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Style & Culture

Trip Down Memory Lane: Nas gets hot start with debut ‘Illmatic’

Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, better known as Nas, was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., but got his name in rapping while living in Queens. He is the son of jazz musician Olu Dara, who would go on to appear periodically in his son’s work. Nas got his start in hip-hop after performing as a featured guest on a Main Source song titled “Live at the Barbeque.”

Since then, he has demonstrated his worthiness as a member of the hip-hop community. In 1992, Nas scored a record deal with Columbia Records and officially began his journey to fame.

Two years later, Nas would release his first album, “Illmatic,” which was awarded five out of five Mics from hip-hop magazine The Source. The album spawned a total of five singles, including “It Ain’t Hard to Tell” and “The World is Yours.” Nas’ lyrical technique is similar to Rakim’s in his usage of multi-syllabic rhyming.

Nas set the bar high for everyone in the game, including himself, with rhymes like, “So analyze me, surprise me, but can’t magmatize me / Scannin’ while you’re plannin’ ways to sabotage me / I leave ’em froze like her-on in your nose / Nas’ll rock well, it ain’t hard to tell.” As an album, Illmatic was perfect.

After things cooled down, Nas ventured back into the studio to record his follow up record, “It Was Written.” He also branched out and formed a hip-hop supergroup dubbed The Firm. The Firm was made of rappers Nas, Foxy Brown, AZ and Nature. The Firm signed with Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment record label to release their first and only album appropriately titled “The Album,” but it was not well received.

As Nas’s fame grew, he managed to find himself in one of the biggest post-East Coast-West Coast feuds ever to have existed. In the wake of the murder of The Notorious B.I.G., a struggle for power ensued. Headed by Nas and Jay-Z, the feud became well documented, as both rappers had no problem including “diss” tracks on their albums. Jay-Z released the first track titled “Takeover” from his album “The Blueprint.” Nas retaliated with the song “Ether” from the album “Stillmatic,” which was released in December 2001. The feud came to an end in 2006 with the two going on tour together.

Since his start in 1994, Nas has released a total of 13 records including a collaboration album with reggae star Damian Marley. His most recent album, “Life is Good,” was released in 2012. Nas has stated that he is currently working on a follow-up record and is in the process of making three collaboration albums with Mobb Deep, Common and DJ Premier.