Nasir Jones, nɑːˈsiər, (born September 14, 1973), better known by his stage name Nas, nɑːz, formerly Nasty Nas, is an American rapper. The son of jazz musician Olu Dara, he was born and raised in the Queensbridge housing projects in New York City. Although he dropped out of middle school, he attained a high degree of literacy that he would later use in his lyrics. Nas was signed to Columbia Records in 1994, when his debut album Illmatic came out. Illmatic was a critically-acclaimed bestseller and would go on to be widely hailed a classic. Several other albums followed, including It Was Written in 1996, I Am... and Nastradamus in 1999, and Stillmatic in 2001. Nas was part of The Firm, a hip-hop supergroup that also included rappers AZ, Foxy Brown, and Nature. However, the group released only one album together.
From 2001 to 2005, Nas was involved in a widely publicized feud with rapper Jay-Z; both rappers verbally attacked each other in their songs. The two formally ended their rivalry through duet performances at concerts sponsored by New York City-area hip-hop radio stations. Nas signed to Jay-Z's label Def Jam in 2006; Def Jam released his albums Hip Hop is Dead in 2006 and an untitled album in 2008.
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 under the name of "Nasty Nas" 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 was released later in the year, Nas’ standout appearance on "Live at the BBQ" only intensified interest. Hailed as the second coming of Rakim, his rhyming skills attracted a significant amount of attention within the hip-hop community.
Following Illmatic, Nas appeared on AZ's Doe or Die and 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 Mafia theme of the album (the alias was introduced on Mobb Deep's "Eye for an Eye" from "The Infamous" album.
Signed to Dr. Dre's Aftermath Entertainment label, The Firm began working on their debut album. Halfway through the production of the album, Cormega was fired from the group by Steve Stoute, who had unsuccessfully attempted to force Cormega to sign a deal with his management company. Cormega therefore became one of Nas most vocal opponents, releasing a number of underground hip hop singles "diss" Nas, Stoute, and Nature, who was Cormega's replacement in The Firm. Nas, Foxy Brown, AZ, and Nature Present The Firm: The Album was finally released in 1997 to mixed reviews and lackluster sales, and the members of the super group went their separate ways.
During this period, Nas was one of five rappers (the others being B-Real, Dr.Dre, KRS-One and RBX) in the hip hop supergroup Group Therapy, who appeared on the song "East Coast/West Coast Killas" from Dr. Dre Presents the Aftermath. In 1998, Nas co-wrote and starred in Hype Williams' 1998 feature film Belly.
The second single for I Am… was "Hate Me Now," featuring Diddy, which was used as an example by Nas critics of him moving towards commercial themes. Hype Williams shot an allegorical video for the single, which featured Nas and Diddy being crucified in a manner similar to Jesus; after the video was completed, Diddy, a Catholic, requested his crucifixion scene be edited out of the video. However, the unedited copy of the "Hate Me Now" video made its way to MTV, and was premiered on April 15, 1999 on TRL. Within minutes of the broadcast, a furious Combs and his bodyguards allegedly made their way into Steve Stoute's office and assaulted him, at one point apparently hitting Stoute over the head with a champagne bottle Stoute pressed charges, but he and Combs settled out-of-court that June.
Columbia had scheduled to release the pirated material from I Am… under the title Nastradamus during the latter half of 1999, but, at the last minute, Nas decided that he should record an entire new album for the 1999 release of Nastradamus. Nastradamus was therefore rushed to meet a November release date. Though critics were not kind to the album, it did result in a minor hit, "You Owe Me." It was produced by Timbaland and featured R&B singer Ginuwine. The only pirated track from I Am… to make it onto Nastradamus was "Project Windows," featuring Ronald Isley. A number of the other bootlegged tracks later made their way onto The Lost Tapes, a collection of underground Nas songs that was released by Columbia in September 2002. The collection saw decent sales and received glowing reviews.
In 2000, QB's Finest was released on Nas Ill Will Records. QB's Finest is a compilation album that featured Nas and a number of other rappers from Queensbridge projects, including Mobb Deep, Nature, Capone, the Bravehearts, Tragedy Khadafi, Millennium Thug and Cormega, who had briefly reconciled with Nas. The album also featured guest appearances from Queensbridge hip-hop legends Roxanne Shanté, MC Shan, and Marley Marl. Shan and Marley Marl both appeared on the lead single "Da Bridge 2001," which was based on Shan & Marl's 1986 recording "The Bridge."
