There is no question NAS is officially earned legend status in the hip hop community with eight multi-platinum albums and has sold over 25 million records worldwide. which places him second among rappers only to Jay-Z. Also keep in mind Tupac Shakur had nine, but five were posthumous releases.
It goes without saying that Nas’ 1994 debut, Illmatic, is one of the greatest albums ever recorded. But it was initially a commercial flop, failing to go gold in its first year. He was hailed as a genius by critics, but that unimpeachable greatness didn’t translate to sales—not enough folks heard it.
The hustling Queens street kid known as Nasty Nas and the jeweled-up don named Escobar after the world’s most famous druglord. He’s been the thug, the black righteous militant, the philosopher, so it’s not really weird that he has such broad appeal when he’s just as likely to allude to Tony Montana as he is Huey P. Newton or Ivan Van Sertima in his rhymes.
Nas and his family relocated to the Queensbridge Houses in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens. His neighbor, Willy “Ill Will” Graham, influenced Nas’s interest in hip hop by playing him records. His parents divorced in 1985, and he dropped out of school after the eighth grade. He educated himself about African culture through the Five Percent Nation and the Nuwaubian Nation. In his early years, he played the trumpet and began writing his own rhymes.
As a teenager, Nas enlisted his best friend and upstairs neighbor Willy “Ill Will” Graham as his DJ. Nas initially went by the nickname Kid Wave before adopting his more commonly known alias of Nasty Nas. In the late 1980s, he met up with the producer Large Professor and went to the studio where Rakim and Kool G Rap were recording their albums. When they were not in the studio, Nas would go into the booth and record his own material. However, none of it was ever released. In 1991, Nas performed on Main Source’s “Live at the Barbeque”. 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. Called the new Rakim, his rhyming skills attracted a significant amount of attention within the hip-hop community.
NAS’ brilliance lies in his ability to keep adapting, whether it’s from the days when he “dropped out of Cooley High/gassed up by a cokehead cutie pie” or lessons learned as father to his teen daughter, Destiny: “She heard stories of her daddy thuggin’/so if her husband is a gangster, can’t be mad, I love him.”
For years, Jay Z was seen as the emcee business archetype. However, in the last 5 years, Nas has quietly been making amazing business moves. Queensbridge Venture Partners has investments in over 40 tech startups. He has invested in companies such as Lyft, Dropbox, Coinbase and Tradesy and LANDR. His firm concentrates on people and ideas, makes very careful investments and invests in around 20 new projects per year. He also has strategic relationships with Bevel, Fila and Hennessey. He has, as you would expect, quietly and humbly amassed $20 Million in wealth and prestige that has reinvigorated and reinvented his place in hip-hop. However, with the companies that could go public soon, like Lyft his net worth will likely explode and bang, he may even officially be Hip Hop’s first true billionaire!
- Studio albums
- Illmatic (1994)
- It Was Written (1996)
- I Am… (1999)
- Nastradamus (1999)
- Stillmatic (2001)
- God’s Son (2002)
- Street’s Disciple (2004)
- Hip Hop Is Dead (2006)
- Untitled (2008)
- Life Is Good (2012)
- Collaboration albums