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Celebrating 50 Standout Nas Songs For Nas’ 50th Birthday

Nas stands as one of the most influential figures in the history of hip-hop, leaving an indelible mark on the genre. Over nearly four decades, Mr. Jones has consistently delivered a remarkable collection of tracks that highlight his unmatched lyrical skills and storytelling prowess. From the gritty and iconic “N.Y. State of Mind,” a vivid portrayal of life in New York City, to the timeless classic “The World Is Yours,” characterized by its smooth production and introspective lyricism, Nas has continually pushed the boundaries of the art form.

Tracks like “One Mic” with its potent emotional depth and “I Gave You Power” with its intricate storytelling showcase Nas’ versatility and depth as an artist. As the proud representative of Queensbridge, Nas’ discography serves as a testament to his status as one of hip-hop’s preeminent lyricists, solidifying his enduring impact on the culture.

In honor of his 50th birthday, we’ve compiled a list of his top 50 songs, as featured on According 2 Hip Hop.

  1. N.Y. State of Mind 

A vivid and poetic depiction of life in Queensbridge, New York, from one of the greatest hip hop songs ever made. A timeless connection of young Nas and legendary DJ Premiere. This is Nas simply at his best and his greatest. Raw and visionary. 

  1. The World Is Yours

With a classic Pete Rock beat the track features a smooth and jazzy production, with a sample from Ahmad Jamal’s “I Love Music,” providing a lush backdrop for Nas to deliver his introspective verses. In this song, Nas raps about his aspirations and the determination to rise above the challenges of his environment, offering a glimpse into the dreams and ambitions of a young artist.

“The World Is Yours” is a masterclass in storytelling and serves as a centerpiece of his debut album, “Illmatic.”.

  1. It Ain’t Hard to Tell

“It Ain’t Hard to Tell” encapsulates the essence of his debut album, “Illmatic.” The song features a timeless sample of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature,” which sets the backdrop for Nas to deliver his intricate, thought-provoking lyrics. The track is a masterclass in storytelling and wordplay, cementing Nas’ reputation as one of the greatest lyricists in hip-hop history. 

  1. One Love

Released as part of his debut album “Illmatic,” the song is a heartfelt letter to a friend who is incarcerated, providing a glimpse into the struggles and realities of life in Queensbridge. Nas’ vivid and evocative lyrics draw listeners into the world he’s describing, where loyalty and camaraderie are essential for survival

  1. Life’s a B**ch

Featuring a memorable guest verse from AZ, the song is a contemplative exploration of the ups and downs of life in the streets and the struggle to rise above adversity. The track’s jazz-infused production, courtesy of L.E.S., provides a smooth and soulful backdrop that perfectly complements Nas and AZ’s reflective lyrics.

  1. The Message

The Message” is a gripping and introspective track that serves as the closing statement to his debut album, “Illmatic.” With a somber and contemplative tone, Nas reflects on the harsh realities of life in Queensbridge and the impact it has had on his community and his own life. The track’s production, featuring a haunting piano loop, adds to the emotional weight of Nas’ lyrics, making it a poignant and unforgettable conclusion to a classic album

  1. I Gave You Power

In this song, Nas raps from the perspective of a firearm, providing a unique and chilling commentary on the cycle of violence in inner-city neighborhoods. Nas delves deep into the gun’s perspective, addressing the destructive impact of firearms on communities and individuals. This track is a testament to Nas’ storytelling prowess and his ability to tackle complex social issues in his music, making it a standout piece in his discography and cementing his legacy as one of the game’s best storytellers of all time.

  1. If I Ruled the World

“If I Ruled the World” featuring Lauryn Hill is a hip-hop anthem that blends insightful social commentary with a touch of optimism. The track’s production, which samples the classic Whodini song “Friends,” provides a catchy and soulful backdrop for Nas to share his dreams of a utopian world where he could make positive changes. Lauryn Hill’s vocals add depth and emotion to the track, creating a perfect synergy with Nas’ lyrical prowess.

Nas reflects on societal issues and his desire to bring about positive change if he were in control. “If I Ruled the World” is not only a testament to Nas’ storytelling abilities but also a glimpse into his vision for a better future, making it a standout track in his discography.

  1. Take It in Blood

A gritty and introspective track that showcases Nas lyricism. With a haunting piano-driven beat, the song sets a somber tone as Nas reflects on the complexities of street life and the choices he’s made. His intricate wordplay and vivid storytelling paint a vivid picture of the challenges and dangers he’s faced. “Take It in Blood” is a raw and honest glimpse into Nas’ experiences, making it a standout track on his seminal “It Was Written” album, and it continues to resonate with listeners for its unflinching portrayal of urban realities.

