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Nas

Nas


Rap musician


By the time he was barely out of his twenties, Nas had released five successful albums, launched his own record label, a fashion company, and appeared in several films. With his music, Nas became known for, according to Len Righi of the Morning Call, his "ability to look outside the immediate circumstances of his life" and address larger issues. In the early 2000s, Nas accomplished something that had eluded many other hip-hop figures—he continued to develop as an artist and found ongoing popularity.

Nas was born Nasir Jones on September 14, 1973, in Queens, New York. His father, Olu Dara, a jazz and blues trumpeter, chose the name Nasir for his son because of its Arabic meaning: "helper" or "protector." Nas was raised by his mother, Fannie Ann Jones.

Growing up in New York City's tough Queensbridge housing projects, "it sometimes seemed to [Nas] his whole world was ill and being eaten away," wrote Christopher John Farley in Time. "Drugs were devouring minds, crime was destroying families, poverty was gnawing at souls." In May of 1992, both Nas's brother, Jungle, and his best friend were shot on the same night. Although his brother lived, Nas's friend did not survive his injuries. "That was a wake-up call for me," Nas told Time.

Released Debut Album

Two years after his wake-up call, Nas released his debut album, Illmatic. Nas worked with a number of top hip-hop producers, and his hard work paid off. Entertainment Weekly said of the album: "his witty lyrics and gruffly gratifying beats draw listeners into [his neighborhood's] lifestyle with poetic efficiency." Farley, writing in Time, noted that the record "captures the ailing community he [Nas] was raised in—the random gunplay, the whir of police helicopters, the home-boys hanging out on the corner sipping bottles of Hennessey."

Setting himself apart from other gangsta rappers, Nas did not typically glorify violence in his music, but, rather, his songs evoke sadness and outrage. Farley noted in Time that Nas performs on the album with "submerged emotion" and describes urban tragedy dispassionately, much "like an anchorman relaying the day's grim news." The New York Times declared that, on the album, Nas "imbues his chronicle with humanity and humor, not just hardness.…[he] reports violence without celebrating it, dwelling on the way life triumphs over grim circumstances rather than the other way around."

Nas's sophomore album, It Was Written, was released in 1996, selling more than a million copies. Again, Nas worked with several hip-hop producers, including topselling Dr. Dre. With this album, however, Nas faced criticism that the songs were amoral, contained rough language, and included episodes of violence. Critics were also frustrated by the album's contradictions. The hit single "If I Ruled The World (Imagine That)," for example, depicts paradise as a "better livin' type of place to raise our kids in." However, this world is also one in which cocaine comes uncut, allowing higher profits on the drug. In a Rolling Stone review, Mark Coleman commented that Nas "possesses a phenomenal way with words and some savvy musical sense." Coleman continued, "It's a pity he doesn't put his verbal dexterity and powers of observation to better use. …When Nas finally aligns his mind with his mouth, he'll truly be dangerous."

Music critic Toure, writing in the New York Times, noted a strong musical link between Nas and his father, Olu Dara. Though the two musicians came from very different backgrounds and subscribed to different musical schools, Toure wrote, "Nas's music is characterized by a laid-back cool, with a penchant for medium-pace tempos and relatively sparse tracks, all of which are hallmarks of his father's music." Nas's father, who had a trumpet solo on his son's first album, told Toure, "His aggressive is cool. Not like 'I'm angry! I'm mad!' It's cool. And that's the way my music is." Vernon Reid, a guitarist who has played with Dara, also noted similarities between father and son, saying in the New York Times: "Both have a finely tuned sense of irony, which I think is evident in Nas's lyrics and Olu's playing." Reid continued, "There's a kind of cockeyed way of looking at the world. A raised eyebrow. Sly. They're seeing what's going on underneath the surface."

