Beginning with his classic debut, Illmatic (1994), Nas stood tall for years as one of New York City's leading rap voices, outspokenly expressing a righteous, self-empowered swagger. He battled numerous adversaries, none more challenging than Jay-Z, who vied with him for the vacated throne left in the wake of the Notorious B.I.G.'s assassination. Such headline-worthy drama informed Nas' provocative rhymes, which he delivered with both a masterful flow and a wise perspective. Throughout all the ups (the acclaim, popularity, and success) and downs (the expectations, adversaries, and over-reaching), Nas continually matured as an artist, evolving from a young street disciple to a vain all-knowing sage to a humbled, godly teacher. ~ Jason Birchmeier
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