  1. Silent Murder

A hidden gem in his discography, a bonus track on the “It Was Written” album that exemplifies his lyrical mastery. The song features a haunting piano melody and a minimalist beat, creating an atmosphere of tension and introspection. Nas’ verses are a lyrical tour de force, filled with intricate wordplay and thought-provoking lines as he reflects on the challenges of life in the streets and the weight of his own success.

  1. Hate Me Now

An assertive and anthemic track that serves as a declaration of his resilience and determination in the face of adversity. The song’s production, featuring a dramatic and orchestral beat, adds a sense of grandeur to Nas’ bold verses. The controversial music video directed by Hype Williams, which famously depicted Nas being crucified, further emphasized the song’s message of enduring criticism and hate.

Nas’ lyrics are confrontational and unapologetic, addressing his critics and doubters head-on. The inclusion of Diddy’s energetic ad-libs and chorus amplifies the song’s intensity. 

  1. Nas Is Like

From his third LP ‘I..AM,’ the standout track ‘Nas Is Like’ features Nas rhyming over a DJ Premier beat, where he skillfully weaves intricate verses about his experiences in Queensbridge, his achievements in the rap game, and his perspectives on the world. This song marked a significant return to form for the artist known as God’s Son.

  1. Last Words

The song’s stripped-down production allows the heartfelt dialogue to take center stage, making it a standout and emotionally resonant moment on Nas’ “Life Is Good” album. “Last Words” is a touching and authentic tribute to the wisdom passed down through generations, adding a layer of depth and humanity.

  1. Ether

What can be said that hasn’t been said about one of the greatest dis records of all time? 

  1. Rewind

 “Rewind” is a brilliantly crafted and innovative track that showcases his storytelling prowess and lyrical creativity. The song is a narrative masterpiece, where Nas tells a gripping story in reverse chronological order, starting with the end and working his way back to the beginning. This unique approach not only demonstrates Nas’ lyrical dexterity but also engages the listener’s imagination, encouraging them to rewind the story mentally.

The track’s production, featuring a haunting piano loop, adds a sense of melancholy that perfectly complements the song’s themes of regret and reflection. The vivid and cinematic storytelling in “Rewind” is a testament to his status as one of hip-hop’s greatest lyricists, as he skillfully explores the consequences of life in the streets. 

  1. One Mic

In “One Mic,” Nas delves deep into themes of personal struggle, societal injustice, and self-expression. His verses touch on issues like poverty, violence, and the desire for change, making it a socially conscious and introspective piece of work. The song’s title symbolizes the idea that sometimes all it takes is one moment, one voice, to bring about profound change. “One Mic” is a timeless masterpiece that resonates with listeners for its emotional depth and thought-provoking message, cementing Nas’ status as one of hip-hop’s greatest poets.

  1. 2nd Childhood

A poignant and introspective track that offers a raw and unflinching examination of the harsh realities of growing up in disadvantaged environments. The song features a somber production that sets the tone for Nas’ vivid storytelling. In this track, Nas paints a vivid picture of individuals trapped in a cycle of arrested development, where they never truly mature beyond their circumstances, leading to lives marked by regret and unfulfilled potential.

  1. What Goes Around

A standout track from his critically acclaimed album “Stillmatic.” The song is a lyrical tour de force that showcases Nas at the height of his storytelling and introspective abilities. Over a haunting beat, Nas delivers verses that touch on themes of betrayal, karma, and the cyclical nature of life.

  1. Doo Rags

In “Doo Rags,” Nas explores themes of poverty, inequality, and the impact of systemic racism, shedding light on the struggles faced by individuals growing up in such environments. 

The track is a testament to Nas’ ability to blend social commentary with personal narratives, making it a standout and socially relevant piece in his discography.

  1. Blaze A 50

Blaze a 50″ is a reflective and introspective track that delves into the challenges and consequences of street life. The song features a somber and jazzy production that provides a perfect backdrop.

In “Blaze a 50,” Nas explores themes of crime, survival, and the allure of quick riches in the streets, offering a nuanced perspective on the choices faced by individuals in impoverished communities. 

The title “Blaze a 50” refers to rolling a 50-dollar bill, often associated with drug use, and it serves as a metaphor for the destructive choices people make in the pursuit of escape from their circumstances.