Appeared in First Film

In 1998 Nas made his feature film debut, appearing in Belly. Co-starring with fellow rapper DMX, the two hip-hop stars played best friends. Although they both come from the same violent neighborhood, these two friends want very different things out of life. Tommy, played by DMX, is willing to do whatever it takes to attain money, power, and women. Nas's character, Sincere, wishes only to provide for his girlfriend and their child. To do so, he has partnered with Tommy in a world of crime, violence, and drugs. Sincere, however, has begun to reconsider his ways. In the end, according to Seattle Post-Intelligencer reviewer Paula Nechak, both characters arrive at the same conclusion: "Life is what you make it and knowledge and self-respect are everything."

Critics, although praising the stylistic ability of the film's director, Hype Williams, skewered the film for its lack of originality. The Seattle Times criticized the acting skills of both rap stars, saying that Nas and DMX "couldn't mutter their way out of an unzipped starter jacket." Nechak, however, concluded in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "There is a real rite of passage these two young men go through in order to find themselves, and for once the payoff isn't death."

I Am, Nas's third album, was released in 1999. Here Nas collaborated with such stars as Sean "Puffy" Combs, Lauryn Hill, and Aaliyah. With numerous radio-friendly tracks on the album, a number of music critics accused the rapper of selling out. The Record noted that I Am seemed "tailored for mass consumption," and the San Francisco Chronicle suggested that several tracks "are too generic for Nas' delivery, leaving his vocals sounding ungrounded." Nas's talent had not waned however. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, "Nas continues to drop jaws and tingle ear canals with his complex and challenging wordplay." Rather, some critics felt that Nas, in producing so mainstream an album, had done a disservice to his talent. The Record concluded that "the commercial advance requires an artistic step backward."

Later that year, Nas released his fourth album, Nastradamus. Again, critics lamented the too-polished style of the album. New York Times critic Soren Baker observed, "It's as if in graduating from the ghetto, he's misplaced the gritty edge that made him a hero."

For the Record …

Born Nasir Jones on September 14, 1973, in Queens, NY; son of Fannie Ann Jones and Olu Dara (a jazz trumpeter).

Released debut album Illmatic, 1994; released It Was Written, 1996; made film debut in Belly, 1998; released I Am, 1999; released Nastradamus, 1999; released Stillmatic, 2001; appeared in films Ticker, and Sacred Is the Flesh, 2001; released The Lost Tapes, 2002; released God's Son, 2002.

Awards: Youth Summit Award, Hip-Hop Youth Summit, 2002.

Addresses: Record company—Sony Music Entertainment, 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022, phone: (212) 833-8000, website: http://www.sonymusic.com. Website—Nas Official Website: http://www.iamnas.com.

Feuded With Jay-Z

Perhaps Nas regained some of his edge when he began a feud of words with rapper Jay-Z. Jay-Z's album, The Blueprint, featured the track "Takeover." Here Jay-Z referred to Nas as "garbage," saying, "That's why your—l-a-a-a-me!—career's come to an end." Nas retaliated with an underground parody of the Jay-Z hit "Izzo." The feud was further fueled by several tracks on Nas's 2001 album, Stillmatic. Here Nas accused Jay-Z of usurping rhymes from the late Notorious B.I.G., criticized Jay-Z's preference for Hawaiian shirts, and even attempted a bit of armchair psychoanalysis. Hip-hop fans in both the United States and Europe were fascinated by the feud, choosing sides and, according to the New York Times, "debating each rapper's use of puns and metaphors." The feud came to an end in early 2002. Jay-Z, after receiving a call from his mother asking him to stop, telephoned a New York City radio station and publicly apologized for "Super Ugly," his response to Nas's Stillmatic tracks.

Nas formed his own record label, Nas and Ill Will Records. He also launched a clothing line—Esco. In 2001 he co-starred with Steven Segal in the action film, Ticker. Although he has branched out into business and film, Nas remained devoted to music. "Music is in my blood," he told the New York Times. "I could have chosen to do a lot of other things. I could have been a scientist, a lawyer. But this is where I'm comfortable at, right here."

