One of the greatest hip hop artists of all time, Nas first captured the attention of the public with his debut album, Illmatic in 1994. The son of a musician, he started to write his own rap lyrics as a teen on the streets of New York City. Initially going by the stage name of Kid Wave, he regularly performed with his close friend, Willy Graham. At the age of eighteen, Nas received a big break after being featured in Main Source’s single, Live at the Barbeque (1991). As one thing led to another, he was soon approached by Michael Berrin, who later helped him forge a recording contract with Columbia Records. Under his new moniker “Nasty Nas”, he released his debut single entitled, Halftime in the fall of 1992, which was originally recorded for the movie, Zebrahead. Gradually rising in prominence, the aspiring rapper later dropped his first full length album, Illmatic two years later in April of 1994.
Met with critical acclaim, the album has since been recognized by many to be a landmark in the genre of Eastern Hip Hop. A breakthrough hit, it quickly brought Nas to the forefront of the hip hop world. Two years later, he followed up with a second album, It Was Written (1996); his first album to reach number one in the United States, it was later certified 2x Platinum by the RIAA. Since then, Nas has released eight additional albums including I Am…(1999), Nastradamus (1999), Stillmatic (2001), God’s Son (2002), Street’s Disciple (2004), Hip Hop Is Dead (2006), among a few others. In addition to his full length albums, Nas has also come out with three compilation albums, three collaborative albums, one extended play, and close to thirty different singles- most of which have managed to reach the record charts. Some of his most popular titles include It Ain’t Hard to Tell, The World Is Yours, If I Ruled the World (Imagine That), Street Dreams, and Nas is Like.
Aside from his successful music career, which has garnered him several awards in the past, Nas has also participated in a number of films and television series. In 1998, the rapper made his motion picture debut in the crime drama film, Belly, costarring alongside Taral Hicks and DMX. From there, he later went on to appear in In Too Deep (1999), Sacred is the Flesh (2001), Ticker (2001), John Q (2002), Uptown Girls (2003), and Black Nativity (2013). Speaking of television, he has also been featured in the shows Tavis Smiley (2008), Revolt Live (2014), The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (2014), Talk stoop with Cat Greenleaf (2015), and I Am Bolt (2016).
What has the New York-born rapper been up to recently? Has he taken on any new endeavors as of late? Can we expect to see any new releases from him this year, either in film or in music? What happened to Nas? Where is he now in 2017?
Nas’ Early Life and Music Beginnings
Born on September 14, 1973 in Brooklyn, New York, Nas (Birth Name: Nasir Bin Olu Dara Jones) is the son of Fannie Ann Jones, and Olu Dara, the latter of whom was a jazz musician; he has a brother named Jabari Fret who is a member of the hip hop crew, Bravehearts. Growing up, he spent the majority of his childhood living in a housing project located near his birthplace of Crown Heights. Ultimately it was his next door neighbor, Willy Graham that first introduced him to hip hop through his records; it was then that he developed a keen interest in the music. Originally a trumpet player, he soon began to write his own rhymes.
At the age of twelve, Nas’ parents divorced; not long afterward, he dropped out of high school. Turning his attention elsewhere, he then began focusing on writing rap lyrics. Enlisting the help of Willy as his DJ, Nas adopted the stage name of Kid Wave and started to play and record his own music. At the time, he often went to the studio where Kool G Rap and Rakim recorded, to record his songs while they were not in the studio. Having said that, none of said works have ever been released.
In 1991, Nas received a big break after being featured in Live at the Barbeque, a song by Main Source- a New York City-based hip hop group. Not long afterward, he was contacted by Michael Berrin of 3rd Bass fame. Noticing the teen’s talent, he eventually helped him to secure a recording contract with Columbia Records later that same year.
Nas’ Musical Releases Over the Years
With Michael Berrin aka MC Serch as his manager, he released his debut single, Halftime in the fall of 1992 under the nickname, “Nasty Nas”. His first professional release, it was later followed by his first full length album, Illmatic in 1994.
Recorded in various studios in New York, the album was first made available on April 19, 1994. Produced by Pete Rock, DJ Premier, Q-Tip, and the rapper himself, it contained ten numbers including The World is Yours, One Time 4 Your Mind, It Ain’t Hard to Tell, N.Y. State of Mind, Memory Lane (Sittin’ in Da Park), and Represent– all of which were co-written by Nas. A decade later, Illmatic was re-released as a remastered disc; it included six songs, among which were three remixes of Life’s a Bitch, It Ain’t Hard to Tell, and The World is Yours.
