Black Music Month: Nas

June is Black Music Month and WERS at Night will recognize black musicians, composers, singers, and songwriters who have made enormous contributions to the music industry. Today, June 18th, 889@Night is highlighting Nas.

When I was eight years old, my father bought me three CDs from Columbia House for my birthday. Not only were they my first CDs ever, but they were all rap CDs. This was the first time I listened to unedited rap music. The three CDs were DMX’s Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, Jay-Z’s Volume 2: Hard Knock Life, and Nas’ Nastradamus. Even though Nastradamus wasn’t Nas’ best album, it was the first time I was exposed to this legendary storyteller. Nas was a master at describing situations. So much so that he made you feel like you were staring out of the project window with him and being exposed to all the ills of the ghetto.

His full name is Nasir Bin Olu Dara Jones. Olu Dara, his father, was a famous jazz musician and his mother worked at a post office. He was raised in the projects in Queensbridge, New York (something you would know if you have ever heard a Nas album). Nas first appeared on the scene with his classic verse from “Live from the Barbeque”. Before he was even legally allowed to drink, he rapped, “Verbal assassin, my architect pleases. When I was twelve, I went to hell for snuffin’ Jesus.” Those are some unexpected lyrics coming from a teenager. When he was only eighteen years old, Nas released his debut platinum album, Illmatic. This is arguably one of the best albums of all time. It can be found on top albums lists from major publishers like Vibe, Rolling Stone, Complex, etc. The only guest verse on the album was from Nas’ good friend and constant collaborator, AZ. It had classic production from producers like Pete Rock, Q-Tip, and DJ Premier. No matter who you ask, they will tell you it was legendary.

Nas was always known to be a rapper to focus on lyrics, storytelling, and a positive message. A lot of rappers don’t focus on all of these aspects in today’s industry. He released nine major solo albums between the years 1994 and 2008 along with some releases of previous leftover album material (i.e. The Lost Tapes). Nas will never be known to be the rapper with the most sales, but his fan base has always been his biggest asset. He will always be respected and placed in most rap fan’s Top 5 rapper list, which usually includes greats like Jay-Z, 2Pac, and Biggie. I am also a big fan of Jay-Z, so in 2001 when they had a public rap beef, I didn’t know which side to pick. Ultimately, when Nas released “Ether” to counter Jay-Z’s “Takeover”, I knew Nas had won that battle. Before Jay-Z attacked Nas on “Takeover”, people thought Nas was falling off. Releasing “Ether” solidified in every fan’s mind that Nas was and forever will be one of the best to ever do it.

Nas is set to release his tenth solo album on July 17th, 2012 entitled Life is Good. This will be the first solo album from Nas since 2008 when he released Untitled. He currently has two singles from this album in rotation. They are “The Don” and “Daughters”. Join us in honoring Nas today for Black Music Month and watch the video for “Daughters” above.

By Malcolm Gray

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