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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

x

Track List: Life Is Good (Deluxe Edition)

x

Track List: Greatest Hits

1. Surviving The Times

3. It Ain't Hard To Tell

4. Life's A B**ch

5. N.Y. State Of Mind

6. One Love

7. If I Ruled The World (Imagine That)

8. Street Dreams

10. One Mic

11. Got Ur Self A...

12. Made You Look

13. I Can

14. Bridging The Gap

x

Track List: Hip Hop Is Dead (Explicit)

1. Money Over Bullsh*T

2. You Can't Kill Me

3. Carry On Tradition

4. Where Are They Now?

5. Hip Hop Is Dead

6. Who Killed It?

7. Black Republican

8. Not Going Back

9. Still Dreaming

10. Hold Down The Block

11. Blunt Ashes

12. Let There Be Light

13. Play On Playa

14. Can't Forget About You

15. Hustlers

16. Hope

x

Track List: Street's Disciple (Explicit)

Disc 1

1. Intro

2. A Message To The Feds, Sincerely, We The People

3. Nazareth Savage

4. American Way

5. These Are Our Heroes

6. Disciple

9. Rest Of My Life

10. Just A Moment

12. You Know My Style

Disc 2

2. Street's Disciple

3. U.B.R. (Unauthorized Biography Of Rakim)

5. Remember The Times (Intro)

6. Remember The Times

8. Getting Married

10. Bridging The Gap

x

Track List: God's Son (Explicit)

1. Get Down

2. The Cross

3. Made You Look

5. Zone Out

7. I Can

8. Book Of Rhymes

9. Thugz Mansion (N.Y.)

10. Mastermind

11. Warrior Song

13. Dance

x

Track List: The Lost Tapes (Explicit)

1. Doo Rags

2. My Way

3. U Gotta Love It

4. Nothing Lasts Forever

5. No Idea's Original

6. Blaze A 50

7. Everybody's Crazy

8. Purple

9. Drunk By Myself

10. Black Zombie

11. Poppa Was A Playa

12. Fetus

x

Track List: From Illmatic To Stillmatic: The Remixes - EP

1. Life's A B**ch (Arsenal Mix)

2. One Love (LG Main Mix)

3. It Ain't Hard To Tell (Remix)

4. Street Dreams (Remix)

5. Affirmative Action (Remix Edited Version)

6. One Mic (Remix)

x

Track List: Stillmatic (Explicit)

1. Stillmatic (The Intro)

2. Ether

3. Got Ur Self A...

4. Smokin'

5. You're Da Man

6. Rewind

7. One Mic

8. 2nd Childhood

9. Destroy And Rebuild

12. Rule

13. My Country

14. What Goes Around

15. Every Ghetto

x

Track List: I Am... (Explicit)

1. Album Intro

2. N.Y. State Of Mind Pt. II

4. Small World

6. We Will Survive

7. Ghetto Prisoners

9. I Want To Talk To You

10. Dr. Knockboot

12. Big Things

13. Nas Is Like

14. K-I-SS-I-N-G

15. Money Is My B**ch

16. Undying Love

x

Track List: It Was Written (Explicit)

1. Intro

2. The Message

3. Street Dreams

4. I Gave You Power

5. Watch Dem N**gas

6. Take It In Blood

7. Nas Is Coming

8. Affirmative Action

9. The Set Up

10. Black Girl Lost

11. Suspect

12. Shootouts

13. Live N**ga Rap

14. If I Ruled The World (Imagine That)

x

Track List: Illmatic (Explicit)

1. The Genesis

2. N.Y. State Of Mind

3. Life's A B**ch

4. The World Is Yours

5. Halftime

6. Memory Lane (Sittin' In Da Park)

7. One Love

8. One Time 4 Your Mind

9. Represent

10. It Ain't Hard To Tell

x

Track List: Daughters (Single)

1. Daughters

2. Daughters

x

Track List: Nasty (Single)

1. Nasty

2. Nasty

x

Track List: The Don (Single)

1. The Don

x

Track List: Untitled (Explicit)

