Birthday profile: “Nas” A history in brief

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Born Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York, on September 14th  1973, he has evolved from Kid Wave to Nasty Nas to simply Nas. 20 years plus in the hip hop game have cemented Nas into it’s history beginning with his debut album, the classic “Illmatic” In 1994. Even before this his verse on Main Source’s “Live At The Barbecue” made people sit up & take notice as he outshone the other vocalists on the track.

Nas moved with his family to Queensbridge, Queens at a young age & began to master his rapping skills. Later on he met producer & Main Source rapper Large Professor who allowed him studio use & eventually a guest spot on “Live At The Barbecue”, a track from Main Source’s debut album “Breaking Atoms”. The big break came when MC Serch, formerly of 3rd Bass took Nas under his wing & with a demo got him a deal with Columbia Records.

The debut album “Illmatic” released in 1994 was a street classic. With big guns on the production such as DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Q-Tip & Large Professor guaranteeing tuff beats, Nas’ breathless flow of ghetto life tales was approved by fans & other rappers in general. Columbia Records were keen to see Nas move in a much more commercial direction & the tracks on the second album “It Was Written” (1996) reflected that. This bought about mixed review, but showed Nas’ versatility with differing types of production. This was followed with a collaboration group album “The Firm” with AZ, Foxy Brown & Nature which had a gangster movie type theme to it.

Now for a move into film with “Belly”, co-starring DMX, T-Boz (of TLC) Method Man & Taral Hicks. In a storyline spreading across the United States & Jamaica, Nas & DMX, after many ups & downs eventually seek their own paths out of the drug dealing game.

Back to the music now & Nas collaborating with the big hip hop mogul Puff Daddy was seen as a sign of him moving to a much more commercial edge of music. What was to follow in the next few years would be seen as much more controversial than this, a lengthy feud with Jay-Z. The pair went back & forth dissing one another without mentioning names until Jay-Z dropped “Takeover”. Nas’ response “Ether” is still seen as a victory in the beef over Jay-Z. The pair eventually squashed their beef & Jay-Z even signed Nas to Def Jam in 2006.

A more politically edged Nas was to follow. The album “Street’s Disciple” (2004) was a double album blending varying issues. His 2006 “Hip Hop Is Dead” album focused on the demise of the artform as he saw it at the time. Then “Untitled” in 2008 caused major controversy with Nas’ original chosen title “Nigger” being changed by intervention from record label Def Jam. The album was Nas’ most political to date with subject content of race, politics, the media & of course usage of the “N” word.

On a personal note Nas’ marriage to R&B singer Kelis came to an end. The couple married in 2005 & Kelis filed for divorce in 2009, while pregnant with their child. Their son Knight was born in July 2009 & their divorce was finalized in 2010.

Nas, a big fan of collaboration albums, took a new musical route for himself by doing an album with one of Bob Marley’s sons Damian entitled “Distant Relatives” (2010). Nas’s final album for Def Jam “Life Is Good” from last year (2012) came after numerous highly profiled differences with the record label. The album saw a drift from the politically edged music & more of a focus on enjoyment, especially after a messy divorce. Relaxed & introspective describe the lyrical flow on “Life Is Good”.

Nas continually being hailed as one of the best rappers of all time is well deserved. Most of the time being able to effortlessly cram more that 10 words into one bar of rap comes naturally to him, a feat most try, but only a few are capable of. His storytelling ability & rap flow are impeccable & the subject matters he covers a wide & varied. After originally basing his rap style on Kool G Rap, Nas took that & crafted his own unique style. The best way to describe Nas is “Hip Hop Legend”.
(Rashad Unique)

Nas’ solo album discograpy:
Illmatic (Columbia Records. 1994)
It Was Written (Columbia Records. 1996)
I Am… (Columbia Records. 1999)
Nastradamus (Columbia Records/Ill Will. 1999)
Stillmatic (Columbia Records/Ill Will. 2001)
God’s Son (Columbia Records/Ill Will. 2002)
Street’s Disciple (Columbia Records/Ill Will. 2004)
Hip Hop Is Dead (Def Jam/Columbia/The Jones Experience. 2006)
Untitled (Def Jam/Columbia/The Jones Experience. 2008)
Life Is Good (Def Jam. 2012)

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