In hip-hop, an artist's reputation can change in a flash. One minute, you're a hot young rapper from Queens, boasting talent so strong other emcees quiver in your wake; the next, you're fading into the backdrop, churning out so-so albums of uninspired verses and wondering what went wrong, and, more importantly, how to make it right.

If you hadn't already guessed, we're talking about Nas (aka Nasir Jones), a favorite son of NYC's rap stable who once -- due to poorly received albums and a deteriorating post-'Illmatic' image -- found himself in career crisis; thankfully, on Dec. 13, 2002, he redeemed himself with the release of 'God's Son,' his sixth studio album and an LP of such rich quality many rap fans considered it a resurrection of sorts. One of the year's best.

Now, Nas may never admit it, but timing might have been on the side of 'God's Son' all along. Jay-Z's 'The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse' had dropped a month before, and with critics branding the album as "unfocused," the door opened for God's son to gain ground in his long-standing rivalry with the Brooklyn rapper.

Remember this? "I've been in it five -- smarten up Nas / Four albums in 10 years n---- I could divide," from 'The Blueprint' track 'Takeover.' Or how about this: "When these streets keep calling, heard it when I was asleep / That this Gay-Z and Cockafella records wanted beef," from the 'Stillmatic' track 'Ether.'

That's not to say every song on 'God's Son' was or is a winner. 'I Can' is a bit of a throwaway, with Professor Nas trying to teach the kiddies a few life lessons over Beethoven pianos. And 'Zone Out' is a straight-up head trip about gang bangin' and getting high, which would be fine if the zany synths and gonzo production didn't rattle our nerves.

It's tracks like 'Last N---- Alive,' 'Thugz Mansion (N.Y.)' and 'Heaven' that hit more of a mark. Slimmed-down production neatly dances with potent words about burying hatchets (like the one with Jay-Z), hanging with homies (2Pac on 'Thugz Mansion (N.Y.)') and remembering his departed mother (Ann Jones, who died of breast cancer in 2002). And when Nas does get militant, he does so with slick authority on tracks such as 'Made You Look,' where lines like, "But I ain't five-O / Ya'll know it's Nas, yo / Grey Goose and whole lotta hydro" induce chills.

All in all, 'God's Son' is an album that still resonates with listeners 10 years later, and is made of more honesty than fans had received from Nas in years. Whether he's derailing feuds or detailing scuffles or mourning the death of his mom, it was a total maturity boost for a rapper who became tired of nonsense in the game he loves. And while shedding the nonsense, he managed to regain the love once lost.

Watch Nas' 'Made You Look' Video