Promotional Video for Nas' debut album release of Illmatic.
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Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones (pronounced /nɑːˈsɪər/; born September 14, 1973), who performs under the mononym Nas (/ˈnɑːz/), formerly Nasty Nas, is an American rapper and actor. The son of jazz musician Olu Dara, he was born and raised in the Queensbridge housing projects in New York City. Although he dropped out of middle school, he managed to attain a high degree of literacy which is prominent in his lyrics. His debut album Illmatic, was released in 1994 on Columbia Records. Illmatic was critically acclaimed and would go on to be widely hailed a classic. Nas was part of hip-hop supergroup The Firm, which released one album.
From 2001 to 2005, Nas was involved in a widely publicized feud with rapper Jay-Z; both rappers verbally attacked each other in their songs. The two formally ended their rivalry through duet performances at concerts sponsored by New York City-area hip-hop radio stations. In 2006, he was listed number five on MTV's 10 Greatest Emcees of All Time. Also in 2006, he signed to Def Jam, releasing his albums Hip Hop is Dead in 2006 and an untitled album in 2008.
Nas was born Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones in Long Island City, Queens, New York. His father, Olu Dara, is a African American jazz trumpeter and his mother, Fannie Ann Jones, was a Postal Service worker. He has one sibling, a brother named Jabari Fret who assumes the alias Jungle. While his family lived in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Nas would play the trumpet on his home stoop at age four. His family moved to the Queensbridge Houses in the late 1970s. Nas began writing rhymes at the age of nine. His neighbor, Willy "Ill Will" Graham, influenced Nas's interest in hip hop by playing him records. Nas' parents divorced in 1985, and he dropped out of school in the eighth grade. He educated himself, reading about African culture and civilization, the 360° Lessons of the Nubian Islamic Hebrews scrolls, the Bible and the Qur'an.
As a teenager, Nas enlisted his best friend and upstairs neighbor Willy "Ill Will Graham" as his DJ. Nas first went by the nickname Kid Wave before adopting his more commonly known alias of Nasty Nas.
In 1991, Nas performed on Main Source's "Live at the Barbeque", establishing himself as a teenage prodigy. In mid-1992, Nas was approached by MC Serch of 3rd Bass, who became his manager and secured Nas a record deal with Columbia Records the same year. Nas made his solo debut under the name of "Nasty Nas" on the single "Halftime" from Serch's soundtrack for the film Zebrahead. The single increased the buzz surrounding Nas and when MC Serch's solo album was released later in the year, Nas standout appearance on "Back to the Grill Again" only intensified interest. Hailed as the second coming of Rakim, his rhyming skills attracted a significant amount of attention within the hip-hop community.
In 1994, Nas's debut album, Illmatic, was finally released. It was awarded Five Mics from The Source. It also featured production from Large Professor, Pete Rock, Q-Tip, L.E.S. and DJ Premier, as well as guest appearances from Nas' friend AZ and his father Olu Dara. The album spawned several hit singles: "The World Is Yours", "It Ain't Hard to Tell", and "One Love". Shaheem Reid of MTV News coined Illmatic as "the first classic LP" of 1994. Nas performed the song "One on One" for the movie Street Fighter. In 1995, Nas did guest performances on the albums Doe or Die by AZ, The Infamous by Mobb Deep, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx by Raekwon and 4,5,6 by Kool G Rap.
Extended & updated info here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nas