Helping Nas bring his vision to fruition are producers such as LES, Salaam Remi (who helmed the explosive single "Thief's Theme") and Nas. Also adding his creative spirit is Nas's father, the acclaimed jazz/blues artist Olu Dara (who also appeared on God's Son) Along with "Thief's Theme," which finds Nas imparting wisdom on top of 60's rock staple "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," standout cuts include the pulsating "Know My Style," which is already a mix tape favorite.
Nas knows about hard-hitting street savvy anthems. This lyrical maestro has been responsible for singles (i.e. "The World Is Yours," "One Mic," "Ether" and "Made You Look") that have served as definitive hip-hop moments, instantly making their mark on radio, in the clubs and among the fans who have looked to Nas to continuously push rap music to new heights.
Born Nasir Jones, the son of Dara and the late Ann Jones, Nas came of age in the Queensbridge Houses, home to a litany of luminaries including Marley Marl and the Juice Crew. With beats and verbiage built virtually into QB's concrete walls, Nas had already soaked up sonic and syllabic influences by the time he was old enough to put pen to paper. It was only a matter of time before he made his own attempts to move the crowd.
While still in his teens, Nas began crafting rhymes that blended his finely tuned sense of literacy and rhetoric with glamorized thug theatrics reflecting the harsh realities of his environment. That combination of poetics and danger exploded in 1991 when Nas was invited by Main Source to drop a verse on "Live At the Barbeque." Nas's contribution earned respect in the East Coast rap scene and soon after, 3rd Bass MC Serch approached Nas to contribute a track to the "Zebrahead" soundtrack. Nas delivered "Halftime," and it made such an impact that Serch made it the soundtrack's lead off single.
The industry started paying attention to what the underground already knew and Nas was quickly signed to Columbia Records. Numerous New York based producers clamored to work with him and eventually Pete Rock, Large Professor, Q-Tip, and DJ Premier entered the studio with Nas to create Illmatic. If the pre-album hype had been deafening, the post-album reaction was even more intense: in some quarters, Nas was anointed rap's savior. Cuts such as "N.Y. State of Mind" and "It Ain't Hard to Tell" provided a gritty yet thoughtful soundtrack to life on NY's mean streets and Illmatic became an instant classic.
Nas followed up that success with It Was Written (1996), containing the smashes "Street Dreams" and "If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)." The videos for the songs became MTV staples and afforded Nas crossover success and street cred. During this juncture in his career, Nas lead the short-lived super group, The Firm, comprised of fellow New Yorkers Foxy Brown, AZ and Nature. In 1999, Nas hit a highpoint with the one-two punch of I Am and Nastradamus, both of which topped the charts and further broadened his appeal. In addition, he made his acting debut in the Hype Williams-directed "Belly." In 2000, Nas kept true to his artistic ambitions by assembling a cadre of his fellow Queensbridge rappers for the certified gold, debut release on Ill Will Records, QB Finest, yet kept a low profile as a solo performer.
That radically shifted in 2001 as Nas entered into an intensive phase of an already potent career. Publicly called out by Jay-Z, his long time rival and fellow contender for the King of New York Hip-Hop crown, on "Takeover," Nas fired back via mixtapes, the radio and most notably with the bruising "Ether." The song, which was the unofficial first single off Stillmatic, galvanized not only Nas but also the world of hip-hop. The mano y mano between the two platinum powerhouses became the talk of the streets and the industry as the airwaves in NYC were filled with the escalating hip-hop "he said/he said." During those charged months, Nas offered he was "at war" and as a soldier, shot with deadly aim, dropping not only "Ether," but the aggressive "Got Ur Self A&" (set to "The Sopranos" opening theme) as well as the moving "One Mic," the emotional video which earned a 2002 MTV Video Award nomination for Video Of The Year.
Like the album it referenced, Stillmatic marked Nas's commitment to taut, tough and thought-provoking hip-hop and garnered high praise and platinum plus sales. Stillmatic was widely viewed as not only a personal triumph but also a return to form, a sentiment magnified by 2002's Lost Tapes, which brings together all of Nas' unreleased underground gems and garnered critical acclaim --, and God's Son.
Kicking off with the crackling park jam "Made You Look," God's Son proved to be more than just the follow-up to Stillmatic. Deeply delving into his heart and soul with tracks that spoke to turmoil and loss as well as overcoming adversity, God's Son was "really personal" and painted a portrait of a young man struggling with his demons, yet open to the possibility of angels. As he said at the time of God's Son release, "My goals are to live well and be at peace until I leave this raggedy mutha****. This is a beautiful-ass world&if you can deal with all the bull****, it's a beautiful world."
Older. Wiser. More focused. More at peace. More fired up. Waging war. Making love. If Nas has symbolized anything throughout his soul-stirring run, it's been people's contradictory nature and the poetry that can arise from it. On the much-anticipated Street's Disciple, Nas rises to the challenge not only as an artist but also as a man.