Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, better known as Nas, is an American hip-hop recording artist, record producer, actor, and entrepreneur.
Throughout his career, Nas has released many commercially successful albums and singles, winning numerous awards.
This article will explore the fifteen greatest songs of Nas’s career, from his debut album, Illmatic, to his most recent work.
Each track will be analyzed in terms of its impact on the hip-hop genre and its commercial success.
Additionally, this article will highlight the lyrical genius of Nas and the influence that his work has had on the hip-hop world.
As such, this article will provide an overview of the best Nas songs of all time and assess their contributions to the hip-hop genre.
1. “Nas Is Like”
“Nas Is Like” is a classic hip-hop track from Nas‘ 1999 album I Am… that epitomizes the artist’s lyrical prowess and clever wordplay.
The track features a sample of the 1966 hit song “What Now My Love” by Sonny and Cher, and Nas’ rhymes feature dense lyrics that are full of double entendres.
The song is an example of Nas’ skill when it comes to storytelling, as he uses the lyrics to paint vivid images of city life.
His talent for creating vivid lyrical portraits makes it one of his greatest hits of all time.
2. “I Can”
“I Can” by Nas has been widely acclaimed as one of the most iconic hip-hop anthems of the 21st century.
The song was released in 2002 as the lead single from his fifth studio album, God’s Son.
Musically, the song features a soulful sampled beat, combined with Nas’ signature lyrical flow.
The song explored themes of hope, resilience, and perseverance, which resonated with many listeners.
Lyrically, Nas conveys a message of optimism and hope, despite the many struggles and hardships that he and his peers faced.
His words of encouragement have long been credited for inspiring many of his listeners.
3. “Hate Me Now”
Released in 1999 on his third studio album, “Hate Me Now” remains one of Nas’ most controversial singles due to its explicit lyrics and dark themes.
Featuring P. Diddy‘s hook and sampled from the chorus of The Notorious B.I.G.’s song, “Come On”, the song is an intense critique of fame and the pressures of living a public life.
While Nas’ lyrics are often complex and thought-provoking, “Hate Me Now” is no exception as it confronts the listener with its hard-hitting themes.
The song has been widely praised for its intricate lyricism, making it a classic in Nas’ discography.
4. “N.Y. State of Mind”
One of Nas’ most influential tracks, “N.Y. State of Mind” is a powerful ode to his hometown of New York City, showcasing its complexity and struggles.
The lyrics focus on Nas’ experiences growing up in the streets of New York, conveying the realities of poverty, crime, and violence that many of its inhabitants face.
The song has become a staple of the rap genre, praised for its innovative production and lyrical delivery.
5. “One Mic”
The 2001 single “One Mic” is a lyrically charged track that captures the complexity of the inner city and its inhabitants.
Nas explores themes of struggle, faith, determination, and resilience through this classic hip-hop song.
The verses are vivid and lyrically sophisticated, delving into the harsh realities of urban life.
The track is a masterful blend of heavy beats and intricate rhymes that pay homage to Nas’ roots and the culture of his hometown.
6. “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)”
Nas’ 1996 single, “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)”, displays his powerful storytelling skills as he paints a vivid picture of a utopian world and the possibilities that could be achieved.
The song is a reflection of Nas’ social and political views, as he envisions a world without poverty, racism, and violence.
The track has been widely praised for its imaginative lyrics, as well as its clever production, with a sample from Kurtis Blow’s “If I Ruled the World”.
The song is considered one of Nas’ best works and a classic in hip-hop.
7. “Affirmative Action (Saint-Denis Style Remix)”
Continuing the discussion on Nas’ greatest hits, the Saint-Denis Style Remix of the song “Affirmative Action” is a notable track.
The song is a critique of institutional racism and its effects on African-Americans, and the remix adds an energetic and upbeat spin that has become a fan favorite.
The track has been praised for its infectious beat and lyrical content, making it a suitable addition to any list of Nas’ best songs.
8. “It Ain’t Hard to Tell”
Often regarded as one of Nas’ most iconic tracks, “It Ain’t Hard to Tell” is a lyrically-driven song that highlights Nas’ ability to craft evocative and thought-provoking rhymes.
The track, produced by Large Professor, features an upbeat, head-nodding beat and a sample of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature”.
