Monday, April 18, 2011

Nas: The Forgotten Hip-hop MC of the '90s?

While Nas (born Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones) first came onto the hip-hop scene in 1989, and quickly embedded himself as one of the most talented MCs of the 90s and the early 00s, I frankly feel he often gets left out of the conversation of "greatest rapper ever." Instead, names like Jay-Z, Eminem, Rakim, Tupac and Biggie crop up. Nas is frequently swept under the hip-hop immortality rug.

Why is this? Clearly there's no simple explanation. But, if you consider the aforementioned MCs on a case-by-case basis, there are reasons why each of them has been deemed a top MC while Nas is undeservedly relegated to the relatively-forgotten lower rungs of the rap ladder with artists like Common and Mos Def.
Let's look at Jay-Z. He, along with Eminem, are the most flashy on the list.

Nas teamed up in 2010 to create "Distant Relatives" with Damian Marley

Jay-Z arguably compromised his musical and lyrical talents by selling out to a pop music vibe instead of remaining true to his roots. Now, for Biggie and Tupac, the their popularity is obviously explained. Biggie was killed and Tupac seemingly vanished into thin air. As sad as it is, the media and the critics will always smile upon death tragedy. And, perhaps most clearly, Eminem has benefitted from the notoriety he got from "8 Mile" and from the detailed publication of the hardships that he hard to overcome while growing up in blue-collar Detroit; Jay-Z also benefitted from this pseudo "rags-to-riches" phenomenon.

Nas and Jay-Z feuded throughout the 90s

Nas' lyricism, beats and production are equally, if not more impressive, than each of these MCs. Granted,  there are certainly various aspects of his artistry which is less-developed than these other top MCs. Yet, why isn't Nas a "Top-5" MC? You've probably heard much of his work. So, instead below I provided some tracks that most people don't know or, at the very least, should get re-accustomed to. You be the judge.

"One Mic"

"Surviving the Times"

"Made You Look"

"Hip-hop is Dead"


  1. Totally agree, I put Nas at #3 behind Eminem and Jay, respectfully, with Biggie right behind him.

    Illmatic is the rawest and greatest hip hop album of all-time (hands down) and tracks like 'Surviving the Times' which you posted show his amazing ability did not go away. But, I think the major reason Nas doesn't get enough cred is because people focus on his beef with Jay-Z to be 'king of NY' and not what he was able to accomplish with his earlier albums and with projects like Distant Relatives. If only he stayed consistent and didn't drop flops like "Oochie Wallie" etc, he may be considered #1..

    Anyway man, sick post. You should've thrown on an Illmatic track on the playlist though, like 'NY State of Mind' or 'It Ain't Hard To Tell' or any other song on that cd lol.

  2. Great article Ben! I loyally side with Nas, a far more versatile MC than Jay-Z, rapping about the true hardships of life with a genius creativity and an unsurpassed talent for bending the English language. I thought you might be interested in my blog at
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