Nas, whose real name is Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, is a highly influential rapper and songwriter in the hip-hop genre. Born on September 14, 1973, in Brooklyn, New York, Nas emerged in the 1990s as one of the most talented and lyrically skilled MCs in the rap scene.

His debut album, “Illmatic,” released in 1994, is often cited as one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time. It showcased Nas’ exceptional storytelling abilities, vivid imagery, and complex rhyme schemes. “Illmatic” established Nas as a prodigious talent and earned him widespread critical acclaim.

Throughout his career, Nas has continued to release critically acclaimed albums and collaborate with other prominent artists in the hip-hop community. His discography includes classics like “It Was Written,” “Stillmatic,” “God’s Son,” and “Life Is Good,” among others.

Nas is known for his introspective and socially conscious lyrics, addressing topics such as urban life, racial inequality, politics, and personal struggles. His poetic storytelling and raw authenticity have earned him a dedicated fan base and cemented his legacy as one of the greatest rappers of all time.

Beyond his music career, Nas has also ventured into entrepreneurship, investing in various businesses and initiatives. He remains an influential figure in both the music industry and popular culture, inspiring generations of artists with his lyrical prowess and artistic vision.

1. N.Y. State of Mind

“N.Y. State of Mind” is a seminal track by Nas, featured on his debut album “Illmatic,” released in 1994. The song is celebrated for its vivid depiction of life in New York City, particularly in the gritty neighborhoods of Queensbridge, where Nas grew up.

In “N.Y. State of Mind,” Nas delivers dense, intricate verses over a haunting beat produced by DJ Premier. The lyrics paint a gritty portrait of urban life, showcasing Nas’ storytelling prowess and keen observational skills. He vividly describes the struggles, violence, and survival tactics prevalent in the streets, offering a raw and unfiltered glimpse into his world.

The track opens with a now-iconic sample from the 1973 film “Wild Style,” setting the tone for Nas’ lyrical journey through the concrete jungle of New York City. His delivery is both sharp and introspective, capturing the tension and complexity of inner-city life.

“N.Y. State of Mind” is widely regarded as one of Nas’ greatest songs and a standout track on “Illmatic,” which is often hailed as one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time. The song’s impact extends far beyond its release, influencing subsequent generations of rappers and solidifying Nas’ reputation as one of the most skilled lyricists in the genre.

2. If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)

“If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)” is a classic hip-hop track by Nas featuring Lauryn Hill, released in 1996 as the second single from Nas’ second studio album, “It Was Written.” The song samples the 1985 track “Friends” by Whodini and is notable for its uplifting and aspirational lyrics.

In “If I Ruled the World,” Nas imagines a world where he holds power and influence, outlining his vision for positive change and social justice. The song’s chorus, sung by Lauryn Hill, emphasizes themes of unity, peace, and empowerment, as Nas reflects on the struggles of his community and envisions a brighter future.

The track is characterized by its smooth production, catchy melody, and introspective lyrics. Nas’ verses showcase his lyrical prowess and storytelling ability, as he delves into themes of power, ambition, and the pursuit of success.

“If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)” was a commercial success, reaching the top of the Billboard Hot Rap Singles chart and earning widespread acclaim from critics and fans alike. The song remains one of Nas’ most iconic and enduring tracks, serving as a testament to his artistic vision and social consciousness.

3. The World Is Yours

“The World Is Yours” is a song by the American rapper Nas, released as the third single from his critically acclaimed debut album, “Illmatic,” in 1994. Produced by Pete Rock, the track features a sample from Ahmad Jamal’s “I Love Music” and incorporates a jazz-infused beat that complements Nas’ lyrical prowess.

In “The World Is Yours,” Nas delivers vivid storytelling, painting a picture of life in the streets of New York City. The song reflects on the struggles and aspirations of urban youth, offering insights into the realities of inner-city life while also conveying a message of empowerment and resilience. Nas’ intricate wordplay and sharp lyricism shine throughout the track, showcasing his ability to craft vivid narratives and convey complex emotions.