Unissued Tracks Released

Nas's comeback as a street-oriented hip-hop artist was slowed somewhat by the appearance of The Lost Tapes, a collection of previously unreleased material that Entertainment Weekly described as "more introspection and insight than insult." Nas was not pleased. Asked about a rumor that he had called himself a "slave" of his label Columbia, the rapper answered, "I may not be a slave because I get paid for what I do, but the system still pimps artists."

The year 2002 saw Nas coping with personal pain as cancer claimed the rapper's mother. Personal stress perhaps lay behind his widely publicized no-show at the Hot 97 Summer Jam in New York. Nas nevertheless continued his activities in the studio with guest appearances on Brandy's "What About Us?" and J-Lo's "I'm Gonna Be All Right," among other tracks. Nas memorialized his mother on the "Dance" track of his God's Son album, released in December of 2002; the song also featured an instrumental contribution by his father, Olu Dara.

Suggestions of a mellower Nas, as evidenced on the uplifting track "I Can," was contradicted by such hardcore hip-hop tracks as "Made You Look," though both tracks became hits. Rapper Eminem co-wrote and produced "The Cross," which took aim at R&B's rap pretenders. Headlines linked Nas romantically that year with Harlem rapper Kelis, and a marriage was planned. An assault arrest in December of 2003 suggested Nas's continuing bent toward controversy, but a double-disc 10th-anniversary release of Illmatic the following year confirmed his status as one of the genre's artists of lasting significance.

Selected discography

Illmatic, Columbia, 1994.

It Was Written, Columbia, 1996.

I Am, Columbia, 1999.

Nastradamus, Columbia, 1999.

Stillmatic, Ill Will, 2001.

God's Son, Columbia, 2002.

Illmatic: 10th Anniversary Platinum Edition, Sony, 2004.

Sources

Books

Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 33, Gale Group, 2002.

Who's Who Among African Americans, 14th ed. Gale Group, 2000.

Periodicals

Entertainment Weekly, April 22, 1994, p. 58; July 26, 1996, p. 56; November 22, 2002, p. L2T6.

Florida Times Union, January 18, 2002, p. WE11.

The Independent Sunday (London, England), January 6, 2002, p. 9.

Jet, August 18, 2003, p. 41.

Los Angeles Times, November 21, 1999, p. C8; December 23, 2001, p. F71.

Morning Call (Allentown, PA), January 12, 2002, p. A40.

New York Times, Oct. 6, 1996, sec. 2; January 6, 2002, p. L1; February 25, 2002, p. Upfront-18.

People, January 20, 2003, p. 39.

The Record (Bergen County, NJ) April 23, 1999, p. 8.

Rolling Stone, September 16, 1996, pp. 83-84; December 26, 1996, pp. 194-95.

San Francisco Chronicle, April 18, 1999, p. 42.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 4, 1998, p. C3.

Seattle Times, November 4, 1998, p. F3.

Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ), January 23, 2002, p. 58; December 19, 2003, p. 106.

Time, June 20, 1994, p. 62; July 29, 1996, p. 79.

Online

"Nas," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (March 24, 2002).

Nas Official Website, http://www.iamnas.com (April 23, 2004).

—Jennifer M. York and

James M. Manheim

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Nas 1973–

Nas 1973

Rap musician, actor

Released Debut Album

Appeared in First Film

Feuded With Jay-Z

Selected works

Sources

Not yet thirty years old, Nas has released five successful albums, launched his own record label, a fashion company, and appeared in several films. With his music, Nas bas become known for, according to Len Righi of the Morning Call, his ability to look outside the immediate circumstances of his life and address larger issues.

Nas was born Nasir Jones on September 14, 1973, in Queens, New York. His father, Olu Dara, a jazz and blues trumpeter, chose the name Nasir for his son because of its Arabic meaning: helper or protector. Nas was raised by his mother, Fannie Ann Jones.