Comments

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Nas is so underestimat e
All kinds of people Don't like Nas for some reason but I like Nas
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Jay z said if you can't beat him. I'll put him down wit me. Mike T v Evander H. Jay z v Nas best way I can put it we know who won.
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This Is My Hood imma rep it to my death in it.
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jtpr8t
Nas has played a major role in my understandin g of knowledge
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This is a real n**ga right here
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Jcole said he let Nas down but jcole doin pretty good he should respect jcole
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Keep making music! We love you Nas, keep it positive. Congrats on new movie.
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Is crazy this is just like the disco era of hip hop
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Nas is the best n hip hop after Notorious BIG @tupac hip hop dead we are living in cosmic crop
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Nas da man
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north hills neighborhood mount tabor and wfu and the ws north congrgation and the mc congregation and well take a 10 million to bethel thanks jorge psalms 83 18 self improvement love sandy channel 2
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watch the movie belly if you don't know
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"Nebraska is a gold mine" lol
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The best rapper every
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It's strange how jay-z is still relevant but this n**** isn't just saying
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Nasty NAS, ONE OF THE BEST, TRUE HIP HOP, not that Rap bullshit, hip hop ninjas, there is a difference!
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This is the n**ga that shut Jay-Z the f**k up!!! Lmao
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Best rapper of all time perfect lyricist and a great success story this man encouraged me to rap and I highly respect him phenomenal artist

Illmatic for life
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Jay z is a fake a** b**ch!!!!! No style
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@elijayxo666

That's a wack opinion you got there and it doesn't even need healthy debate.

@shaynagrime s

If that's true then you missed out on a lot of other ill lyrical vibes that hundreds if not thousands of MCs were dropping from 1990 'till that track released.
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Big shot out to lil nuttiness for being sign to mass appeal records
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Nothin better than Staten Island rap (wu-tang
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Is your creep move potent?
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Is it just my app or does this song always skip like a bad CD on pandora
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Text..(617)8 2 9 - 3 5 1 2 (fritzchemsh o p @ g m a i l . c o m )
We sell weed strains like white widow,
Og kush,sour diesel,grand d a d d y purps,
afghan kush and Cannabis oil .
Help in pain relief and cancer.
Also got Actavis Cough Syrup and pills .
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id love to work with you one day.
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One of the best to ever do it.
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Good, but not as good as west coast rap
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2nd goat��
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I love Nas...positi v e real and the voice of our generation.. . . N A S #
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THE GOAT lyrics & beats
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Omg this song started it all with real freestyle rap in the 90s
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East coast
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Yo
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Hey
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michaelshane 5 0 1
Gods son lol
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"Illmatic" <1994>... Holy s**t!
IMHO one of top 3 Hip-Hop LP's of ALL time! I'm certain heads will be noddin' to "Illmatic" for perpetuity.
That said if you're youngin' loosely familiar with Nas's extensive discography I implore you to travel back to "Golden Age Era" of Hip-Hop (i.e. '90-'96) & give "Illmatic" proper listen it deserves.
Bar was set so f'n high w/"Illmatic" how could one ever match that lol?
A dream team of producers + young/hungry Nas + exuberant energy/intri c a t e wordplay on
Report as inappropriate
"Illmatic" <1994>... Holy s**t!
IMHO one of top 3 Hip-Hop LP's of ALL time! I'm certain heads will be noddin' to "Illmatic" for perpetuity.
That said if you're only loosely familiar with Nas's extensive discography I implore you to go back to "Golden Age Era" of Hip-Hop (i.e. '90-'96) & give his classic debut proper listen it deserves.
Nas's subsequent LP's were somewhat hit & miss overall imho. Some far better than others yet every LP always had handful of jewels. Bar was set so f'n high w/"I
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He'll yeah....this is real music
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Real hip hop��
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The Best!!!
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GOAT. Period
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much respect for nas!!!!
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altetly
Loser a** hater below
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F**k nas lameass n**ga ill knock you out punk a** bich!!!
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#classic
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Good homie
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I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death.
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Nas the G.O.A.T
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Love nas!!
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