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Nas Biography

Nas Biography

Nasir Jones (born September 14, 1973), known simply as Nas, formerly Nasty Nas, is an American rapper. Son of jazz musician Olu Dara, Nas is well known for his 1994 debut album Illmatic, which many consider to be one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time. This album established Nas as one of hip-hop's most profound lyricists, introducing his signature poetic style. Raised in the notorious Queensbridge housing projects in New York City, he represents a continuation of a hip-hop tradition in Queensbridge that has spanned through early hip-hop, including the Juice Crew, Mobb Deep, and MC Shan. Nas had settled on pursuing a career as a rapper, and as a teenager enlisted his best friend and upstairs neighbor Willy "Ill Will" Graham as his DJ. Nas first went by the nickname Kid Wave before adopting his more commonly known alias of Nasty Nas. Nas and Graham soon met hip-hop producer and Queens resident Large Professor (William Mitchell), who introduced Nas to his Toronto-based group, Main Source. In 1991, Nas made his on-record debut with a verse on "Live at the Barbeque", from Main Source's LP Breaking Atoms. Despite the substantial buzz for Nas in the underground scene, the rapper was rejected by major labels and was not signed to a recording deal. Nas and Graham continued to work together, but their partnership was cut short when Graham was shot and killed by a gunman in Queensbridge on May 23, 1992.

In mid-1992, Nas was approached by MC Serch of 3rd Bass, who became his manager and secured Nas a record deal with Columbia Records the same year. Nas made his solo debut on the single "Halftime" from Serch's soundtrack for the film Zebrahead and became part of the chang gang productions with Freshy C. The single increased the buzz surrounding Nas and when MC Serch’s solo album is released later in the year, Nas’ standout appearance on "Back To The Grill" only intensified interest. Hailed as the second coming of Rakim, his rhyming skills attracted a significant amount of attention within the hip-hop community. In 1994, Nas's debut album, Illmatic was finally released. Critically acclaimed and widely regarded as one of the best hip-hop albums of all time, Illmatic featured lyrics that portrayed stunning visual imagery. It also featured production from Large Professor, Pete Rock (one half of legendary group with C.L. Smooth), Q-Tip (frontman for A Tribe Called Quest), L.E.S. and DJ Premier (one half of Gang Starr) as well as guest appearances from Nas's friend AZ and his father Olu Dara. Aside from Halftime, three moderately popular singles were released in order to promote Illmatic. However, due to widespread bootlegging and a lack of corporate appeal, the album did not do well in terms of record sales. Following Illmatic, Nas appeared on AZ's Doe or Die album, and collaborated with his Queensbridge-associates, Mobb Deep, on their album, The Infamous. One notable achievement during this period was Nas verse on "Verbal Intercourse" on Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. It earned Nas a Source Quotable, and gave him the distinction (at the time) of being the only non-Wu-Tang Clan member to be featured on one of their songs. It also continued his "Nas Escobar" persona, in keeping with the Mafioso-theme of the album (the alias was introduced on Mobb Deep's "Eye for an Eye" from "The Infamous" album.

Columbia began to press Nas to work towards more commercial topics, such as that of the rapper The Notorious B.I.G., who had become successful by releasing street singles that still retained pop-friendly appeal. Nas traded manager MC Serch for Steve Stoute, and began preparation for his second LP, It Was Written, consciously working towards a crossover-oriented sound. It Was Written, chiefly produced by Tone and Poke of Trackmasters, was released during the summer of 1996. Two singles, "If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)" (featuring Lauryn Hill of The Fugees) and "Street Dreams" using the same sample as Tupac Shakur's All Eyez on Me base track and a remix with R. Kelly were instant hits. These songs were promoted by big-budget music videos directed by Hype Williams, making Nas a common name among mainstream hip-hop. It Was Written featured the debut of The Firm, a super group consisting of Nas, AZ, Foxy Brown, and Cormega. The album also expanded on Nas Escobar persona, who lived more of a Scarface/Casino-esque lifestyle. On the other hand, Illmatic, which, while having numerous references to Tony Montana and the theatrical hit featuring Al Pacino, was more about his life as a teenager in the projects. In 1998, Nas began work on a double album. It was to be entitled I Am…The Autobiography, which he intended as the middle ground between the extremes of Illmatic and It Was Written. The plans were for it to be a double album autobiography of Nas with each track detailing a part of his life. The album was completed in early 1999, and a music video was shot for its lead single, "Nas Is Like." It was produced by DJ Premier and contained vocal samples from "It Ain't Hard to Tell." Much of the LP was leaked into MP3 format onto the Internet and Nas and Stoute quickly recorded enough substitute material to constitute a single-disc release. Those leaked tracks include "Amongst Kings," "Blaze a 50," "Drunk By Myself," "Hardest Thing to Do Is Stay Alive," "U Gotta Love It," "Find Ya Wealth," "Project Windows," "Fetus," "Wanna Play Rough," "Sometimes I Wonder," and "Daydreamin, Stay Scheming."

In December 2002, Nas released the God's Son album including its lead single, "Made You Look" which utilized a pitched down sample of the Incredible Bongo Band's "Apache". The album peaked at #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts despite widespread internet bootlegging. Time Magazine named his album best hip-hop album of the year. Vibe gave it four stars and The Source gave it four mics. The second single, "I Can", which reworked elements from Beethoven's "Für 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. God's Son also includes several songs dedicated to memory of Nas mother, who died of cancer in 2002, including "Dance". In 2003, Nas was featured on the Korn song "Play Me", from Korn's Take a Look in the Mirror LP. Also in 2003, a live performance in New York City, featuring Ludacris, Jadakiss, and Darryl McDaniels (of Run-D.M.C. fame), was released on DVD as Made You Look: God's Son Live. Nas released his seventh studio album, the critically acclaimed double-disc 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. The album also includes "These Are Our Heroes", which accuses prominent sports stars and actors such as Kobe Bryant and O. J. Simpson of not setting good examples for the kids that look up to them and neglecting their heritage and background in favour of white values. The videos for "Bridging the Gap" and "Just A Moment" received moderate airplay on MTV and BET. Although the album went platinum, its commercial profile was relatively low compared to the rapper's previous releases.

In January 2006, Nas signed a label deal with Def Jam, emphasizing collaboration over competition with former rival Jay-Z. Nas original title for his next album was Hip Hop Is Dead...The N[19] (shortened to Hip Hop Is Dead), though the UK release features a bonus track at the end called "The N." The album featured production from will.i.am, Kanye West, Dr. Dre, Scott Storch, and NBA All Star Chris Webber, as well as longtime Nas collaborators L.E.S. and Salaam Remi. A street single named "Where Y'all At" was released in June of 2006. It was produced by Salaam Remi, and contained a sample from Nas "Made You Look," but it did not make Hip Hop Is Dead's final cut. An album entitled "Nigger" was originally scheduled for a February 2008 release, but January has come and gone without a proper single release. "Nigger" will be Nas' second album with Def Jam, in conjunction with his own imprint, The Jones Experience. In response to the album's title, many of the entertainment industry's most famous names have expressed a sense of trust in Nas using the controversial term for his next full-length LP.


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