Shortly after its release, Illmatic entered the Billboard Top 200 at number twelve, selling approximately 59,000 units during its initial week. Additionally, the album also reached number two on the US Top R&B and Hip Hop Albums chart, and number 105 on the Japanese Oricon Chart. Despite its low initial sales, the album garnered rave reviews from most critics, who lauded the album’s high production values and lyrics. Supported by the release of five singles, Illmatic has since been hailed as one of the landmark albums of Eastern Hip Hop. Regarded as one of the best hip hop albums by many, it first broke the 500,000 sales mark in January of 1996. As of December 2011, more than 1,000,000 copies of Illmatic have been sold- making it Nas’ first Platinum album.
Two years after his debut release, Nas dropped his second album, It Was Written on July 2, 1996. Featuring a more mainstream sound, it is also noted for revolving around various gangsta and mafioso themes. Produced mainly by Trackmasters, with additional help from Dr. Dre, DJ Premiere, Live Squad, and L.E.S., it came with fourteen tracks including Take It in Blood, Affirmative Action, Black Girl Lost, Live Nigga Rap, The Message, Street Dreams, and I Gave You Power; a number of guest artists were also present including Foxy Brown, Joel Hailey, The Firm Havoc, Lauryn Hill, and Mobb Deep.
Nas’ most successful album to date, it debuted at the top of the Billboard Top 200- a major feat for the rising artist at the time. Cementing his ongoing popularity, it later also reached number one on the Top R&B Albums Chart. Outside of the United States, It Was Written was also met with success in France, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand, the UK, Belgium, and Austria. Met with nothing but praise, it went on to spawn two singles, Street Dreams and If I Ruled the World, the former of which reached the top of the US Hot Rap Tracks Chart. In September of 1996, just three months after its initial release, the album was certified 2x Platinum by the RIAA.
On April 6, 1999, Nas dropped his third studio album entitled, I Am…. Although it was originally designed to be a two-disc release, an internet leakage led him to record new material for the album. Produced by the artist himself with help from Alvin West, DJ Premier, Steve SToute, Broady for The Hitmen, Pretty Boy, and Timbaland, it came with a sixteen-song track list that consisted of Money Is My Bitch, Big Things, I Want to Talk to You, We Will Survive, Small World, Undying Love, and Favor for a Favor.
Comparable in success to his earlier album, it entered the US Billboard Top 200 at number one and sold more than 470,000 copies over the first week; it later also peaked at the top of the US Top R&B and Hip Hop Albums Chart. Outside of the United States, I Am…also charted respectively in Canada, Germany, the UK, Switzerland, Norway, and Germany. Upon its release, the album mostly received positive reviews which praised its thought-provoking lyrics; for instance, both Entertainment Weekly and Robert Christgau awarded it a grade of B. To date, it has sold over 2.1 million copies domestically, making it Nas’ second-best selling album.
That same year, he dropped his next album, Nastradamus on November 23, 1999. Consisting of material left out due to the previous bootlegging, it included the tracks The Prediction, God Love Us, Big Girl, New World, Come Get Me, Shoot ‘Em Upm and Some of Us Have Angels. Chart performance-wise, it entered the Billboard Top 200 at number seven and sold over 230,000 copies within the first week. Although some have described it as being Nas’ weakest effort, it still went on to sell over a million copies in the US, earning it Platinum status from the RIAA.
Following up with another release, Nas came out with Stillmatic on December 18, 2001. A critical hit, it successfully re-established his place in the hip hop scene. Revolving aorund various philosophical themes, it entered the Billboard Top 200 at number eight, selling over 342,000 copies within the first week; it later peaked at number five. A chart topper on the Top R&B and Hip Hop Albums Chart, it also charted in several other countries including France, Japan, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, and Australia.
From there, Nas came out with five additional albums including God’s Son (2002), Street’s Disciple (2004), Hip Hop is Dead (2006), Untitled (2008), and Life is Good (2012); since then, two have gone platinum, while two have gone Gold. Most recently, he has come out with a single entitled, Deep which featured fellow artist, Robin Thicke.
What’s Nas Doing Now in 2017- Recent Updates
As far as concert shows go, Nas has posted two US dates onto his official website- one that will take place at the Byron Bay Bluesfest in April 2017, and another that will take place at the California Roots Festival in May 2017. Additionally, the star has announced that he will be embarking on a three-date tour in the United Kingdom this upcoming summer- tickets are still available for those who are interested.
On the acting side of things, Nas will be appearing in an upcoming drama film called, Monster (2017). Directed by Anthony Mandler, it will revolve around a teen who finds himself charged with robbery and murder. While no official release date has been revealed, it will presumably come out sometime in 2017.
Speaking of television, the rapper will also be gracing the screens on the documentaries The Big Bang (2017), From the Woods: The Discovery of LYB (2017), and American Epic: The Big Bang (2017).
If you’d like to stay up to date and connected with the rapper, you can do so by following him on social media- you can find Nas on Twitter and Instagram at @Nas.