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Nasir Jones Music Appreciation

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Craig A Mims Jr.

Mr. Thompson

Music Appreciation


Nasir Jones

Nasir Jones was born to his parents Olu Dara and Ann Jones in September of 1973. Nasir was raised in the Queensbridge housing project of New York. His Father Olu Dara was well known in their community for being a Jazz musician. Due to this Nasir was influenced by music at an early. Olu taught his son to play several instruments including the trumpet. His parents love for music and art made their home a place of peace, and refuge from the chaos that surrounded them in the projects. His safe haven didn’t last long and resulted in Nas partaking in the illicit activities that consumed his neighborhood. In 1985, he dropped out of school after the eighth grade following his parents’ divorce. Nasir’s upbringing influenced him to begin using music as an outlet to express the turmoil he found himself in.

Nasir’s coming of age tale coincided with the birth of a new genre of music, Hip-Hop. By the age of 20, Nas had begun battling local rappers on street corners in his community. Nasir created a new moniker for himself “Nasty Nas”. Unlike Olu his lyrical content was dark in nature and described what he saw in the streets of New York. Nas Always had a passion for writing, which translated over well into his rhymes. He began to receive notoriety in his neighborhood for the creative metaphors, and knowledge he used in his lyrics. An older rapper named “Ill Will” was impressed by Nas’s rapping ability and decided to take him under his tutelage. In 1991, Nas tasted fame outside of his local community. Nas was featured on a song by the group Main Source called “Live at the barbecue”.  After a few more singles Nasty Nas’s lyrical ability became evident to everyone in the music industry. This recognition resulted in him being signed to Columbia records by Faith Newman and MC Serch.

After being signed to Colombia Nas went to work. All of his potential manifested into potentially the greatest album of all time “Illmatic”. The collection featured some big name producers such as DJ Premier and Q-tip. His debut album was released in April of 1994. Simply put his work was nothing short of flawlessness.  Its distinctive portrayal of inner city New York, and its unique beats guaranteed the album was a pleaser from start to finish.

True fans of Nas stood by his debut album as being his best work. Contrary to his fan-base, the world at large was mesmerized by his second album. Perhaps this was because his second album featured several of his award winning contemporaries. A few of these artists are Mobb Deep, Dr. Dre, and Lauryn Hill. His second album “It Was Written”, was released in 1996 and debuted at No. 1 on both the pop and R&B charts for nearly 2 months. Compared with debut album, “It Was Written” was comprised of more complex production. The success of the album resulted in Nas becoming a millionaire. Ultimately the album went double platinum.

After his first two albums Nas released several singles that made the billboards. His third album as a whole didn’t garnish much attention. “Nastradamus” was released in 1999 Critics said the album lacked diversity and sounded strikingly similar “Illmatic”. Perhaps the only gem that was found on the album was a single entitled “Hate me Now” which did go platinum. Later the same year Nas released another album entitled “I Am”. The album debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200, selling over 470,000 copies in its first week of sales. I Am… would later be certified double platinum in the United States, making it Nas' second best-selling release behind It Was Written. Nas’s legacy was essentially cemented after his 4th album.

Nas’s career followed the archetype of a rapper nearly to perfection. After enjoying years of success, he became entangled in a “rap beef”. His contemporary Jay Z had experienced success much like his own. At the time Jay Z and Nas were arguably the best artists in the hip-hop industry. The deaths of Christopher “Biggie” Wallace and Tupac Shakur left two vacancies at the top of hip-hop. In a competitive, testerone filled industry being amongst the top two wasn’t enough, the crown was all that mattered to both artists. The fact that both artists called New York home definitely didn’t help diffuse the rivalry. After months of feuding, Jay Z decided to throw the first punch. Jay Z released a track called “Takeover” aimed at Nas, disrespecting him and dismissing his accomplishments. Jay Z referred to Nas as a “has been” and said his reign had come to an end hence the name of the track. Subsequently Nas released his fifth album entitled “Stillmatic” a follow-up to his debut and addressed the “beef” head on. A song on the album named “Ether” shook the industry to its core. When asked why he named the song Ether Nas explained "I was told a long time ago, ghosts and spirits don't like the fumes from ether, and I just wanted to affect him with my weapon and get to his soul". Ether is a pleasant-smelling, colorless, volatile liquid that is highly flammable. The definition of the word fit the track perfectly, as it was volatile in content and exploded the industry. Nas made several homosexual slurs in reference to Jay Z and his record label. Additionally he questioned Jay Z’s credibility and threatened to escalate the dispute to a physical level. Many in the industry feared that the situation would result in a murder similar to the feud of Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace. Due to this artists in the industry quickly intervened in hopes of diffusing the situation. Ultimately the feud didn’t result in any violence and slowly fizzled out, but the question still remained who was the best lyricist in hip-hop? The answer to the question was truly subjective and was a matter of preference. After the feud, lines were drawn and fans made their choice. Eventually the two artists buried the hatchet and have collaborated quite a few times since the dispute.



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