Growing up in New York Citys tough Queensbridge housing projects, it sometimes seemed to [Nas] his whole world was ill and being eaten away, wrote Christopher John Farley in Time. Drugs were devouring minds, crime was destroying families, poverty was gnawing at souls. In May of 1992, both Nass brother, Jungle, and best friend were shot on the same night. Although his brother lived, Nass friend did not survive his injuries. That was a wake-up call for me, Nas told Time.

Released Debut Album

Two years after his wake-up call, Nas released his debut album, Illmatic. Nas worked with a number of top hip-hop producers, and his hard work paid off. Entertainment Weekly said of the album: his witty lyrics and gruffly gratifying beats draw listeners into [his neighborhoods] lifestyle with poetic efficiency. Farley, writing in Time, noted that the record captures the ailing community he [Nas] was raised inthe random gunplay, the whir of police helicopters, the homeboys hanging out on the corner sipping bottles of Hennessey.

Setting himself apart from other gangsta rappers, Nas did not typically glorify violence in his music, but, rather, his songs evoke sadness and outrage. Farley noted in Time that Nas performs on the album with submerged emotion and describes urban tragedy dispassionately, much like an anchorman relaying the days grim news. The New York Times declared that, on the album, Nas imbues his chronicle with humanity and humor, not just hardness.[He] reports violence without celebrating it, dwelling on the way life triumphs over grim circumstances rather than the other way around.

At a Glance

Born Nasir Jones on September 14, 1973, in Queens, NY; son of Fannie Ann Jones and Olu Dara (jazz trumpeter).

Career: Rap musician, actor. Albums include: lllmatic, 1994; It Was Written, 1996; I Am, 1999; Nastradamus, 1999; Stillmatic, 2001; films include: Belly, 1998; Ticker, 2001; Sacred Is the Flesh, 2001.

Awards: Youth Summit Award, Hip-Hop Youth Summit, 2002.

Addresses: Officec/o Sony Music Entertainment, Rap artist, 550 Madison Ave, New York, New York, United States 10022 (212) 833-8000,

Nass sophomore album, It Was Written, was released in 1996, selling more than a million copies. Again, Nas worked with several hip-hop producers, including top selling Dr. Dre. With this album, however, Nas faced criticism that the songs were amoral, contained rough language, and included episodes of violence. Critics were also frustrated by the albums contradictions. The hit single If I Ruled The World (Imagine That), for example, depicts paradise as a better livin type of place to raise our kids in. However, this world is also one in which cocaine comes uncut, allowing higher profits on the drug. In a Rolling Stone review, Mark Coleman commented that Nas possesses a phenomenal way with words and some savvy musical sense. Coleman continued, Its a pity he doesnt put his verbal dexterity and powers of observation to better use.When Nas finally aligns his mind with his mouth, hell truly be dangerous.

Music critic Toure, writing in the New York Times, noted a strong musical link between Nas and his father, Olu Darà. Though the two musicians came from very different backgrounds and subscribed to different musical schools, Toure wrote,Nass music is characterized by a laid-back cool, with a penchant for mediumpace tempos and relatively sparse tracks, all of which are hallmarks of his fathers music. Nass father, who had a trumpet solo on his sons first album, told Toure, His aggressive is cool. Not like Im angry! Im mad! Its cool. And thats the way my music is. Vernon Reid, a guitarist who has played with Darà, also noted similarities between father and son, saying in the New York Times: Both have a finely tuned sense of irony, which I think is evident in Nass lyrics and Olus playing. Reid continued, Theres a kind of cockeyed way of looking at the world. A raised eyebrow. Sly. Theyre seeing whats going on underneath the surface.