Jay-Z, in his song "Takeover", criticized Nas by calling him "fake" and his career "lame". Nas responded with "Ether," in which he compared Jay-Z to such characters as J.J. Evans from the sitcom Good Times and cigarette company mascot Joe Camel. The song was included on Nas' fifth studio album, Stillmatic, released in December 2001. Stillmatic debuted at #5 on the Billboard album charts and featured the singles "Got Ur Self A..." and "One Mic."
In response to "Ether", Jay-Z released the song "Supa Ugly", which Hot 97 radio host Angie Martinez premiered on December 11, 2001. In the song, Jay-Z explicitly boasts about having an affair with Carmen Bryan, the mother of Nas' daughter Destiny. Hot 97 issued a poll asking listeners which rapper made the better diss song; Nas won with 52% while Jay-Z got 48% of the votes.
By October 2005, the two rappers had eventually ended their feud without violence or animosity. During Jay-Z's I Declare War - Power House concert, Jay-Z announced to the crowd, "It's bigger than 'I Declare War'. Let's go, Esco!" Nas then joined Jay-Z onstage, and the two then performed "Dead Presidents" together, which Jay-Z had sampled from Nas song "The World Is Yours". The two also collaborated on a song called, "Black Republican" which can be found on Nas' album, Hip Hop Is Dead. They then collaborated again on a song called, "Success" from Jay-Z's album American Gangster.
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.
Nas was featured on Kanye West's album Late Registration on a song titled "We Major". West said the song was Jay-Z's favorite on the album, but West was unable to get Jay-Z to record a vocal for the final mix of the song. He also appeared on Damian Marley's song "Road to Zion" and several other songs such as "Death Anniversary" and "It Wasn't You" (featuring Lauryn Hill). In addition, Nas married R&B singer Kelis on January 8, 2005 in Atlanta, Georgia, after a two-year engagement.
At a free concert in Central Park, New York, Nas made a statement regarding the quality of 50 Cent's music; "this is the real shit, not that 50 Cent shit! 50 Cent responded on his single "Piggy Bank" by speaking negatively about Nas’ wife Kelis by implying that she was promiscuous and calling Nas a "sucker for love." Nas eventually decided to retaliate, and in July 2005 released "MC Burial (Don't Body Ya Self)", a song which taunts 50 Cent and his G-Unit crew, stating that 50 was "a sucka for death if I'm a sucka for love." and "They say Jada defeated him, Joe too street for him/What's next? I guess it's for Nas to ether him" also, "Niggas don't want beef, they vegetarian/Scared of pussy, you climbed out of cesarean/I'll push your grown ass back in your mother's womb". However, despite all of this, Nas still claims to "have a lot of love towards 50", claiming 50 didn't understand his moves when they both were together at Columbia Records.
After rap duo Mobb Deep signed to G-Unit, they decided to diss Nas since G-Unit had beef with Nas. They released a diss song targeting Nas and the Bravehearts sometime in 2005 titled "It's That...
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 (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 and newcomer Wyldfyer. A street single named "Where Y'all At" was released in June 2006. It was produced by Salaam Remi, and contained a sample from Nas "Made You Look, but it did not make the final cut for Hip Hop Is Dead.
The title record and first single was produced by will.i.am, and contains the same melodic sample ("In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida") as Nas' 2004 single "Thief's Theme." The album debuted on Def Jam and Nas new imprint at that label, The Jones Experience, at number one on the Billboard 200 charts, selling 355,000 copies—Nas's third number one album, along with It Was Written and I Am…. A music video for "Can't Forget About You" premiered on February 5, 2007, the song featuring Chrisette Michele and sampling Nat King Cole's song "Unforgettable". Another video, Hustlers, featuring The Game, would follow. Also, Nas has stated in an interview with MTV that a video for "Black Republican" featuring Jay-Z is also underway. A reality series on MTV entitled Me and Mrs. Jones will feature the lives of Nas and Kelis, with Vibe magazine has reported that the show will premiere in 2008.
The title of the album generated controversy, as many fans and artists (particularly those of Southern origin) began to debate over the actual state of rap music's vitality. With this album Nas became an unofficial leader of the "Hip Hop Is Dead" movement. Ghostface Killah, on his album Fishscale seemed to agree with Nas and cited Southern crunk and snap music as the primary reasons for why hip-hop was "dead". Many Southern acts, such as rappers Big Boi from Outkast, Lil Boosie, T.I., Young Jeezy, Dem Franchize Boyz, and D4L took offense to the title, taking it to be directed at their region in particular.. Though southern rapper Andre 3000 from Outkast said in a interview that hip-hop is "dying".
