Top 10 Nas Songs

Script by Tiffany Ezuma. Born the son of a jazz musician, Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones began his music career in 1994 and has gone on to receive near universal acclaim. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we are counting down our picks for the Top 10 Nas Songs. For this list, we have chosen our entries based on a combination of the artist’s fan favorites and their most commercially successful songs. Special thanks to our users Marlon Jacques, Al Bebak, and Emmanuel Strong-Hall for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Born as Nasir Jones, he hit the rap scene in the early ‘90s and changed it for the better. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Nas Songs.

For this list, we’ve chosen our entries based on a combination of the artist’s fan favorites and their most commercially successful songs.

#10: “Life’s a Bitch” feat. AZ
Illmatic (1994)

This song is one of the best examples of Nas’s realistic portrayals of street life crossed with the theme of hope. He rhymes passionately about the unfairness and uncertainty of tomorrow, using it as a reason to explain “why we get high.” AZ further elevates Nas’ message about wanting a release from street life. The song’s beat has a smooth, jazz-influenced sound, not typical for early gangsta rap and this sets Nas apart from his contemporaries.

#9: “Nas Is Like”
I Am… (1999)

With a beautiful, orchestral beat paired with the scratching of a record in the background, Nas chronicles his rise from street rapper to king of the scene in this single from I Am… A top 40 single on the Billboard Hot Rap and R&B/Hip Hop charts, the song has been praised for his lyrics, including the similes Nas uses to illustrate how prolific he is as a rapper. The self-proclaimed “thug poet” likens himself as “sex to a nympho,” among other things, while DJ Premier’s producer’s touch completes the picture.

#8: “Made You Look”
God’s Son (2002)

This single has one of the most recognizable beats in rap history – but Nas is a skilled enough MC that it doesn’t overwhelm him. Case in point: “Made You Look”’s chorus, in which he brings some of the nastiest disses: “you a slave to a page in my rhyme book.” Nas further allows his wordplay to shine through when he stops the beat and closes out the song with his lyrics. Thanks to its old-school approach, the God’s Son track is also a fan favorite.

#7: “Ether”
Stillmatic (2001)

Continuing his beef with Jay-Z, Nas proves that he’s the rightful king of New York here. On “Ether,” he leaves no stone unturned, calling out Jay for being fake and stealing from him as well as Biggie. Nas’ language is violent, graphic, and deeply personal with the rapper even insulting Jay’s appearance. The Stillmatic track came at a crucial time in his career, after many believed that his best works were behind him, and helped Nas make his comeback after the weak reception of his previous record, Nastradamus.

#6: “It Ain’t Hard to Tell”
Illmatic (1994)

Featuring samples from Michael Jackson, Kool & the Gang and more, “It Ain’t Hard to Tell” features a unique east coast and hardcore hip hop sound courtesy of Nas and his producer Large Professor. Lyrically, it’s one of his strongest efforts, proving he can say so much in so little time. In fact, his words have become a hip hop staple; they’ve been sampled by countless other rappers, including Kanye West and Mobb Deep.

#5: “The Message”
It Was Written (1996)

While Nas gets his inspiration from many different sources, in “The Message,” he samples himself, taking lines from his 1994 track “N.Y. State of Mind.” Throughout the rest of the song, Nas chronicles the thug’s life: drive-bys, drug dealing, and being mistreated by the police. The It Was Written single also serves as a diss track to both Tupac and Biggie, both of whom he had a long-standing feud with. Though it was only released as a single in France, it became and remains an underground hit.

#4: “One Mic”
Stillmatic (2001)

On this four-and-half-minute tune, Nas brings it back to basics and proves a great MC only needs a mic and something important to say for a good song. He raps over a simplistic, bass heavy beat that transforms into the sound of sirens as the beat builds. Meanwhile, the lyrics contain strong religious allusions, with the rapper comparing his life to Jesus Christ and looking at the hard choices he’s made to get off the streets. Hitting the top 50 of the Hot 100, it’s introspective, reflective rap at its best.

#3: “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)” feat. Lauryn Hill
It Was Written (1996)

When you pair two of the most thoughtful artists in hip-hop, you get a standout single like this one. Nas imagines a world without racism, hatred, and poverty—a world where all are free to pursue their dreams. His idealism paid off as it became his first mainstream hit, landing him a spot within the top 60 of the Billboard Hot 100 as well as a Grammy nod for Best Rap Solo Performance.

#2: “The World Is Yours”
Illmatic (1994)

There’s only one word that can be used to describe this song: smooth. With a relaxed, jazzy beat and the repetition of “whose world is this?”, the song creates an optimistic atmosphere and message for his listeners. The Illmatic track is easily considered one of the best hip hop songs ever and has been sampled by many artists, including Jay-Z and Lil Wayne. Inspired by the crime drama “Scarface,” “The World Is Yours” was a top 40 Billboard Hot Rap Tracks too.

Before we unveil our number one pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “Memory Lane (Sittin’ in da Park)” Illmatic (1994)
- “I Gave You Power” It Was Written (1996)
- “Rewind” Stillmatic (2001)
- “One Love” Illmatic (1994)
- “Daughters” Life Is Good (2012)

#1: “N.Y. State of Mind”
Illmatic (1994)

This song pairs a heavy, jazz-inspired beat with gritty-yet-realistic content. On Nas’ two incredible verses, he boasts about his rapping prowess, and opens listeners up to the true nature of life in New York’s ghettos. Though Nas later cited “Streets of New York” by Kool G Rap as his primary influence, the final product is something wholly original to Nas and one of the rapper’s finest pieces.

Do you agree with our list? Which Nas song is your favorite? For more can’t miss Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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