Appeared in First Film

In 1998 Nas made his feature film debut, appearing in Belly. Co-starring with fellow rapper DMX, the two hip-hop stars played best friends. Although they both come from the same violent neighborhood, these two friends want very different things out of life. Tommy, played by DMX, is willing to do whatever it takes to attain money, power, and women. Nass character, Sincere, wishes only to provide for his girlfriend and their child. To do so, he has partnered with Tommy in a world of crime, violence, and drugs. Sincere, however, has begun to reconsider his ways. In the end, according to Seattle Post-Intelligencer reviewer Paula Nechak, both characters arrive at the same conclusion: Life is what you make it and knowledge and self-respect are everything.

Critics, although praising the stylistic ability of the films director, Hype Williams, skewered the film for its lack of originality. The Seattle Times criticized the acting skills of both rap stars, saying that Nas and DMX couldnt mutter their way out of an unzipped starter jacket. Nechak, however, concluded in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: There is a real rite of passage these two young men go through in order to find themselves, and for once the payoff isnt death.

I Am, Nass third album, was released in 1999. Here Nas collaborated with such stars as Sean Puffy Combs, Lauryn Hill, and Aaliyah. With numerous radio-friendly tracks on the album, a number of music critics accused the rapper of selling out. The Record noted that I Am seemed tailored for mass consumption, and the San Francisco Chronicle suggested that several tracks are too generic for Nas delivery, leaving his vocals sounding ungrounded. Nass talent had not waned however. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Nas continues to drop jaws and tingle ear canals with his complex and challenging wordplay. Rather, some critics felt that Nas, in producing so mainstream an album, had done a disservice to his talent. The Record concluded that the commercial advance requires an artistic step backward.

Later that year, Nas released his fourth album, Nastradamus. Again, critics lamented the too-polished style of the album. New York Times critic Soren Baker observed, Its as if in graduating from the ghetto, hes misplaced the gritty edge that made him a hero.

Feuded With Jay-Z

Perhaps Nas regained some of his edge when he began a feud of words with rapper Jay-Z. Jay-Zs album, The Blueprint, featured the track Takeover. Here Jay-Z referred to Nas as garbage, saying, Thats why yourl-a-a-a-me!careers come to an end. Nas retaliated with an underground parody of the Jay-Z hit Izzo. The feud was further fueled by several tracks on Nass 2001 album, Stillmatic. Here Nas accused Jay-Z of usurping rhymes from the late Notorious B.I.G., criticized Jay-Zs preference for Hawaiian shirts, and even attempted a bit of armchair psychoanalysis. Hip-hop fans in both the United States and Europe were fascinated by the feud, choosing sides and, according to the New York Times, debating each rappers use of puns and metaphors. The feud came to an end in early 2002. Jay-Z, after receiving a call from his mother asking him to stop, telephoned a New York City radio station and publicly apologized for Super Ugly, his response to Nass Stillmatic tracks.

Nas has formed his own record label, Nas and III Will Records. He has also launched a clothing lineEsco. In 2001 he co-starred with Steven Segal in the action film, Ticker. Although he has branched out into business and film, Nas remained devoted to music. Music is in my blood, he told the New York Times. I could have chosen to do a lot of other things. I could have been a scientist, a lawyer. But this is where Im comfortable at, right here.

Selected works

Albums

Illmatic, Columbia, 1994.

It Was Written, Columbia, 1996.

I Am, Columbia, 1999.

Nastradamus, Columbia, 1999.

Stillmatic, III Will, 2001.

Films

Belly, 1998.

Ticker, 2001.

Sacred Is the Flesh, 2001.

Sources

Books

Contemporary Musicians, Volume 19. Gale Research, 1997.

Whos Who Among African Americans, 14th ed. Gale Group, 2000.

Periodicals

Entertainment Weekly, April 22, 1994, p. 58; July 26, 1996, p. 56.

Florida Times Union, January 18, 2002, p. WE11.

The Independent Sunday (London, England), January 6, 2002, p. 9.

Los Angeles Times, November 21, 1999, p. C8; December 23, 2001, P.F71.

Morning Call (Allentown, PA), January 12, 2002, p. A40.