Nas worked on a song called "Shine On 'Em" for the film Blood Diamond starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou, which opened in US theaters on December 8, 2006. His song "Thief's Theme" was featured in one of the scenes in the Academy Award-winning movie The Departed directed by Martin Scorsese.
Nas performed at a free concert for the Virginia Tech student body and faculty on September 6, 2007. Nas was joined by John Mayer, Phil Vassar, and Dave Matthews Band. When announced that Nas was to perform, Bill O'Reilly and Fox News Channel denounced the concert and called for the removal of the rapper citing "violent" lyrics on songs including "Shoot 'Em Up", "Got Urself A Gun", and "Made You Look". During his Talking Points Memo segment for August 15, 2007, an argument erupted in which O'Reilly claimed that it was not only Nas's lyrical content that made him inappropriate for the event, citing the gun conviction on Nas' criminal record. In the midst of his debate with author Bakari Kitwana ("The Hip Hop Generation"), who defended Nas, claiming that Fox News had "cherry picked" select fragments of the songs to make their case, O'Reilly shouted, "Even in his personal life, man, he's got a conviction for weapons, all right? He's got a weapons conviction, sir! On his sheet! This is a school that had a mass murderer with a pistol gunning down people—this guy has got a conviction for weapons, and you say he's appropriate? Come on!" O'Reilly repeated the claim another four times before cutting the segment short.
On September 6, 2007, during his set at "A Concert for Virginia Tech," Nas twice referred to Bill O'Reilly as "a chump," prompting loud cheers by members of the crowd. About two weeks later, Nas was interviewed by Shaheem Reid of MTV News, where he criticized O'Reilly, calling him uncivilized and willing to go to extremes for publicity.
Responding to O'Reilly, Nas in an interview with MTV News said:
Nas has since extended his campaign against O'Reilly to include all of Fox News (see below 2008: untitled). Nas' former label, Columbia Records, released his Greatest Hits album in November. This compilation features 14 songs: 12 from his seven first studio LPs under the label and two newly recorded songs. One of the new tracks, "Less Than an Hour," features Cee-Lo of Goodie Mob and Gnarls Barkley. The track is a new take on the theme of the hugely successful Rush Hour film trilogy starring Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan, and will appear on the upcoming Rush Hour 3 soundtrack as well. The other new track, "Surviving the Times," contains biographical lyrics about Nas' career and features production by Chris Webber.
The hype surrounding the altercation that Nas had created excited him, but he also worried that it would detract from the album's contents and message. For his management, the primary concern was that the album would not be sold by chain stores such as Walmart, thus limiting its distribution. It wasn't until May 19, 2008, that it was confirmed that Nas changed the name of the album from Nigger to, simply, Untitled. He went on to say in a statement: "It's important to me that this album gets to the fans. It's been a long time coming. I want my fans to know that creatively and lyrically, they can expect the same content and the same messages. The people will always know what the real title of this album is and what to call it. "Hero", the lead single from the album, was released on June 6, 2008, featuring R&B singer Keri Hilson and produced by Polow da Don. In the US, "Hero" reached #97 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #87 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart, and it peaked at #39 on the Hot Canadian Digital Singles chart. Commercials for the television series Fringe used "Hero" as background music. Released on July 15, 2008, Untitled is Nas' second album with Def Jam, in conjunction with his own imprint, The Jones Experience. It features production from Polow da Don, stic.man of Dead Prez, Mark Ronson, Cool and Dre, DJ Green Lantern, Salaam Remi, DJ Toomp and more. Guest appearances include The Game, Chris Brown, Keri Hilson, The Last Poets, Busta Rhymes and Tupac Amaru Shakur.
On July 2, 2008, Fila announced that Nas had signed a shoe deal, his second to date. Nas will promote the sneakers in magazines and wear them at concerts. Fila also plans on having Nas release a second sneaker with 1980's oriented style during the 2008 holiday season.
In an interview with MTV News on July 2008, Nas speculated that he might release two albums - one produced by DJ Premier and another by Dr. Dre - simultaneously the same day. Nas will also be featured on the upcoming albums Detox' by Dr. Dre and The Recession by Young Jeezy.
On July 23, 2008, Nas appeared on The Colbert Report and was interviewed by Colbert about his opinion of Bill O'Reilly and the Fox News Channel. Nas accused the network of bias against the African-American community and re-challenged O'Reilly to a debate. During the appearance Nas sat on boxes of more than 625,000 signatures gathered by online advocacy organization ColorOfChange in support of a petition accusing Fox of race-baiting and fear mongering. At the end of the show Nas performed the song "Sly Fox" off his new album, to affirm his criticism of Fox News. Nas is currently touring in "Rock The Bells.