American rapper Nas was born Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones in Queens, New York on September 14, 1973 to jazz musician Olu Hara and Fannie Ann Jones. He was musically inclined from his childhood and began playing the trumpet at the age of 4. He initially wanted to be a jazz musician but turned to rap after his neighbor Willy Graham introduced him to it. His parents divorced when he was 12, and he dropped out of high school in 8th grade. However, he continued to learn and expand his outlook by reading books about different cultures and places. He experienced the harsh realities of living on the streets at a young age, which has deeply influenced his music.
He first adopted the name of “Kid Wave” but later changed it to “Nasty Nas” before finally settling for Nas. He became a street artist and in 1992, secured a record deal with Columbia Records with the help of MC Serch of the American hip hop group 3rd Bass. His first album was released in 1994, titled “Illmatic”. It gained positive reviews from critics and reached No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 200 charts. Two years later, he released his second album titled “It Was Written” which reached the No. 1 position on the U.S. Albums charts. The album included performances by the rap group that Nas had formed under Dr. Dre’s label Aftermath, and the group included AZ, Foxy Brown and Cormega. Capitalizing on his success, he quickly released a third album titled “I Am…The Autobiography” in April 1999 which included collaborations with several famous artists such as P. Diddy, DMX, Aaliyah and Scarface. The album was also critically acclaimed and reached the No. 1 position of the Billboard Hot 200 charts.
For his fourth album, Nas planned to re-release his last album with the new title of “Nastradamus” but eventually abandoned the idea and decided to produce all new tracks for the album. It was recorded, produced and released in just 7 months but did not reach the top of the charts as Nas had hoped. Instead it peaked at No. 7 and received mixed reviews from critics. His fifth album “Stillmatic” performed much better; it reached the No. 5 position on Billboard Hot 200 and No. 1 position on the R&B/Hip Hop Albums charts and included collaborations with Mary J. Blige and Amerie. A year later he released his 6th album titled “God’s Son” which included more serious themes such as religion, violence and his childhood suffering. Although it reached the top of the R&B/Hip Hop Albums charts, it only managed to climb to No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 200 charts.
Undeterred, Nas released his 7th album, this time paying much more attention to the critics’ responses. The album was titled “Street’s Disciple” and it received rave reviews, especially his song “These Are Our Heroes” which made jabs at the controversies surrounding celebrities such as Kobe Bryan and O. J. Simpson. During this time, he had a falling out with fellow rapper Jay-Z but the two still collaborated on his next album “Hip Hop Is Dead”. The album also included performances by will.i.am, Kanye West, Kelis, Chrisette Michele, The Game and Snoop Dogg. It became his second album to reach the top of the Billboard Hot 200.
He then planned to release an album titled “Nigger” but pressure from critics, fans and investors forced him to withdraw the title. Nas was outraged and released the album as “Untitled” featuring a picture of him on the cover turning his back as a sign of silent protest for being creatively leashed. It received positive reviews from critics and reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 200, R&B/Hip Hop and Rap Albums Charts. His album “Distant Relatives” was released in 2010, which was a collaborative effort with reggae musician Damian Marley. Nas has a daughter with Carmen Bryan and was married to American singer Kelis, but the couple is now divorced.