“The World Is Yours” has since become one of Nas’ most iconic songs and is widely regarded as a hip-hop classic. Its timeless appeal, coupled with Nas’ masterful lyricism and Pete Rock’s impeccable production, has solidified its place in the pantheon of influential rap tracks.

4. One Mic

“One Mic” is a song by the American rapper Nas, released as the third single from his fifth studio album, “Stillmatic,” in 2002. Produced by Nas himself along with Chucky Thompson, “One Mic” is notable for its minimalist production and powerful lyrical content.

The song’s title, “One Mic,” references the idea of using one microphone to express oneself, emphasizing the raw and unfiltered nature of Nas’ delivery. Lyrically, the song delves into themes of social commentary, personal struggles, and the power of self-expression. Nas’ introspective verses touch on issues such as poverty, violence, and the quest for inner strength and resilience.

The track builds in intensity as it progresses, with Nas’ delivery becoming increasingly impassioned. The climactic moment comes towards the end of the song when Nas delivers a passionate verse a cappella, emphasizing the importance of having “one mic” to speak one’s truth.

“One Mic” received widespread critical acclaim upon its release and is often cited as one of Nas’ greatest songs. Its thought-provoking lyrics, coupled with its evocative production and Nas’ masterful delivery, have cemented its status as a hip-hop classic. The song’s message of empowerment and self-expression continues to resonate with listeners to this day.

5. Life’s a Bitch

“Life’s a Bitch” is a track by Nas featuring AZ, included on Nas’ landmark debut album “Illmatic,” released in 1994. Produced by L.E.S., the song is known for its smooth, jazzy production and introspective lyrics.

In “Life’s a Bitch,” Nas and AZ explore the complexities of life in the inner city, reflecting on the struggles of growing up in impoverished neighborhoods while also celebrating the resilience and determination of the human spirit. The title encapsulates the sentiment that life can be challenging and unpredictable, but also that there’s beauty and opportunity amidst the adversity.

The track features a memorable verse from AZ, whose lyrical prowess matches Nas’, contributing to the song’s enduring appeal. With its laid-back vibe and reflective lyrics, “Life’s a Bitch” has become one of the standout tracks from “Illmatic” and a classic of 1990s hip-hop.

The song’s themes of perseverance and self-awareness have resonated with listeners for decades, making it a timeless anthem for anyone navigating the ups and downs of life.

6. Hate Me Now

“Hate Me Now” is a song by Nas featuring Puff Daddy (now known as Diddy), released in 1999 as the third single from Nas’ third studio album, “I Am…”. The track is known for its powerful and anthemic production, as well as its provocative lyrics.

In “Hate Me Now,” Nas addresses his critics and detractors, defiantly asserting his place in the rap game and his determination to succeed despite the obstacles he faces. The song’s chorus, delivered by Diddy, repeats the phrase “Hate me now, but I won’t stop now,” encapsulating Nas’ unwavering resolve and resilience.

The track is characterized by its dramatic orchestral instrumentation, courtesy of producer D-Moet, which gives it a grand and epic feel. Nas’ intense delivery and confrontational lyrics add to the song’s impact, making it a standout track on “I Am…” and a fan favorite.

Despite its controversial lyrics and themes, “Hate Me Now” was a commercial success, peaking at number 18 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and earning critical acclaim for its powerful message and cinematic production. The accompanying music video, directed by Hype Williams, further enhanced the song’s impact with its striking visuals and symbolism.

Overall, “Hate Me Now” is regarded as one of Nas’ signature songs and a classic of late 1990s hip-hop, showcasing his lyrical prowess and his ability to command attention with his music.

7. One Love

“One Love” is a song by Nas from his debut album, “Illmatic,” released in 1994. Produced by Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest, the track features a mellow, soulful beat and is built around a sample of the Heath Brothers’ song “Smilin’ Billy Suite Part II.”

