Greetings, hip-hop heads! We’re diving deep into the catalogue of one of the most influential wordsmiths ever to bless the mic – Nasir Jones, known to us simply as Nas.
Over the span of his illustrious career, Nas has continually broken boundaries with his intricate storytelling, conscious narratives, and the ability to capture the raw essence of life in his lyrics.
A key player in the Golden Era of Hip-Hop and beyond, his discography is a treasure trove of timeless tracks that resonate with authenticity and lyricism that is second to none.
This list compiles the ten best songs from Nas’s expansive catalogue, each one standing as a testament to his remarkable consistency and unwavering dedication to the craft.
From the gritty streets of Queensbridge, New York, to the heights of global acclaim, these songs encapsulate Nas’s journey and his immeasurable contribution to the fabric of hip-hop.
10. “Halftime” – Illmatic (1994)
“Halftime” is the song that set the stage for Nas’s debut album, ‘Illmatic’. Originally featured on the soundtrack for the film ‘Zebrahead’, it was later included in ‘Illmatic’ due to its overwhelming positive reception.
Nas delivers a blend of sharp lyricism and vibrant storytelling, weaving through the song’s hard-hitting beat, and offering listeners a glimpse of the raw talent that would later shape hip-hop.
9. “Made You Look” – God’s Son (2002)
In “Made You Look”, Nas manages to capture the essence of old-school hip-hop and fuse it with the sounds of the early 2000s.
The song’s beat, a sample of the Incredible Bongo Band’s “Apache,” pays homage to early hip-hop block parties, while Nas’s lyricism keeps listeners hooked.
8. “Hate Me Now” ft. Puff Daddy – I Am… (1999)
A powerful anthem of defiance, “Hate Me Now” is a testament to Nas’s resilience in the face of adversity.
Despite the heavy criticism he faced during this period of his career, Nas remains unapologetic and confident, making it clear that he won’t be defeated or deterred.
7. “The Message” – It Was Written (1996)
“The Message” serves as the opening track to Nas’s sophomore album ‘It Was Written’. The track showcases Nas’s outstanding storytelling skills and his ability to convey a potent message.
Over a Sting sample, Nas crafts a vivid picture of life in the city.
6. “Cherry Wine” ft. Amy Winehouse – Life is Good (2012)
On “Cherry Wine”, Nas collaborates with the late Amy Winehouse to create a touching, introspective track. The song sees Nas longing for a perfect match, a woman who understands him.
Winehouse’s soulful hook perfectly compliments Nas’s reflective verses, resulting in a timeless song.
5. “Daughters” – Life is Good (2012)
“Daughters” showcases a more personal side of Nas. In this song, Nas wears his heart on his sleeve and talks about the difficulties of fatherhood, specifically the challenges of raising a daughter.
The lyrics provide a vivid narrative that touches on themes of parenthood, growing up, and societal pressures, while the soulful beat reinforces the reflective nature of the song.
4. “Life’s a Bitch” ft. AZ – Illmatic (1994)
A seminal track from Nas’s debut album ‘Illmatic’, “Life’s a Bitch” offers a bleak and introspective view of life. Nas and AZ deliver powerful verses about the struggles they’ve faced growing up in the city, over a jazzy beat that adds depth to their words.
The haunting trumpet solo from Nas’s father, Olu Dara, brings a poignant closure to the song, making it one of Nas’s most memorable tracks.
3. “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)” ft. Lauryn Hill – It Was Written (1996)
“If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)” marked a significant point in Nas’s career. The song, featuring Lauryn Hill’s soulful vocals, presents a thought-provoking concept: what if Nas ruled the world?
Through his verses, Nas envisages a utopian world free from societal vices, demonstrating his skill at weaving intricate narratives.
2. “One Mic” – Stillmatic (2001)
Regarded by many as Nas’s most powerful song, “One Mic” captures the essence of Nas’s lyrical ability.
The song builds gradually, starting with a simple drum beat that grows more intense as Nas delves deeper into his message.
Each verse reflects a different level of intensity, culminating in a passionate outpouring of emotion and raw energy, showcasing Nas’s ability to command attention with just one mic.
1. “N.Y. State of Mind” – Illmatic (1994)
“N.Y. State of Mind” stands as one of the greatest hip-hop songs of all time.
The track, off Nas’s iconic ‘Illmatic’ album, offers a gritty portrayal of life in New York’s housing projects.
Nas’s complex lyricism and storytelling abilities shine throughout the song, as he paints a vivid picture of the urban landscape.
DJ Premier’s hard-hitting beat provides the perfect backdrop, making this track a defining moment in hip-hop history.
And there you have it, hip-hop enthusiasts – a journey through the musical landscape of one of the greatest emcees of all time, Nas.
This list of his top ten tracks represents the immense diversity and depth in Nas’s music, showcasing not just his extraordinary lyrical prowess but also his ability to engage with a wide range of themes – societal commentary, introspective reflection, the hustle, and the dream.
While Nas has many other tracks that could have made this list, these ten songs provide a solid foundation for understanding his significant impact on hip-hop.
As you vibe with these tunes, remember that each word and phrase is a testament to the timeless artistry that Nas has brought to the game.
From ‘Illmatic’ to ‘Life is Good’, his body of work is a masterclass in lyrical brilliance, and these songs are just the tip of the iceberg. Peace!