New York Times, Oct. 6, 1996, sec. 2; January 6, 2002, p. L1.

The Record (Bergen County, NJ) April 23, 1999, p. 8.

Rolling Stone, September 16, 1996, pp. 83-84; December 26, 1996, pp. 194-95.

San Francisco Chronicle, April 18, 1999, p. 42.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 4, 1998, p. C3.

Seattle Times, November 4, 1998, p. F3.

Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ), January 23, 2002, p. 58.

Time, June 20, 1994, p. 62; July 29, 1996, p. 79.

On-line

All Music Guide, http://allmusicguide.com

Biography Resource Center, Gale Group, 2001, http://www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC

Internet Movie Database, http://www.us.imdb.com

Sony Music, http://www.music.sony.co.artistinfo/nas/

Jennifer M. York

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Nas

Nas

Rap singer

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

With just two albums to his credit, rapper Nas has achieved critical and popular acclaim, demonstrated a sensitivity and perception unusual in the aggressive hip-hop world. He has been favorably compared with Rakim, whom many consider the best rapper ever. Hip-hop is the most controversial music of the 90s, Nas said during an Internet chat session with fans. I am proud to be a part of it.

The rapper, whose given name is Nasir Jones, was raised by his mother, Fannie Ann Jones, in New York Citys tough Queensbridge housing projects. His father is Olu Dara, a jazz and blues trumpeter who has performed and recorded with Art Blakey, Taj Mahal, Bobby Womackand David Murray, among others. Dara chose the name Nasir for his son; it means helper and protector in Arabic. As a teen-aged break dancer, Nasir used the name Kid Wave.

Growing up in the projects of Queens, it sometimes seemed to (Nas) his whole world was ill and being eaten away, Christopher John Farley wrote in Time magazine. Drugs were devouring minds, crime was destroying families, poverty was gnawing at souls. Then in May 1992, Jones brother and best friend were shot on the same night. His brother, Jungle, lived. His friend died. That was a wake-up call for me, he told Farley. The result of that awakening arrived two years laterin the debut album Illmatic. One song on the album, which has been called a classic of the genre, includes the line: I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death.

Nas created Illmatic with help from a whos who of hip-hop producers, wrote Entertainment Weekly. The magazine went on to say his witty lyrics and gruffly gratifying beats draw listeners into (his neighborhoods) lifestyle with poetic efficiency. Farley wrote that the record captures the ailing community he was raised inthe random gunplay, the whir of police helicopters, the homeboys hanging out on the corner sipping bottles of Hennessey. Nass songs, however, typically do not glorify the violent, desperate world from which he came the way the music of gangsta rappers does. Instead, he evokes sadness and outrage as he paints that world in rhythm and rhyme. Farley suggested the rapper delivers his songs with submerged emotion and dispassionately details the tragedy of urban America like an anchorman relaying the days grim news. The New York Times concluded that, on Illmatic, Nas imbues his chronicle with humanity and humor, not just hardness.... (He) reports violence without celebrating it, dwelling on the way life triumphs over grim circumstances rather than the other way around. Nas, for his part, has taken pains to set himself apart, declaring Im not a gangsta rapper.

For the Record

Born Nasir Jones in Queens, NY; son of Fannie Ann Jones and Olu Dara (jazz trumpeter).

Addresses: Record company Columbia Records, 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022-3211. Website http://www.music.sony.co/artistinfo/nas

The young musicians delicate touch amid brutal realities is apparent on the song One Love, about writing to friends in prison. On the song, Nas raps: So stay civilized, time flies, though incarcerated your mind dies. I hate it when your mom cries. Or consider I Gave You Power from his charttopping second album, It Was Written. The song tells a metaphoric tale from the point of view of a handgun and includes this lyric: My owner fell to the floor, his wig split so fast. I didnt know he was hit, but its over with. Heard mad niggas running, cops is comin. Now Im happy until I felt somebody else grab me Damn. The rap also contains the chilling refrain: I might have tookyour first child, scarred your life, crippled your style. (But) I gave you power.