  1. Made You Look

An iconic hip-hop anthem. The track’s production by Salaam Remi, characterized by a catchy horn sample and a booming beat, provides an infectious and head-nodding backdrop for Nas’ delivery. Lyrically, Nas showcases his wordplay, blending braggadocio with social commentary, touching on themes of authenticity and the impact of his artistry.

One of the best songs of his career it also may contain more than a few subliminals…..

  1. Shootouts 

Nas’ storytelling abilities shine as he paints vivid pictures of street scenarios and the survival instincts required to navigate them. The song’s title perfectly captures the tension and danger that permeate the track, making it a standout moment on the album ‘It Was Written’. 

  1. “Get Down” – “Get Down” is a compelling storytelling track that kicks off “God’s Son” with Nas recounting his family’s history and his upbringing over a catchy James Brown sample.

24.”Thief’s Theme” – “Thief’s Theme” is a gritty and energetic track that showcases Nas’ lyrical prowess and addresses themes of street life and survival.

25. “Bridging the Gap” – A collaboration with his father Olu Dara, “Bridging the Gap” is a heartfelt and uplifting song where Nas reflects on his roots and the generational connection within his family.

26. “Memory Lane” – “Memory Lane” is a nostalgic and introspective track from Nas’ debut album, “Illmatic,” where he reflects on his early life in Queensbridge.

27. “Black Republican” – A collaboration with Jay-Z, “Black Republican” features both artists sharing verses and discussing their positions in the rap game, creating a compelling contrast.

28. “Still Dreaming” – Featuring Kanye West, “Still Dreaming” is a smooth and introspective track that explores themes of ambition and the pursuit of success.

29. “On The Real” – “On The Real” is a gritty and candid track that offers insights into the challenges and temptations faced by individuals growing up in tough neighborhoods.

30. “Daughters” – In “Daughters,” Nas reflects on his experiences as a father, offering a personal and heartfelt perspective on parenthood and the challenges of raising a daughter.

31. “Stay” – “Stay” is a reflective and introspective track that touches on themes of resilience and determination, with Nas contemplating life’s struggles and lessons.

32. “Cherry Wine” – Featuring Amy Winehouse, “Cherry Wine” is a soulful and melancholic track that explores themes of love and longing.

33. “Bye Baby” – In “Bye Baby,” Nas delivers a candid and emotionally charged reflection on past relationships and personal growth.

34. “Everything” – “Everything” features The-Dream and explores themes of ambition and the pursuit of material success in a compelling and introspective manner.

35. “Blue Benz” – “Blue Benz” is a laid-back and reflective track that delves into Nas’ life experiences and his relationship with luxury and fame.

36. “Car #85” – “Car #85” offers a glimpse into Nas’ early experiences in the hip-hop scene and his determination to succeed.

37. “Death Row East” – “Death Row East” is a track where Nas reflects on the rivalry between the East Coast and West Coast rap scenes during the 1990s.

38. “Ultra Black” – “Ultra Black” is a celebratory and empowering track that highlights Nas’ pride in his Black heritage and culture.

39. “Store Run” – “Store Run” is a reflective and introspective track where Nas contemplates life’s journey and the lessons he’s learned along the way.

40. “Nobody” – Featuring Lauryn Hill, “Nobody” is a soulful and introspective track that addresses themes of identity and self-discovery.

41. “Meet Joe Black” – “Meet Joe Black” is a cinematic and introspective track that explores themes of mortality and the inevitability of death.

42. “40-16 Building” – “40-16 Building” reflects on Nas’ early life in the Queensbridge projects and the experiences that shaped his worldview.

43. “The Truth” – “The Truth” is a reflective and contemplative track where Nas shares his thoughts on life’s complexities and challenges.

44. “Legit” – “Legit” is a smooth and introspective track where Nas reflects on his experiences in the rap game and his determination to stay authentic.

45. “Thun” – “Thun” is a gritty and streetwise track that captures the essence of Nas’ early work in the hip-hop scene.

46. “Once a Man, Twice a Child” – “Once a Man, Twice a Child” is a reflective and emotionally charged track that addresses themes of maturity and personal growth.

47. “Get Light” – “Get Light” is a laid-back and introspective track that showcases Nas’ lyrical prowess and introspection.

48. “Motion” – “Motion” is a smooth and contemplative track that delves into the complexities of personal relationships and emotions.

49. “Slow It Down” – “Slow Is Down” is a reflective and introspective track that explores themes of self-awareness and personal growth.

50. “Office Hours” – “Office Hours” is a gritty and candid track that provides a glimpse into the realities of life in the streets.



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