AZ Planning Next Solo LP, Group Effort With Nas

Duet with Nas already in can for 9 Lives follow-up.

Nobody knows it more than AZ — it's time to deliver the masterpiece that will generate platinum sales to go with its critical acclaim. And before he can get around to recording another group effort — he's talking to Nas, one of his partners in the Firm, about doing that now — AZ wants to step up to the plate with his fourth solo LP.

"Once again, they let me in the game," the Brooklyn native said earlier this month of the follow-up to his last album, 9 Lives. "This album means a lot to me. I'm hoping it does what it's supposed to do. This one, to me, it's my best album. You really get to know AZ."

Back in 1994, when we were initially introduced to AZ, "the Visualiza," on Nas' "Life's a Bitch," he seemed destined to be the next great MC. His words embodied the picture-painting insight of Nas, and he flowed with that Brooklyn swagger Jay-Z, who didn't emerge until two years later, has personified. But AZ's career has been hampered by label problems, bootlegging, friction with his crew and at times admittedly being unfocused when it comes to making music (see "AZ Returns In May With Nine Lives").

Now, AZ says he's clearheaded, has all bases covered and is gearing to drop his next album, hopefully this June. "I think I really hit my apex," he said. "I think I'm gonna self-title the album and call it AZaddict."

AZ is almost at the halfway point of recording and has been in the lab with producers such as DJ Premier and Bink (Mr Cheeks' "Lights, Camera, Action"). He hopes to line up Jill Scott for a guest spot and has already recorded another duet with Nas.

"We locked it through the whole song like that, just like we did on the last verse on ["The Flyest"] off his [Stillmatic] album," he said of the interchangeable wordplay he and Nas display on the still-untitled track. "The whole song, we're going back and forth.

"The love was there," he added. "A lot of chemistry. He's got his way of doing things, I've got my way. When we're locked in, it's harmony. We're even looking forward to doing an album together at the end of this year."

Nas echoed AZ's sentiments. "I'm a person that just likes to work no matter what status [the person is], and [AZ is] a brother of mine," he said. "We had a nice chemistry in the beginning, and that's somebody I'd like to see take it to where they gotta go. AZ is the type of person that wants to do it, but he's just gotta put super effort into it, and then he's there. If he shows me he really wants to do it, then I'm with [making an album with him]."

Aside from the song with Nas, AZ said he's completed a track called "Each Day I Cry," where he raps about some of the supportive fan letters he gets, and another cut titled "I Just Wanna."

"That's real emotional," he said. "That's the one I want Jill Scott on. It's saying, 'I wanna be here when people start recognizing me for what I'm worth.' I don't wanna die for people to go back to my track record and be like, 'A was really one of the top 10 [MCs].' "