I saw Nas perform at Rock the Bells two weeks ago in New Jersey. I was bemused by his legendary stage presence. I wondered how such a calm dude could just transform into such a live and energetic mic controller. That’s what he exhibited â€“ an MC.
A thunderous applause was given after each song he performed. I looked at the stage and watched him. I thought to myself, “Damn. This man is good.” I knew Nas was special, but that night changed my entire perspective on Esco.
Today marks his 39th birthday, in which he spent over 20 years delivering momentous verses and visual masterpieces through his videos and music. To honor Nasir Jones, here’s 39 of his best songs to celebrate his 39th birthday.
39. Bye Baby
Nas and his former ride or die Kelis were such a cool item back in the day. It was sad when the two split. In order for Nas to cope, he naturally went to the studio to talk about his past wifey and reminisced on the good, the bad, and of course, the ugly.
Nas’ candid letter to his late mother was so beautiful. Wishing he would share one last dance with his mother, Nas reflected on all the times the two shared and envisioned how enchanting that one special moment would be to have again.
37. Still Dreaming
Kanye West and Nas joined forces after they teamed up on Kanye’s “We Major” off of Graduation. You gotta wonder what would have happened if Nas had more of Kanye’s beats. We could only imagine for now.
The collaboration with Amerie was soulful and dope. As Esco stated, many wondered if they could take Nas under. Well, according to QB’s King, that would never happen. An empowering message that advocated for world peace was another great cut off Stillmatic.
After murmurs turned into outcries about him faltering as a father, Nas decided to put his flaws to light as he admitted to letting down his daughter. His candor was applauded as fathers around the world found themselves a new song which celebrated their plight as the man of the house.
34. Hate Me Now
This still booms on ball courts to this day. This is like “Brush Your Shoulders Off” before it actually came out. Considering hate lingered in everyone’s blood, Nasir and Puffy laid the blueprint on how you could embrace the hate and love it at the same damn time.
33. Project Windows
One of Nas’ most underrated songs. The vivid imagery used here was incredible, especially for those who actually lived in the hood. With the hood being desolate and ugly, Nas did more than enough to beautifully describe life behind the project windows.
32. Black Republicans F/Jay-Z
By this time, Nas and Jay finally squashed their beef and to show they were really serious about it, the long-awaited collaboration came to fruition on Nas’ Hip-Hop Is Dead. The two competitors who once fiercely tangoed before were now killing it side-by-side.
31. Stillmatic Intro
The triumphant comeback of Nasir started with this intro. Hearing “Blood of a Slave, Heart of a King” blaring through the speakers just gave everybody chills. This intro gave the indication that the rap repo man had definitely delivered a musical opus.
“If Heaven was a mile away.” That hook was always embedded in my mind when things got hard. That’s what Nas’ songs did for people. It would always be engrained in your mind because of the message. Nas completely understood that we were all human and of course at times, we all were vulnerable.
29. Black Girl Lost
Women were also a popular subject for Nas. With girls being mesmerized by thugs and the glamorous life, Nas did his best to educate women rather than watch them stray and settle for mediocrity.
So let me pose you this question: What rapper could be witty enough to rap a whole song backward? Enough said.
27. Sly Fox
Nas has never been one to bite his tongue regardless of who is adversary was, even if it was the media or politicians. In this case, it sucked being Fox News.
26. Book Of Rhymes
Another dope concept by Nas comes in the form of “Book of Rhymes.” My man was literally flipping through his notebook reciting different verses he had penned in the past over Alchemist’s beat. Crazy.
25. Fried Chicken F/Busta Rhymes
Off of Nas’ Untitled album, the conceptual Nasir had another trick under his sleeve. Using Fried Chicken as a pun for women, he wittingly confessed his love for her “legs and breasts.”
24. You’re The Man
From the beat to the flow, Nas’ comeback album Stillmatic was perfect. The braggadocious hook is an understatement to how much of that dude Nas actually was and still is.
23. Thief’s Theme
Tenacious and voracious were simply ways to describe this stick up kid’s anthem. Quoting his line from “The World Is Yours,” (“Understandable smooth shit that murderers move with/The thief’s theme, play me at night, they won’t act right”) Nas decided to take his hot line and make it a hot song.
22. One Love
I remember my cousin Fernando playing the hell out of Illmatic. Funny thing is, this song was my first encounter with Nas. I would always run around the crib with one finger in the air yelling “One Love” and not knowing why.
