Long Island, N.Y., rapper Nas topped the Billboard 200 albums
chart with his second LP, It Was Written (1996), during its
first week of release.
Nas has built a successful hip-hop career by emphasizing the beats and
inventive lyrics, rather than focusing on violence.
Nas was born Nasir Jones 26 years ago today on Long Island. He began
grooving to hip-hop music as a preteen and heavily immersed himself in
Nas' recording debut was "Live at the BBQ," an all-star track from
Main Source's Breaking Atoms (1991). Urb Magazine said that
"unlike the usual bragging and boasting of new MCs, Nas' rhymes walked
that thin line between genius and insanity."
Former 3rd Bass rapper MC Serch was impressed with the demo Nas put
together in an effort to secure a solo record deal. Serch arranged for
Nas to record "Half Time" for the 1992 soundtrack to the movie
"Zebrahead." The successful cut enabled Nas to get a contract with
Nas' 1994 debut LP, Illmatic, drew attention for his Jackson
5-influenced hip-hop that was noticeably lacking much of the violence
found in the songs of his rap contemporaries. Nas examined urban
issues on such tracks as "N.Y. State of Mind" and "Life's a Bitch."
The album paved the way for the enormous success of Nas' It Was
Written. The Brooklyn-based Trackmasterz produced much of the
effort, which included "If I Ruled the World," featuring Lauryn Hill,
and "Affirmative Action," which included the group of MCs known as the
Firm. Nas collaborated with Dr. Dre on "Nas Is Coming," a call to end
the violence between East Coast and West Coast rappers.
It Was Written also contained two cuts, including "Live Niggas
Rap," produced by Mobb Deep. "Black Girl Lost" featured Jo Jo of
In 1997 the Firm, featuring AZ and Foxy Brown, issued The Firm
The Album. Nas was credited as executive producer under the name Nas
Escobar. It featured tracks such as "Fuck Somebody Else" and "Five Minutes
Earlier this year, Nas followed up the smash album with I Am ...,
which came with a cover depicting Nas as a gold-plated pharaoh. It spawned
the DJ Premier-produced single "Nas Is Like."
The LP's "Hate Me Now" featured Sean "Puffy" Combs and "Favor for a
Favor" (RealAudio excerpt)
is a teaming with Scarface.
Other birthdays: Peter Agnew (Nazareth), 53; Jon "Bowser" Baumann
(Sha Na Na), 52; Barry Cowsill (Cowsills), 45; Steve Berlin (Los Lobos),
44; Morton Harket (A-Ha), 40; Craig Montoya (Everclear), 31; Steve
Gaines (Lynyrd Skynyrd), 1949-1977; and Paul Kossoff (Free), 1950-1976.