Nas’ rhymes are artfully crafted, intertwining references to classic films, literature, and history, while also exploring personal themes of struggle and perseverance.
“It Ain’t Hard to Tell” is a timeless classic that has cemented its place in hip-hop history.
One of Nas’ most celebrated tracks, “Daughters” is a poignant exploration of fatherhood and the relationship between a father and his daughter.
Released in 2012 as part of his critically acclaimed album Life is Good, the song speaks from personal experience, as Nas draws on his own relationship with his daughter and his divorce from her mother.
Nas’ lyrics explore the difficulty of maintaining a healthy relationship with his daughter in the wake of the divorce, as well as the joys and sorrows of fatherhood.
Throughout the song, Nas reflects on the importance of being a good father and the need to be there for one’s children.
“Daughters” is a powerful reminder of the importance of family and the need to build strong relationships with those we love.
10. “Made You Look”
Continuing with Nas’ discography, the 2002 single “Made You Look” is an incredibly successful example of the artist’s ability to create intricate, thought-provoking lyrics.
The beat is instantly recognizable, with Nas’ clear, authoritative delivery standing out as a highlight.
The song’s lyricism is complex and speaks to themes of violence and power.
11. “The World Is Yours”
Widely regarded as one of Nas’ most memorable and impactful tracks, “The World Is Yours” is an anthem of success and determination.
Produced by Pete Rock, the song’s laid-back yet powerful beat is amplified by Nas’ thoughtful and witty lyrics.
The song invites listeners to strive for greatness and encourages them to take control of their own destiny.
Nas’ delivery is masterful and the song is a testament to his impressive songwriting ability.
Overall, “The World Is Yours” is a classic hip-hop track and an iconic moment in Nas’ discography.
12. “Cherry Wine”
Continuing on with Nas’ greatest hits, another song that stands out is the somber and reflective “Cherry Wine”.
This track features the haunting vocals of Amy Winehouse and is a tribute to her memory.
The song’s lyrical content is centered around the idea of love, loss, and the fragility of life.
The production of the track is slow and melancholic, while the song’s themes are timeless.
The combination of Nas’ lyrics and Amy Winehouse’s vocals make “Cherry Wine” an emotionally charged and powerful song.
Awarded a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Performance, the track “Nasty” is Nas’ reflection on the corrupting influence of fame, wealth, and power.
Lyrically, the song explores the idea of how these three aspects of life can lead to a false sense of entitlement, and how the struggle for financial security can often lead to unethical behavior.
Musically, the song is marked by a dark, jazzy instrumental, with Nas’ signature flow, and a chorus featuring R&B singer Raye.
The track stands as an emblem of Nas’ exploration of the darker side of life and its consequences.
Embracing a message of self-empowerment, Nas’ song “Hero” is a tribute to those who strive to make a positive impact on the world.
The song is an anthem for those who feel disillusioned and powerless, reminding them that they have the strength to make a difference.
The lyrics are both inspirational and thought-provoking, making “Hero” one of the most memorable tracks on Nas’ greatest hits album.
The chorus features a strong beat and powerful repetition of the title, creating an impactful and uplifting atmosphere.
With its timeless message, ‘Hero’ stands as a shining example of Nas’ lyrical prowess and songwriting skill.
15. “Just a Moment”
Celebrated as one of Nas’ most acclaimed works, “Just a Moment” conveys a powerful message of hope and resilience.
The song was released in 2004 and was part of Nas’ fifth album, Street’s Disciple.
The song features singer-songwriter Quan, who provides the hook.
The instrumental is a sample of American jazz saxophonist Grover Washington Jr.’s song “Just the Two of Us”.
The lyrics illustrate Nas’ positive outlook on life despite the hardships and tribulations. The song is seen as a classic in Nas’ discography and is often considered a fan favorite.
Best Nas Songs of All Time – Final Thoughts
Nas has established himself as one of the most influential hip-hop artists of all time, with an expansive discography that has shaped the genre and defined an era.
His greatest hits, from “N.Y. State of Mind” to “Cherry Wine”, have resonated with fans and critics alike and stand as some of the most iconic hip-hop songs ever recorded.
His intricate storytelling, sharp lyricism, and unique production style have earned him an unparalleled place in the genre and left a lasting impression on the culture.
Nas is and will continue to be a hip-hop legend.
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