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Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, more commonly known as Nas (formerly Nasty Nas and Escobar), born September 14, 1973 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York, is a prominent American MC. The son of jazz musician Olu Dara, he was raised in the infamous Queensbridge housing projects in Queensbridge, New York. According to the Nasty Songfacts, as a teenager rapper, Nasir first went by the nickname Kid Wave before adopting his more commonly known alias of Nasty Nas. By the time he released his landmark solo debut album Illmatic in 1994, Jones was known as Nas.

Illmatic was a critically acclaimed bestseller and is widely considered one of the greatest rap albums of all time. He married R&B singer Kelis in 2005, they have one son together, and she filed for divorce on the 29th of April 2009. Nas was also a part of hip hop supergroup The Firm, which released one album.

In the years following the release of Illmatic, Nas pursued a more commercial direction, which resulted in wider success but decreased artistic credibility among critics and hip-hop purists. Furthermore, Nas’ increased commercial success was accompanied by stylistic changes that fostered accusations of “selling out”. Nevertheless, the LP Stillmatic is often credited for restoring Nas’ credibility among fans. Since the success of Stillmatic, Nas continues to maintain a high profile within the hip hop community, and has pursued a decidedly progressive and personal aesthetic. While Nas’ current artistic direction differs greatly from his most successful work, it has ensured that he remains one of the most respected and acclaimed contemporary rappers.

1973–1992: Childhood and early career

Nas was born in Brooklyn, New York, as the elder of Olu Dara and Fannie Ann Jones’s two children; his brother Jabari (nicknamed “Jungle” because he was born in the Congo) is the younger of the two. The family lived for a time in Brooklyn, before moving to Queensbridge, the largest public housing project in the United States. Olu Dara left the household in 1986, when Nas was 13, and Ann Jones raised her two boys on her own. Nas dropped out of school in the eighth grade and began selling drugs on the streets of New York. He educated himself, reading about African culture and civilization, the Qur’an, the Bible and the Five Percent Nation. He also studied the origin of hip hop music, taping records that played on his local radio station. As a child, Nas had wanted to be an instrumentalist (at the age of three, Nas played his father’s trumpet on the step of their Brooklyn home) and also a comic book artist. Shortly after his parents separated, Nas began to write short stories as he immersed himself deeper into hip-hop culture.

By his preteen years, he had settled on pursuing a career as a rapper, and as a teenager enlisted his best friend and upstairs neighbor Willie “Ill Will” Graham as his DJ. Nas first went by the nickname Kid Wave before adopting his more commonly known alias of Nasty Nas. Nas and Graham soon met hip-hop producer and Flushing Queens resident Large Professor, who introduced Nas to his group, Main Source. In 1991, Nas made his on-record debut with a verse on “Live At The BBQ”, from Main Source’s LP Breaking Atoms. Despite the substantial buzz for Nas in the underground scene, the rapper was rejected by major labels and was not signed to a recording deal. Nas and Graham continued to work together, but their partnership was cut short when Graham was shot and killed by a gunman in Queensbridge on May 23, 1992. Read more here...
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