Nas (rapper)

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Nas (born Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones in Long Island City, Queens, New York City on September 14 , 1973) is an African-American hip-hop artist and rapper. At various times in his career, he has also gone by the aliases of Nasty Nas, Nas Escobar (after Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar), God's Son, Nastradamus, and Mississippi Jones. The son of jazz trumpeter Olu Dara and Ann Jones, Nas is perhaps best known for his landmark LP, Illmatic (1994), widely considered one of the best hip-hop albums of all time.


Early years

Nas was the youngest of Olu Dara and Ann Jones' two children. The family lived for a time in Brooklyn, before moving to the large Queens public housing project of Queensbridge. Olu Dara eventually left the household, and Ann Jones raised Nas on her own. Nas dropped out of school after the eighth grade and began selling drugs on the streets of New York while educating himself, reading about African culture and civilization, the Qur'an, the Bible and the Five Percent Nation.

In 1991, Nas made his on-record debut with a verse on Main Source's song "Live at the Barbeque." Hailed as the second coming of Rakim, his rhyming skills attracted a significant amount of attention within the hip-hop community, and he was soon approached by MC Serch (of 3rd Bass). Nas made the song Halftime for Serch's Zebrahead soundtrack.

Snippet of debut of Nas: Live at the BBQ


With Serch as his manager, Nas signed to Columbia Records in 1992. For two years, rumors flew about Nas' future as he worked on his debut album. Many were concerned that Columbia, being a major label, would try to dilute Nas' New-York based style. In 1994, the debut album, Illmatic was finally released. Featuring production from Large Professor, Pete Rock, Q-Tip (of A Tribe Called Quest) and DJ Premier, as well as guest appearances from Nas' friend AZ and his father Olu Dara on the song "Life's a Bitch", Illmatic was immediately hailed as a masterpiece by critics, and is still highly regarded as one of the definitive hip-hop albums of all time. Standout songs on the album included "NY State of Mind" (produced by Premier), "The World Is Yours" (produced by Pete Rock), "One Love" (produced by Q-Tip) and "It Ain't Hard To Tell" (produced by Large Professor), which featured a sample of Michael Jackson's hit song "Human Nature." Sales-wise however, possibly due to extensive bootlegging, the record did below expectations, and Nas ended up trading manager MC Serch for Steve Stoute in preparation for his second LP, It Was Written.

It Was Written

It Was Written, chiefly produced by Poke and Tone of Trackmasters Entertainment, was released during the summer of 1996 and featured slightly more pop-friendly output, and Nas was ridiculed as a sell-out by many fans who did not like the new direction he was going in. Two of the songs on It Was Written, "If I Ruled The World (Imagine That)" (featuring The Fugees' Lauryn Hill) and "Street Dreams" (a remix of which featuring R. Kelly) were national hits, promoted by big-budget videos directed by Hype Williams, and made Nas a common name among more mainstream music fans. Other stand-out songs were "The Message" and "I Gave You Power," which tells a story from the perspective of a gun. The album also featured guest appearances from Mobb Deep, who became regular collaborators with Nas, Joel "Jo-Jo" Hailey of Jodeci, and the debut of The Firm, a supergroup consisting of Nas, AZ, Foxy Brown, and Cormega.

The Firm

The Firm signed to Dr. Dre's Aftermath Entertainment label, and began working on their debut album. Halfway through the production of the album, Cormega was fired from the group by Steve Stoute, who had unsuccessfully attempted to force Cormega to sign a deal with his management company. Cormega therefore became one of Nas' most vocal opponents, releasing a number of underground hip-hop singles dissing Nas, Stoute, and Nature, who was Cormega's replacement in The Firm. The Firm: The Album was finally released in 1997 to mixed reviews and lackluster sales and the members of the supergroup went their separate ways.

I Am, "Hate Me Now" and Nastradamus

In 1998, Nas began work on a double album to be entitled I Am...The Autobiography, which he intended to be the middle ground between the extremes of Illmatic and It Was Written. The album was completed in early 1999, and a music video was shot for its lead single, "Nas Is Like," produced by DJ Premier and featuring vocal samples from "It Ain't Hard to Tell." However, the second disc of the LP was leaked in MP3 format onto the Internet, and Nas was forced to reduce the album, now simply titled I Am..., to a single-disc LP, which Columbia released in April of 1999.

The second single for I Am was "Hate Me Now," featuring Sean "Puffy" Combs (now "P. Diddy"). Hype Williams shot an allegorical video for the single, which featured Nas and Puffy being crucified in a manner similar to Jesus; representative of how Nas' critics crucified him for alledgedly going pop. After the video was completed, Combs, a Catholic, requested his crucifixion scene be edited out of the video. However, the unedited copy of the "Hate Me Now" video made its way to MTV, and was premiered on April 15, 1999 on TRL by Carson Daly. Upon learning that the original edit was the one that made it to broadcast, a furious Combs and his bodyguards allegedly made his way into Steve Stoute's office and assaulted him, at one point apparently hitting Stoute over the head with a champagne bottle. Stoute pressed charges, but he and Combs settled out-of-court that June.