In “One Love,” Nas adopts the perspective of a streetwise narrator writing letters to friends who are incarcerated. Through these letters, Nas provides updates on the happenings in their neighborhood and offers words of encouragement and support. The song paints a vivid picture of life in the inner city, touching on themes of crime, poverty, and the struggle for survival.

Despite the grim subject matter, “One Love” also contains moments of hope and resilience. Nas’ storytelling prowess shines through as he weaves together intricate narratives and vivid imagery, offering a glimpse into the complexities of life in the projects.

“One Love” is widely regarded as one of Nas’ greatest songs and a standout track on “Illmatic.” Its introspective lyrics, coupled with its soulful production, have earned it praise from critics and fans alike. The song’s message of solidarity and community resonates with listeners, making it a timeless classic in the hip-hop canon.

8. It Ain’t Hard to Tell

“It Ain’t Hard to Tell” is a track by Nas, featured on his debut studio album “Illmatic,” released in 1994. Produced by Large Professor, the song is notable for its jazzy sample from Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” and its intricate lyrics.

In “It Ain’t Hard to Tell,” Nas delivers intricate rhymes over a smooth and laid-back beat. The lyrics showcase Nas’ lyrical prowess and his ability to paint vivid pictures with words. He explores themes of urban life, street culture, and personal reflection, offering a glimpse into his world and mindset.

The song’s chorus, with its repeated refrain “It ain’t hard to tell, I excel, then prevail,” reflects Nas’ confidence and determination to succeed in the rap game. His delivery is confident and effortless, with a flow that effortlessly rides the beat.

“It Ain’t Hard to Tell” was released as the third single from “Illmatic” and received critical acclaim for its lyrical complexity and musical innovation. The song remains one of Nas’ most celebrated tracks and a standout moment on an album widely regarded as one of the greatest in hip-hop history.

9. Made You Look

“Made You Look” is a song by Nas, released as the lead single from his seventh studio album, “God’s Son,” in 2002. Produced by Salaam Remi, the track features a catchy sample from the Incredible Bongo Band’s “Apache” and is known for its energetic, hard-hitting beat.

Lyrically, “Made You Look” is a braggadocious and aggressive track, with Nas showcasing his lyrical prowess and delivering rapid-fire verses filled with wordplay and clever punchlines. The song’s lyrics touch on themes such as street credibility, hip-hop culture, and Nas’ own status as a respected figure in the rap game.

“Made You Look” received widespread acclaim upon its release and is often cited as one of Nas’ standout tracks. Its infectious beat, coupled with Nas’ dynamic flow and confident delivery, helped propel it to commercial success and solidify its status as a hip-hop classic.

The song’s title and hook, “Made You Look,” have become iconic in hip-hop culture and are often referenced in popular media. “Made You Look” remains a fan favorite and a staple of Nas’ live performances, showcasing his enduring influence and impact on the genre.

10. I Can

“I Can” is a song by Nas, released in 2003 as the second single from his album “God’s Son.” The song is notable for its uplifting and motivational message, aimed particularly at empowering children and promoting education and self-improvement.

In “I Can,” Nas delivers positive and inspirational lyrics over a catchy beat. The song encourages listeners, especially young people, to believe in themselves, pursue their dreams, and overcome obstacles. Nas emphasizes the importance of education, knowledge, and self-respect, urging listeners to strive for greatness and not be limited by societal expectations or circumstances.

The chorus of “I Can” features a sample from Beethoven’s “Für Elise,” adding a classical touch to the song’s uplifting message. Nas’ delivery is confident and impassioned, as he delivers rhymes that celebrate the potential and resilience of the human spirit.

“I Can” received widespread acclaim for its positive message and catchy melody. The song became a commercial success, reaching the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and earning Nas praise for his ability to blend social commentary with mainstream appeal.

“I Can” remains one of Nas’ most popular and enduring songs, celebrated for its empowering message and universal appeal. It has been embraced by fans of all ages and continues to inspire listeners around the world.

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