrs young n still listen to nas cause he holds it down
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TUFF that's all I can say
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ILLMATIC One of the best.....
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alderipu396
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Naughty Nas... The Firm forever tearing the game up
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updikeiol514
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updikeiol514
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Love the song f**ks with you nas day one i still listen to my real music i dont even have the ears for this new bs
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WATTS TO QB PROJECTS ♥
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greenmusic20 1 3
Guys, if you have some free time check out ATOCE.COM this is an easy way to make around $400 per week and it's pretty easy to get started. Hope this helps (Share this method if it works for you).
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greenmusic20 1 3
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He has a nice shirt on ...ima take it
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ginal3425
Where you at my dude.....mis s i n g those.hits!
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The illest.., IMO..No one could put lyrics together like Nas has done .
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neejiah
Hate me now Basir Abdul Raqib hate how I raise my daughter who was cut from my stomach you no longer matter! Enjoy the Brandenburg wealth she died for your wicked cause tell Jessica she hasn't served for your hands dip in Mrs. Brandenburg blood may God bless you for what you don't know the wicked shall not prevail!
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It's like MK-ULTRA, controllin' your brain
Suggestive thinking, causing your perspective to change
They wanna rearrange the whole point of view of the ghetto
The fourth branch of the government, want us to settle
A bandanna full of glittering, generality
Fightin' for freedom and fightin' terror, but what's reality
Martial law is coming soon to the hood, to kill you
While you hanging your flag out your project window”
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Chiraq project day's
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patburns93
One of hip hops best no doubt.
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cglenn1980
And is good, but WU-TANG is better
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sgonz215.sg
WHEN I RULE THE WORLD. . IT WONT BE NO DISNEY. . . . IT WILL.BE EXACTLY WHAT THIS MAN IS SAYING
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Naz was one of my favorites for years but I out grew him he is one of the best mcs ever though most definitely one luvvv
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I never brag how real I keep it, cause it's the best secret
I rock a vest prestigious,   C u b a n link flooded Jesus
In a Lex watching Kathie Lee and Regis
My actions are one with the seasons
A Tec squeezing executioner, wintertime I rock a fur
Mega popular center of attraction
Climaxing my b**ches, they be laughing
They high from sniffing coke off a twenty-cent Andrew Jackson
City lights spark a New York night
Rossi and Martini sipping, Sergio Tacchini flipping mad pies
Low price, I blow dice and th
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Can we please have a moment of silence
That's for my n**gas doing years in confinement
And for my soldiers who passed over, no longer living
That couldn't run whenever the reaper came to get em
Can we please pour out some liquor
Symobolizing let's take in time to consider that
Though our thugs ain't here, the love is here
And we gon' rep til slugs kill us here
This for my dawgs stuck in the struggle trying to gain
Smoking trauma, sniffing Ra while selling cocaine
Trapped in the game, not knowing
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I'm from the south & a fan of real hip hop. He one of the best top ten, gotta give credit where its due.
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Love Nas,but why AZ don't get his Credit?????? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
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James Brown The Big Payback!
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wertihviggeh m i a c f b j t
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The bigger the cap, the bigger the peelin, come thru in somethin ill missin the ceilin
What influenced my raps, stick ups and killins, kidnappins project buildings and drug dealins
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neejiah
Love this joint man fear what they don't understand hate what they can't conquer! Nasir always on knowledge
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I was young, I was surviving the times
Waiting for my moment, I was destined to shine
Little Ray had an NSX, I was hoping I'm next
Wanting bracelets, never had a rope on my neck
Unless I was holding Taiyeh chain--Rest In Peace
Even though that night you flipped on us, you warned us
If you came back and we still on the corners, we goners
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Nas is true hip hop they shooting made you look your a slave to a page in my rhyme book
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Real s**t right here
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Nas is the answer!!!!
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Love all your music
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meljcookem.j c
LOL. What can u say about Esco that hasn't been said before. The closest to BIG EVER!
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Nas a virgo, Jay-Z a Sag
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If it wasn't for Nas, in 94' 95'...i wouldn't have ever learned Spanish...lo l
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Nas you got it. F**k. Jay-.z
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CLASSIC...Th e only risk you regret, are the ones y'all never took!!!!
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This sincere i named my grandson after him from belly ...a yo lil bro this fo u
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I Can is a great song with positive messages and value-system s , but incredibly historically and empirically inaccurate about the cultural and monetary causalities leading to his conclusion. All in all the conclusion is legit the premises are a bit vague and misleading. If you read more like the song says you will know what I am saying. Shout to Nas for keeping it as real as he knows how. -Prof
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I like nas' s**t..f**k gay-z
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Peace Black god ,Surah 18:110, and 50:16 ,and 53:1-5,and 85:1-6,Brave Heart and Poor Righteous teacher,Alla h is THE GREATEST Black God
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Nas is like......Mu s i c to my ears in an era of watered down, wack bullsh*t.
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Nas think he is great rap all time
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