AZ is one of Hip-Hop’s more underrated talents. Though he failed to attain the commercial success of other east coast legends of his era, lyrically, he is on par with the best of them. Beginning with one of the most lauded debut verses in the history of the genre and coming full circle with his upcoming Doe Or Die II album, “The Visualiza” has quietly been money (see what I did there?) going on two decades. We decided to bring you a retrospective of the career of AZ, so sit back, relax, and catch a contact as we take a trip through the catalog of Sosa.
Previously — The Primer: 10 Method Man Songs Everyone Should Know
1. “Mo Money, Mo Homicide”
After noticing the undeniable chemistry they displayed together on Nas’ “Life’s A Bitch,” AZ and Escobar hooked up again for arguably the most memorable moment from his debut. How’s it memorable? Think about it like a movie script: Nas describes being tied up in a basement at some random cocaine spot while Sosa contemplates the ins and outs of catching a body. And that lush backdrop, provided by D.R. Period? You have a scene as evocative as anything Scorsese cooked up.
2. “Sugar Hill”
AZ dropped his 1995 debut, Doe Or Die, to much anticipation. Tracing the blueprint being laid by New York radio favorites like Notorious B.I.G., he concocted a smooth-as-butter first single in “Sugar Hill,” which features Miss Jones. The cut was an ode to both the high life and overcoming the street life, reaching Gold certification and serving as AZ’s most successful commercial hit thus far.
3. “Rather Unique”
AZ linked up with the legendary Pete Rock for this standout Doe Or Die track. In a little under five mintues, The Visualiza proceeded to breakdown his uniqueness, from his flow to the wordplay and his flyness. It’s the yin to “Sugar Hill”‘s yang.
4. “Hey AZ”
Sosa released his sophomore effort, Pieces Of Man, in 1998, and it looked like he had a sure-fire hit in the SWV-assisted lead single, “Hey AZ.” However, things didn’t go as planned. Mariah Carey also had the same “Hey DJ” (World’s Famous Supreme Team) sample on her own single, “Honey (Remix),” and to the dismay of fans, “Hey AZ” was nowhere to be found on the album when the disc hit stores. Sample clearances are a bitch.
5. “How Ya Living”
Just another sublime Nas and AZ pairing, this one appearing on Pieces of Me. An observant take on the happenings of their respective QB and BK blocks, it’s more of the seamless weaving we expect from the two. From “Presidential Suites at the Tangiere” to “Oyster Perpetual Rollies (with the day and date, of course),” Nas and AZ added another classic to their laundry list of collabos.
The lead single off 2001’s 9 Lives, “Problems” showcases a sample lifted from the classic Debarge cut “All This Love.” Throughout the cut Sosa speaks on the various problems in his life, like shady women and lurking haters. While the album wasn’t as successful as his earlier work, it did reach #4 on the Hip-Hop/R&B charts, while “Problems” climbed to #34 on the Singles chart.
7. “Wanna Be There”
On the heels of label woes and an indie period, AZ came back strong with arguably his best album to date, Aziatic. While the single “I’m Back” was a solid showing, “Wanna Be There” became the show stealer. With its soulful backdrop and AZ’s vivid recollection of his coming of age in East New York, it has grown to be a personal favorite among AZ loyalists.
8. “The Essence”
“Yo, meet me at the Denise Williams concert tonight man..everybody gonna be there, Stacie Lattisaw, Teena Marie, everybody, man..”
You immediately knew the track would be nothing short of flawless after hearing that opening. Utilizing a heavenly instrumental provided by Baby Paul for their fictional (or not) convo of a track, Nas and Sosa effortlessly ran a back and forth that would’ve made Rev Run and D.M.C. blush. One of the most dynamic duos thus far took a dash of ’80s soul, mixed in with a few boxing and comedic references, and stirred it up in a pot to give fans another reason to fantasize of a proper full-length collaborative album.
9. “The Come Up”
A.W.O.L., AZ’s fifth album, was released in 2005 and served as his latest foray into the indie game. But despite its indie cred, AZ brought in a heavyweight in DJ Premier for the lead single, “The Come Up,” and took it back to where he’s always been most comfortable: the streets. On it The Visualiza painted a picture of the hood as a place “where hardcore is beautiful,” making us wonder how the gutter could sound so sweet.
AZ came full circle on his seventh solo album Undeniable. And who would’ve thought he could make it out unscathed? His roller-coaster ride of a career had him flirting with stardom and floundering in obscurity, but “Undeniable” showed that the suave Brooklynite did just fine. Sosa expressed his sense of validation on this standout of a title track, which served as a victory lap of sorts, and a jubilant and laidback beat created a perfect marriage with AZ’s linen-approved verses.
Life can be a bitch, but AZ managed to make a wife out of her. Now how undeniable is that?