It Was Written, released in 1996, sold more than a million copies and was seen as evidence of Nass staying power on the music scene. Like Illmatic, it was recorded with a variety of hip-hop producers, including the legendary Dr. Dre. The album, however, was criticized for its utter amorality as well as violent episodes and sometimes needlessly rough languageand for its frustrating contradictions. Take, for example, the hit single If I Ruled The World (Imagine That) on which Nas is accompanied by Lauryn Fill of the Fugees. The song depicts paradise as a better livin type of place to raise our kids inbut also as a world in which cocaine comes uncut so more money can be made from it. In a review published in Rolling Stone magazine, Mark Coleman noted that Nas possesses a phenomenal way with words and some savvy musical sense. Its a pity he doesnt put his verbal dexterity and powers of observation to better use. It Was Written, Coleman wrote, is just the latest blatant example of trashy tough-guy talk. When Nas finally aligns his mind with his mouth, hell truly be dangerous.

In the New York Times, music writer Touré suggested there is a strong musical link between Nas and his father, Olu Dara, even though they come from different backgrounds and musical schools: Nass music is characterized by a laid-back cool, with a penchant for medium-pace tempos and relatively sparse tracks, all of which are hallmarks of his fathers music. He has different genres of songs, Nas father, who played a trumpet solo on Illmatic, told Touré. But in each one the chords he has going, the economy, the smoothness, the non-aggressiveness. His aggressive is cool. Not like Im angry! Im mad! Its cool. And thats the way my music is. Vernon Reid, a gifted rock guitarist who has played with Dara, also sees similarities between father and son. Both have a finely tuned sense of irony, which I think is evident in Nass lyrics and Olus playing, Reid said. Theres a kind of cockeyed way of looking at the world. A raised eyebrow. Sly. Theyre seeing whats going on underneath the surface.

Touré, meanwhile, describes Nas as quiet and pensive, an introspective old soul and strongly suggests the young rapper will be around awhile. Music is in my blood, Nas told the writer. I could have chosen to do a lot of other things. I could have been a scientist, a lawyer. But this is where Im comfortable at, right here.

Selected discography

Illmatic, Columbia, 1994.

It Was Written, Columbia, 1996.

Sources

Periodicals

Entertainment Weekly, April 22, 1994, p. 58; July 26, 1996, p. 56.

New York Times, Oct. 6, 1996, sec. 2.

Rolling Stone, Sept. 16, 1996, pp. 83-84; Dec. 26, 1996, pp. 194-195.

Time, June 20, 1994, p. 62; July 29, 1996, p. 79.

Online

Sony Music home page: (http://www.music.sony.co.artistinfo/nas/)

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"Nas." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/nas

"Nas." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved October 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/nas

Nas

NAS

Born: Nasir Ben Olu Dara Jones; Brooklyn, New York, 14 September 1973

Genre: Hip-Hop

Best-selling album since 1990: It Was Written (1996)

Hit songs since 1990: "Street Dreams," "Got Ur Self a Gun"


Nas is widely viewed as a once-and-future street prophet, who repeatedly wavers between exercising his substantial artistic gifts and downplaying them in order to seek widespread appeal.

The son of acclaimed Jazz musician Olu Dara, Nas first came to the attention of hip-hop fans as "Nasty Nas" performing a guest verse on Main Source's 1991 single "Live at the Barbeque." The song brought him instant notoriety for his relaxed-yet-intense vocal delivery, as well as for his willingness to violate one of hip-hop's strongest, yet least noted, rules against insulting Christianity. "When I was twelve," he rhymes, "I went to hell for snuffing Jesus."

In April 1994, he released his first album, Illmatic, which critics consider to be one of the all time great hip-hop albums. The album's lyrics have an internal rhythmic momentum that Nas uses to intensify the strength of his already powerful observations. With an eye for the telling poetic detail, Nas addresses various aspects of the street life with informality and empathy.

