It feels as if Nas has been around forever, and that’s pretty much because he has. Yet, that also means he has been responsible for producing an impressive number of songs over the years in his familiar style.
Often picked out for his flow and intense lyrics/rhyme patterns, here is our list of the 21 best Nas songs of all time for your playlist needs – and perhaps even introduce yourself to this East Coast rapper.
1. Hate Me Now
This song was released in 1999, and it also features Puff Daddy. Characterized by a sense of aggression throughout the lyrics, Nas seeks to call out different groups of people throughout the song. At the same time, it contains his customary easy flow through the lyrics. Just forget about the controversy surrounding the video, as it takes so much away from a powerful rap song.
2. If I Ruled the World
The problem with Nas was that so many songs struggled to play on the radio, thanks to the lyrics and feeling in his tracks. However, that was never the case with this particular song. This song has a more effortless feel to it than most of his work, but that’s probably due to Lauryn Hill appearing in it alongside him. Many even see this as the perfect rap song with solid lyrics focusing on materialism, the smoothness of the beat is outstanding, and just pay attention to everything he has to say.
3. Take it in Blood
The bars in this song are outstanding, and this track is really one of the best from his second album, It was Written. It comes with some staggering beats and the sort of speed and heartfelt aggression typical of Nas when he feels he has to get something off his chest. Watch out, though, because this song comes with a hidden power that’s only revealed when you dive down into the lyrics.
4. One Mic
This song from 2001 is known for its power when it comes to the lyrics. It contains a whole lot of emotion throughout, which is helped by a hyped beat that meanders throughout the song. But it’s also a direct song in what it offers, which is a real rollercoaster during which Nas doesn’t simply shout out his feelings but instead takes you on that very ride with him.
5. N.Y. State of Mind
This song always comes up in a debate about the best hip hop songs ever produced, and we understand why. It goes deep with its lyrics, and the level of thought that went into each word is apparent when you look at each line. It’s packed full of imagery with distinct beats that sit perfectly with how the song is set to resonate with you.
Taken from his 2012 album, this song offers an introspective take on the relationship between a father and daughter where the father feels he has failed. It’s meaningful, and it led to Grammy nominations for Nas as a result. The vibe throughout the song is smooth so as not to take away from the point being made.
7. I Can
Nas is not afraid to spell out his thoughts and feelings in this track, and while he’s not as aggressive and angry as he perhaps could be, you still get a strong sense of that in his lyrics. His ability to create intense images through his words is outstanding, and the ease of flow is out of this world. It’s a great example of how amazing Nas is as a rapper.
8. Got Ur Self A…
Also known by the title Got Ur Self a Gun, this is another classic song by the King of the East Coast rap scene, Nas. The song actually pays respect to the slaying of both Biggie and Tupac, so it’s dealing with a raw subject, which is something Nas pulls off with some aplomb. He displays his disgust at what’s happening, and the beat signifies the anger and dismay throughout.
This song was from the It Was Written album, and it’s undoubtedly one of the better tracks on it. Nas effectively bounces his way through the verses with strong lyrics delivered with pinpoint precision. It’s astonishing to experience, and it really is the stand-out track from the album.
10. One on One
Do you know what we love about this song? The fact it was from the Street Fighter soundtrack, and that’s cool. But the track fits in perfectly with Nas and his style of rapping. Sit back and enjoy as he spits out his lines about fights and weapons, which makes sense when you consider what the song was written for. It’s fun and a complete change from what you expect from Nas.
11. One Time 4 Your Mind
This track is taken from his album, Illmatic, which is crammed full of hot tracks. This one slips under the radar a bit, and that’s a shame. This track comes with more of a mellow beat that slows things down and adds a depth of emotion and feel to it that’s different from the often frantic pace displayed in other tracks. The lyrics are deep and delivered with power and determination throughout, making this another stunning track from a fantastic album.
12. I Gave You Power
What we love about this track is that it infuses some jazz inspiration into the track, resulting in something pretty unique from Nas. This is storytelling at its best, and Nas remains in absolute control as he puts across his message for you to listen to.
Nas takes everything in reverse here, so that’s why we have included it in the list. It just pushes the boundaries of what you would expect from hip hop, and even though it has an experimental feel to it, there’s no doubt Nas shows how his creativity and skills know no bounds.
This diss track shows Nas exhibiting absolute control over his flow even when displaying his anger at different subjects. The bars in this song bounce along with the beat, giving it a depth of feeling that would have otherwise been lost if almost any other rapper out there tried to do this. It’s a stunning track throughout.
15. One Love
When you blend a perfect beat with gorgeous flows, what you get is a song like One Love. In this track, Nas comes across as philosophical and offers pearls of wisdom, while the instrumental aspect adds so much to the overall feel of the song. It’s a classic and continues to resonate with so many people.
16. Doo Rags
We love this track thanks to its sort of piano and jazz-inspired backing that gives things a whole different dimension. It’s a jumping track with a certain smoothness to it via the beat that transcends everything. Also, Nas remains at his lyrical best with a catchy flow that allows you to weave your way through the song with ease.
17. The Message
Sampling Shape of My Heart, by Sting, this song is smooth and has a luxurious feel to it thanks to the ease with which Nas delivers verse after verse. It’s clear he indeed wants to get his message across, and he allows the lyrics to speak for themselves rather than being swamped by the beat. It’s a fantastic rap song.
18. It Ain’t Hard to Tell
The beat in this song is brilliant, and so is the storytelling from Nas throughout the track. This is lyricism at its best, and Nas displays how he is a master of the art from beginning to end.
19. The World is Yours
Nas delivers some seriously smooth vocals in this track which also includes a slick piano sample before the beat takes over. Nas uses the track to deliver his own narrative on life, and it comes with a thoughtful aspect attached to it. This track meanders along without jarring you into life, and it’s stunning to listen to.
20. On the Real
We love this song as it introduces more of an old vibe to it while maintaining a feel-good factor. With solid beats and lyrical delivery, Nas gives us something of a nostalgic feel which is pretty cool and adds a sense of depth to the song. It certainly comes across as a bit of fun without too much in the way of anger or aggression about life in general.
21. I Gave You Power
This song is another one that offers a real jazz style to hip hop, and it results in a cool beat that forces you to bounce along through the song. As always, Nas over-delivers when it comes to the lyrics, but it also showcases how he is a master of his art. Starting off as if it’s in a dream, Nas then opens up to narrate his story in a way only he can manage to do. It’s a startling song and remains one of the best he has ever produced.
Barry has worked as a freelance writer for over a decade and has developed an eye for detail when it comes to unearthing cool and interesting facts.
His love of music stems from his student days checking out up and coming bands playing in the darkest corners of bars and clubs in Edinburgh.
The love of uncovering something new also remains with him. With an appreciation for music that’s best described as eclectic, his musical tastes range from Eric Clapton to Eminem through to Snow Patrol and Incubus. The memories that music can bring back to the fore is something he tries to portray in his writing.
For him, the voyage of discovery and unearthing something new is what makes this task of writing for MusicGrotto.com so interesting.