Top 10 Nas Songs
Rap doesn’t have many prophets but Queensbridge emcee Nas fits the mold. In 1991, 18-year-old Nasir Jones made his first notable appearance on Main Source’s ‘Live at the Barbeque,’ and since then, he’s been weaving tales of hood happenings over banging beats. His role in rap has always been that of the street reporter. He may not be the one toting Desert Eagles or spending cold nights on hot street corners but he’s been around long enough to vividly detail all sides of it.
Nas’ debut album, ‘Illmatic,’ is a widely acclaimed hip-hop classic and though he may have had a few missteps since 1994 — obvious reaches like 2000’s ‘You Owe Me’ — the Queens native seems to make his way back to his roots every time. He’s still the best to do the introspective soul-searching necessary to keep the genre balanced. For rhymes that move beyond society’s surface from the perspective of one raised in society’s so-called underbelly, Nasty Nas has always been the go-to guy. TheDrop.fm highlights the Top 10 Nas Songs. One thing is certain: he’s always got a story to tell.
‘If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)’ Feat. Lauryn Hill
Departing from his penchant for detailing the hardships of life in the inner city, Nas used 1996’s ‘If I Ruled the World’ to describe a sort of utopia — from legalized marijuana and the exoneration of political prisoners to a limitless bank account balance. Lauryn Hill‘s honeyed vocals supported the rhymer on this lead single off ‘It Was Written.’ “The Villa house is for the crew, how we do / Trees for breakfast, dime sexes and Benz stretches / So many years of depression make me vision / The better living, type of place to raise kids in,” Nas raps.
‘Life’s a Bitch’ Feat. AZ
A 20-year-old Nas brings in his longtime rap partner AZ to assist on this hip-hop classic. As dreary as it may seem, the jazzy ‘Life’s a Bitch’ is simply the two emcees rhyming about business as usual in the hood. As one of the jewels on Nas’ debut ‘Illmatic,’ the track stands out mainly based on AZ’s fiery first verse and the Queensbridge native’s lucidly honest second verse. There’s still an undercurrent of hope woven into the song, namely in the contemplative horn outro played by Nas’ father Olu Dara.
‘Affirmative Action’ Feat. the Firm
There’s something to finding a perfect match in rap. Nas and AZ had formed a strong relationship years before the Firm had recorded their first track as a group. In addition to the two rappers, Cormega and a teenage Foxy Brown was added to the collective. Their first offering was the booming single ‘Affirmative Action’ — one verse by each member with them all spitting bars of extravagance, reeking of the arrogance that makes for good rap.
On 2001’s ‘Stillmatic,’ Nasty Nas had returned to a form rap fans hadn’t seen in quite some time. He revisited his signature style of storytelling on tracks like the DJ Premier-backed ‘2nd Childhood.’ The album cut had most listeners with roots in the hood nodding in affirmation. Yes, we all know that 30-something-year-old guy still living at his mother’s house, ruining her furniture. We also know the loudmouthed young lady always involved in drama with a baby on her hip. Here, Nas doesn’t necessarily judge, instead, he holds the mirror up, hoping that the track shows his neighbors exactly how they look from the outside.
On ‘One Mic,’ Nas glides between extremes. At the start of each verse he rhymes softly, thoughtfully speaking on the significance of having just one mic. Symbolically, it seems that it’s the mic that keeps him sane. As each verse goes on and he begins rhyming from the perspective of a frustrated hood soldier, his flow becomes more aggressive until he’s literally yelling about violent revolution and allegiance to blocks incapable of loving their residents in return. By the song’s end, Nas breaks down false loyalties and shady neighborhood characters, making peace with his one mic.
On 2012’s ‘Life Is Good,’ Nas taps into his most vulnerable self, offering a personal view into his relationship with his teenage daughter. He put his fears and insecurities about raising a young lady on record and subsequently, it became a fan favorite on the LP. Nas raps, “One day she’s ya little princess, next day she talking boy business / What is this? / They say the coolest playas and foulest heart breakers in the world /
God gets us back, he makes us have precious little girls.”
‘It Ain’t Hard to Tell’
‘It Ain’t Hard to Tell’ was Nas’ second single from his ‘Illmatic’ debut. Over a sample of Michael Jackson‘s ‘Human Nature,’ the emcee shows off his mic skills by use of other worldly metaphors and the like. He spits, “Nas is like the Afrocentric Asian, half-man, half-amazin’ / Cause in my physical, I can express through song /
Delete stress like Motrin, then extend strong / I drank Moet with Medusa, give her shotguns in hell /
From the spliff that I lift and inhale, it ain’t hard to tell.”
‘Black Republican’ Feat. Jay-Z
Five years after the two infamously traded barbs for the world to witness, Nas and Jay-Z joined forces over production by LES and Wyldfyer that sounded as regal as it did menacing. Both Jay and Nas are widely upheld as the genre’s best while maintaining very specific differences, but on ‘Black Republican,’ it all works for the greater good — dope hip-hop. While Jay raps about his financial similarities to the stereotypical republican without betraying the hood, Nas rhymes about being a revolutionary. “I feel like a black militant takin’ over the government / Can’t turn my back on the hood, too much love for them / Can’t clean my act up for good, too much thug in ’em / Probably in up back in the hood, I’m like, ‘F— it then.'”
‘Stillmatic’ definitely had quite a few head-scratchers on the tracklisting. One of the best things about Nas is that after nearly two decades in the rap industry, he’s still able to creatively come up with ways to tell stories that we’ve heard before. ‘Rewind’ has got to be one of the best tracks on ‘Stillmatic’ simply because of his skill set. Nas unravels the entire tale backwards within two minutes. “Sittin in back of this chair, we hittin the roach / The smoke goes back in the blunt, the blunt gets bigger in growth / Jungle unrolls it, put his weed back in the jar / The blunt turns back into a cigar,” he rhymes.
When Jay-Z and Nas went head-to-head at the top of the millenium, hip-hop fans were chomping at the bit. Initially, Jay had released his track ‘Takeover’ and many fans thought Nas would let the diss track slide, especially because he appeared to have been off his game for a few years. When Nasty Nas dropped his rebuttal before the release of ‘Stillmatic,’ the entire industry seemed to gasp in utter amazement. The Queensbridge emcee had gotten his second wind on ‘Ether,’ and hasn’t lost it since.