Nas (full name Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones) is an internationally known rapper, writer, and actor. His albums have gone multi-platinum, and his work has earned him praise as one of the greatest rappers of all time.
Nas was born in the Crown Heights district of Brooklyn, New York in 1973, but moved soon after with his family to Queensbridge. Although he dropped out of school after the eighth grade, Nas pursued a different kind of education in the music business. With his neighbor and DJ, Willy “Ill Will” Graham, Nas began his rap career as a teenager, finally getting his big break in 1992 when he signed up with Columbia Records.
Illmatic, Nas‘s 1994 debut album, shocked and amazed critics everywhere. It earned Nas a coveted Five Mics rating from The Source and was considered an instant classic for such biting, insightful tracks as “One Love” and “NY State of Mind.” Nas immediately established himself as one of the best lyricists in the business, thanks to the developed storytelling he displayed on Illmatic (and continued on his next album, It Was Written).
Though he’d begun as an underground sensation, Nas soon signed Steve Stoute to be his new manager and began collaborating with mainstream artists like Lauryn Hill and R. Kelly. He also joined rap supergroup The Firm, which broke up after releasing one album to lukewarm results in 1997.
Nas became embroiled in a very public feud with fellow rapper Jay-Z in 2001 when the slow-burning rivalry between the two industry giants exploded. Jay-Z’s album The Blueprint and Nas’s Stillmatic both contained tracks dissing the other; Nas questioned Jay-Z’s sexuality, Jay claimed to have had an affair with Nas’s girlfriend, and the fight was on. The two reconciled ambiguously a few years later before Nas signed to Roc-a-Fella Records in 2006, when Jay-Z was president of the company. Nas’s most recent album Life is Good was released in 2012.