Nasir "Nas" Jones
Nasir Jones, known professionally as Nas, rose to prominence in the music world of the 1990s on the way to becoming widely recognized as one of the most influential and outspoken performers in urban culture. The Queens, NY-born son of jazz musician Olu Dara, Nas stirred critical waves with his first album, Illmatic, in 1994. The record signaled a stylistically new, innovative voice and eventually became the first of what would be eight platinum records. Follow-up records drew less critical laud, obscured at points by a sniping rivalry with fellow New York artist Jay-Z, but Nas became a minor renaissance man, spearheading offshoot projects by other artists, collaborating with director Hype Williams on the 1998 crime drama "Belly," and producing, scripting and starring in the indie drama "Sacred is the Flesh" (2001). He reestablished critical darling status with early 2000s albums God's Son, Hip Hop is Dead and, most particularly, his politically charged 2008 untitled release. As he matured, he used his public platform to challenge the continued racial stratification in the U.S. and the oligopoly of the music industry by engaging in wars-of-words both with African-American leaders and, in a much-publicized feud, reactionary commentator Bill O'Reilly. Nas rose from the humblest of roots to make himself one of the best-respected artists of his genre, credited with altering the rhythmic flow of hip-hop, as well as a true poet of his generation.