21. Get Down
Like I said, Nas’ storytelling capabilities were/are second to none. Placing Nas with a James Brown sample, which definitely added a lot of funk to his bars, was an excellent combination.
The piano keys on this beat could melt anybody’s heart. We all know Nasir in the past has had trouble picking dope beats. But, when he did, he would perform instant surgery and come out clean through it all.
19. Just a Moment
This was Nas’ former protÃ©gÃ© Quan’s formal introduction to the game as he was placed under the scope of hip-hop for the first time. Gotta admit, he definitely did a commendable job of keeping pace with Nasir as these street soldiers showed love to the fallen.
18. Poppa Was A Player
Nas admitted that his relationship with his father was strained, hence why he himself was a player. This was an ode to every kid whose father moved like a young Casanova.
Medicine, drugs, schools, violence and religion: Everything has been abused and misused according to Nasir Jones. He voiced everything wrong in the world including self-hate, the media and even white Jesus. Damn.
16. Street Dreams
The revered lyricist had a keen ability to have his voice heard, especially by the people in the streets. So when Nas spoke the slick street talk, everybody sat and listened. He was Obama before Obama.
15. Take It In Blood
This lyrical assassin was God-like on this track. This was one of those tracks that entrenched Nas’ position as one of the greatest lyricist to bless the mic.
14. Made You Look (Original & Remix)
The original was a banger. The remix, which included Nas, Jadakiss and Ludacris, was beyond bananas! *Ashanti Voice*. No, but seriously, at the time, this remix was all over radios in NYC. You don’t believe me, ask Flex!
13. Last Real Nigga Alive
Jay-Z could eat his heart out. Off God’s Son, Nas explained originally where the two former foes’ beef stemmed from and gave his finals blows to the beef saying: “I was Scarface; Jay was Milano./It hurt me when I had to kill him, and his whole squad for dolo.” Damn.
12. New York State of Mind
Do you know how many New York rappers have failed shamelessly in efforts of trying to concoct such a record? Everybody wants to bring NY back but can’t even put together an ode to the very city they’re from. The grime and grit behind Nasir’s vocals resonated with what hip-hop was back in the day.
11. Memory Lane
Like I said, when Premo and Nas linked up, it was always a fruitful experience. So imagine Nas gathering all of his precious memories paired with Premo’s superior beat making skills. Sheesh, it was hood literature at its finest.
10. Life’s A Bitch
Before the back-and-forth style of rapping became notoriously a Jadakiss and Styles P thing, AZ and Nas birthed the whole style with this track right here. At the time, many even dabbled on the notion that AZ was better than Nas. Classic.
I guarantee this is something the old school heads would love to hear today on the radio besides the bubble gum crap that’s being force fed to us on the radio. This joint came off the ’92 soundtrack “Zebrahead.” By the way, Nas’ second verse was timeless.
8. If I Ruled The World F/Lauryn Hill
The collaboration was superlative. Lauryn and Nas, Nas and Lauryn. This track enabled you to believe that you could rule the world and be the one to get your loved ones out of the slums.
7. I Gave You Power
Story Telling at its finest. Nasir gives the audience seamless verses in the point of view of a gun. You see, while other inept rappers were amping their gaudy jewelry, Nas gave your perspective. Epic.
What a brutal and hard-nosed track. The revival of Nasir was complete when he was ambushed by Jay-Z’s army back in 2001 and decided to take things into this own hands. After Takeover Nas recovered smoothly with this record. The utter disrespect shown by Nas lifted him to victory and placed him as truly an immortal in the game.
5. The Message
This was off of Nas’ sophomore album It Was Written. While many disputed that this record was a shot at Pac and Big, the answers are still unknown. But still, the message was clearly made with this one line by Nas: “Love changes and friends become strangers.”
4. Nas Is Like
This is fire point blank. The collaboration between Nas and Premo was a huge success here, with the purity within Premo’s beats coupled with Nas’ lyrical prowess resulting in a match made in heaven. Bars.
3. One Mic
Off of Stillmatic, Nasir poetically delivered arguably his most inspiring song to date. The eloquence and verbal beauty accentuated the beat perfectly. Even the video itself was flawless.
2. It Ain’t Hard To Tell
Classic God’s Son. Point blank — no discussion.
1. The World Is Yours
Whenever you want a dose of real hip-hop, I pray to God you have this song on the forefront of your mind. I’m begging you to. From the scratches, to the verses, to even the infamous line “I’m out for presidents to represent me” that transcended the game, everything about this track was lovely. This was, is, and will be just mind-blowing.
What is your No. 1 Nas track?
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