Columbia had scheduled to release the second, pirated disc of I Am under the title Nastradamus during the latter half of 1999, but, at the last minute, decided Nas should record an entirely new LP for release. Nastradamus was therefore rushed to meet a November release date, and though critics were not kind to the album, it did result in a minor hit single, the Timbaland-produced "You Owe Me," featuring R&B singer Ginuwine. The only song from the fabled second disc of I Am... to make it onto Nastradamus was "Project Windows," featuring Ronald Isley. A number of the other bootlegged tracks later made their way onto The Lost Tapes, a collection of underground Nas songs that was released by Columbia in September 2002.

QB's Finest, the Nas/Jay-Z rivalry, and Stillmatic

"Nastradamus," the title track of Nas' second 1999 album, featured a line ("If you wanna ball till you fall/I can help you with that") that rapper Memphis Bleek perceived as a diss Nas had based upon a similar line in his song "What You Think Of That," from his Coming of Age album ("I'm'a ball till I fall"). Bleek therefore dissed Nas on the lead single of his The Understanding LP, "My Mind Right."

2000 saw the release of the first album on Nas' imprint Ill Will Records, named after a slain friend from Queensbridge. QB's Finest was a compilation album that featured Nas and a number of other rappers from Queensbridge, including Mobb Deep, Nature, Littles, The Bravehearts, and Cormega, who had briefly reconciled with Nas. The album also featured guest appearances from QB hip-hop legends Roxanne Shante, and MC Shan & Marley Marl, both of whom appeared on the lead single "Da Bridge 2001" (based on Shan & Marl's 1986 classic "The Bridge"). "Da Bridge 2001" also featured a response from Nas to Memphis Bleek, in which Nas calls out most of the Roc-a-Fella Records roster, including Bleek, Damon Dash, Beanie Sigel, and Jay-Z.

On his critically-acclaimed 2001 album The Blueprint, Jay-Z dedicated half of the song "Takeover" to dissing Nas, claiming that Illmatic was his only decent album (the other half was a jab at Nas' colleague Prodigy from Mobb Deep). Nas' response was "Ether", a battle record which featured a sample of 2Pac saying "Fuck Jay-Z", accused Jay-Z of stealing ("biting") lyrics from the Notorious BIG and brown-nosing Nas and other rappers for fame. "Ether" became one of the focal points of Nas' fifth album, Stillmatic which managed to be not only a critically hailed comeback album, but a commercial success as well, debuting at #7 on the Billboard album charts and featuring the hit singles "Got Ur Self A Gun" and "One Mic". The album also featured a track entitled "Rewind", in which Nas tells a typical story--but in reverse. He also created an unofficial 'Jay-Z diss.'

Jay-Z attempted a response to "Ether" with an underground single entitled "Supa Ugly", which many hip-hop fans felt went too far as Jay-Z went into detail about how he and Allen Iverson had had sex with Nas' baby's mother Carmen, the song also hinted at threats towards Nas' daughter. By 2003, the two rappers had eventually ended their feud without violence or animosity.

The Lost Tapes

In 2002, Nas released The Lost Tapes, which included tracks form the "lost disc" of I Am..., underground mixtape favorites, and songs recorded during the Stillmatic sessions that did not make the album. While the use of tracks from various time periods of Nas' career made inconsistency a issue among some listeners, most were able to appreaciate hearing tracks which reflected Nas' earlier work, and the compilation received favorable reviews.

God's Son and Street's Disciple

In December 2002, Nas released the critically acclaimed God's Son album. The lead single, "Made You Look" created enough street buzz to allow the album to debut at #18 on the Billboard charts despite widespread internet bootlegging. The second single, the inspirational "I Can", which reworked elements from Beethoven's "Fur Elise", became Nas' biggest hit to date during the spring and summer of 2003, garnering substantial radio airplay on urban, rhythmic, and top 40 radio stations, as well as on the MTV and VH1 music video networks.

In 2003, Nas was featured in the Korn song "Play Me", from Korn's Take a Look in the Mirror. Nas is the driving force of the song, with Korn frontman Jonathan Davis only having one section of vocals in the entire song.

Nas released his seventh studio album, Street's Disciple, on November 30, 2004. The album's first singles were "Thief's Theme" and "Bridging the Gap", which features his father Olu Dara on vocals. There is also a song, "These are Our Heroes", which disses Kobe Bryant and Condoleezza Rice, among others. However, he does give more favorable mentions to the likes of Tiger Woods and Cuba Gooding Jr.. Recently, 50 Cent included a stab at Nas on one of his more recent songs; Nas was quoted as saying that he feels no obligation to retaliate, remarking "[50 has] got a good five to six more albums before I can really respond to him."

Nas has one daughter, Destiny (who is credited as the executive producer of Stillmatic), and married R&B singer Kelis in early January 2005.




External links

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