After such a nuanced and artistic debut, fans were shocked by Nas's second album, It Was Written (1996), which openly embraced a pop sensibility. On the strength of the first single "Street Dreams" (based on the Eurythmics' 1983 pop hit "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)"), It Was Written ultimately reached number one on the Billboard 200.

The following year, Nas adopted the name Nas Escobar in tribute to Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, and created a group called the Firm with rappers Foxy Brown, Nature, and AZ. The group released a self-titled album, dealing primarily with drug themes, which failed to inspire his core fans.

Nas released two albums in 1999, I Am . . ., which reached number one on the Billboard 200, and Nastradamus. I Am . . . contains one of Nas's most controversial songs, "Hate Me Now," in which he berates the fans who have criticized his materialism: "My bad, should I step out my shoes? / Give 'em to you?" To add insult to injury, the song features a guest appearance from Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs, widely seen as the most shamelessly commercial rap artist of the era.

In 2001, Nas released QB Finest, a compilation album that features his crew, Bravehearts, and produced only one hit, the sexually indulgent "Oochie Wally."

Just when Nas seemed to have committed himself to a career as a sexually explicit pop star, he became embroiled in a conflict with Brooklyn-based rapper Jay-Z. As each emcee began to release songs responding to each other's insults, the hip-hop community took increasing note of the fact that, in his anger, Nas was crafting rhymes that recalled the quality and intensity of his earliest efforts.

Energized by his public feud with Jay-Zand the public reaction to itNas released Stillmatic in late 2001, its title a reference to his intention to resume the style of his first album. This release was soon followed by The Lost Tapes, a compilation of outtakes from 1998 to 2001, and God's Son, both released in 2002. These three albums are widely seen as a return to form for Nas, much to the delight of the hip-hop community.

For many hip-hop fans, Nas embodies the contradictions of the form. His refusal to be defined as either an artist or a pop star has brought him a great deal of criticism, along with an equivalent portion of respect.

Spot Light: Illmatic

Illmatic (1994) is considered to be one of the quintessential New York hip-hop albums, a rare blend of insightful lyricism and straightforward sample-heavy music. Released in an era dominated by the relaxed, synthesizer-based West Coast "G-Funk" of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, Illmatic along with Enter the Wu-Tang: (36 Chambers) by Wu-Tang Clanreturned hip-hop's focus to the East Coast. Nas's style on this album is defined by his poetic observations of everyday life and the social and political realities that they implied. The song "One Love," is written in the form of a letter to an imprisoned friend. By concentrating on details, the song manages to simultaneously portray both the isolation of prison and the difficulties of life on the outside: ". . . Yo, guess who got shot in the dome-piece? / Jerome's niece, on her way home from Jones Beach / it's bugged. . . ." This album also breaks with hip-hop tradition by forgoing the use of a single producer/disc jockey to construct the instrumental settings for Nas's lyrics, instead using many different producers to create a unique sound for each song. In the wake of Illmatic 's success, this approach soon became standard practice among hip-hop artists.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Illmatic (Sony/Columbia, 1994); It Was Written (Sony/Columbia, 1996); The Firm (Sony/Columbia, 1997); I Am . . . (Sony/Columbia, 1999); Nastradamus (Sony/Columbia, 1999); QB Finest (Sony/Columbia, 2001); Stillmatic (Sony/Columbia, 2001); The Lost Tapes (Sony/Columbia, 2002); God's Son (Sony/Columbia, 2002).

joe schloss

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NAS

NAS (USA) National Academy of Sciences
• National Adoption Society
• National Association of Schoolmasters (now part of NAS/UWT)
• naval air station
• Noise Abatement Society
• nursing auxiliary service

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"NAS." The Oxford Dictionary of Abbreviations. . Retrieved October 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/nas