With ten albums under his belt, multiple Grammy award nominations and a career spanning nearly twenty years, there isn’t much left for Nas to do. Recently ranked #1 on CNN’s greatest lyricist of all time, the New York microphone maestro released his seventh platinum selling album ‘Life is good’ (2012) which was his most personal album to date, dealing with a number of delicate issues including the hardship of his divorce with singer Kelis, the adversities of adulthood and the struggle of fatherhood while being a rapper.
In an era of Hip-Hop where materialism seems to compensate for lyrical ability, the Queensbridge native has kept true to his roots, while still being able to maintain his position on top of the charts. While next year marks the 20th anniversary since his debut album ‘Illmatic’ which garnered critical acclaim and put him on the map, the self-proclaimed ‘God’s son’ has cemented his legacy among rap’s greatest ever.
In an industry where controversy is more common than a lack of it, Nas has been able to transcend the conventional status quote of the typical gun glorifying, misogynistic ‘Hip-Hop rapper’ with his deep, socially conscious and at times violent lyrics. In the eyes of those who consider Hip-Hop an art-form, Nas must undoubtedly be Picasso, praised by peers and fans alike for his lyrical skill and story-telling ability about the harsh realities of urban life, Nas compiles the best of both street savvy and pure knowledge.
A lot has changed since Nas burst onto the scene way back in 1994, and has since then seen his fair share of rappers come and go. But in an industry as volatile as Hip-Hop, Nasty Nas has effortlessly managed to stay consistent and current with the times while still being able to hang with Hip Hop’s fresh new crop of MC’s, the influence of his style inspiring artists like J Cole, Kendrick Lamar and Lupe Fiasco.
Nicknamed ‘Escobar Cesar’ for his elaborate lyrics, Nas emerged as a part of New York’s East Coast Renaissance of rap, with fellow MC’s, The Notorious B.I.G, Jay Z, The Wu-Tang Clan and others. Influenced by the style of the iconic MC Rakim, Nas is a true student of the game, a class which he now teaches to Hip-Hop’s younger generation, as he approaches his 40th birthday; fans, critics and rappers alike will all hold an opinion on what his legacy will be when he finally drops the mic.
Whatever critics or listeners in ten years say about him, Nas irrespectively is hands down one of the best to do it, some will argue that he needs a Grammy to solidify his legacy, others will say the appreciation of his music speaks for itself.
Regardless of the differences, Nasir Jones does what his does well, whether he’s talking about life in the projects, encouraging the youth or making you dance; we can all agree on one thing, Nas is a true artist.
Words by Tosin Salami