Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, popularly known as Nas, was born on September 14, 1973. The award-winning American rapper Nas is among the most influential rappers. With 14 studio albums to date, he has risen to the ranks as a trailblazer in the hip hop genre with his expressive lyrics and performances, inspiring fans and rappers worldwide. Additionally, he has been at the center of several news-making scandals, all of which have boosted his star appeal. Celebrate the artist’s birthday with some trivia and insights into his spectacular life and career.
Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones
Nas, Escobar, Nasty Nas
September 14, 1973
Considered one of the greatest and most influential rappers of all time, Nas has amassed the praise of peers, critics, and fans worldwide. He was born on September 14, 1973, in Brooklyn, New York, as Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones. His father, Olu Dara, is a jazz and blues musician, while his mother, Fannie Ann, was a U.S. postal service worker. Jabari Fret, his brother, is a rapper who performs under the alias Jungle.
When he was still young, his family moved to Queens, where he attended a public school. After his parents’ divorce in 1985, he dropped out of school in eighth grade and went on to educate himself in African culture. During childhood, he developed an interest in music, playing the trumpet, and composing rhymes. After becoming acquainted with his neighbor Willy ‘Ill Will’ Graham, he began performing as Kid Wave until settling on the stage moniker Nasty Nas. In 1989, after a meeting with record producer and rapper Large Professor, Nas began to record material in a studio but never released any of the music produced there. It was in 1991 that Nas commenced his career when he performed as one of the vocalists on the song ‘Live at the Barbeque’ on American/Canadian hip hop group Main Source’s debut album. This brought him to the attention of rap artists and producer M.C. Serch, who sought Nas out, and in 1992, became his manager.
Later that year, he was signed on by Columbia Records for a record deal and also made his solo debut in a single ‘Halftime,’ which was part of the original soundtrack for the 1992 movie “Zebrahead.” His original lyrics for the single instantly gained popularity, and he became a rising star. Then, in 1994, he released his debut studio album, “Illmatic,” which was labeled the best hip hop album by many in the media. 1995 was a year of significant transitions in his career as he moved on to a new manager, began work on a new album, and did guest performances on albums of other famous rap artists, including A.Z., The Infamous Mobb, and Kool G. Rap. In 1996, his second studio album, “It Was Written,” was released, and its single ‘If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)’ topped the Billboard 200 Pop and R&B charts.
The music video for the song, released later that year, established Nas as a household name in the hip hop genre. In the same year, Nas became part of the American hip hop supergroups Firm and Group Therapy. In 1998, he co-wrote and starred in the movie “Belly,” a crime drama, while working on a new double album. Nas first released “I Am” in 1999, then his fourth album, “Nastradamus,” — both garnered average acclaim. The same year, he founded a record label, Ill Will Records, named after his childhood friend Willy ‘Ill Will’ Graham, who was killed in 1992. Under the brand, he released a compilation album in 2000, “Nas and Ill Will Records Presents QB’s Finest,” featuring artists from the Queensbridge projects. In 2001, Nas became the center of a controversy involving fellow American rapper Jay-Z, as a bitter feud between them became public.
Both artists released songs that were critical of one another, and listeners judged that Nas had won the argument with the better song, ‘Ether,’ in a radio poll taken in 2001. The song also featured on Nas’ fifth studio album, “Stillmatic,” which became a big smash and debuted at number five on the Billboard 200 chart. In 2002, Columbia Records released an album of his unreleased songs to critical praise. Later the same year, Nas also released “God’s Son,” which “TIME Magazine” named the ‘best hip-hop album of the year.’
The single ‘I Can’ from the album is Nas’ biggest hit single to date and established him as a legend in the hip hop industry. Nas entered a new stage of his career after releasing “Street’s Disciple,” a second album, in 2004 and reconciling with Jay-Z in 2005. In 2006, he signed on to Jay-Z’s Def Jam Recordings and released his eighth album, “Hip Hop is Dead,” which became his third number one album.
In late 2009, he dropped his new album, a collaboration with reggae artist and son of Bob Marley, Damian Marley, called “Distant Relatives.” His 11th studio album, “Life is Good,” was released in 2011 and was rated as a gamechanger for his career. In 2016, he turned executive producer for the Netflix musical drama series “The Get Down,” also narrating and starring in it. His 12th studio album, “Nasir,” was released in 2018 and became his 12th top-10 album in the U.S. In 2020, he released his 13th album, “King’s Disease,’ which also won him his first Grammy. A sequel to the album, “King’s Disease II,” was released in 2021 and became his best release since 2012. Then, in 2021, he released his new album, “Magic,” to enormous acclaim and chart-topping success. In 2022, he performed at the Grammys, marking the 20th year of his successful album “God’s Son.”
Throughout his career, Nas has gained an immense fan following for his thought-provoking lyrics detailing life on the streets. From politics to education, drug abuse, hope, and other themes, Nas covered issues that caught the imagination of the youth. As much as he was praised for his music, he was also known for his publicized romances with ex-fiancee Carmen Bryan, Nicki Minaj, Marie J. Blige, and ex-wife Kelis Rogers as well as his feuds with Jay-Z, 2Pac, and Doja Cat, among others.
He has two children from his previous relationships, a son and a daughter. He is also a successful businessman and venture capitalist, mainly investing in tech startups. Wherever he performs, fans turn up in massive numbers, cementing his position as one of the greatest rap artists of all time.
The album marks Nas’s commercial debut on the single ‘Live at the Barbeque.’
Impressed by his debut, Columbia Records signs him on for a record deal.
At just 19 years of age, Nas releases his first album, “Illmatic,” which becomes a massive hit.
His second studio album, “It Was Written,” is released and features the song ‘If I Ruled the World (Imagine That),’ which reaches the top of the Billboard 200 pop and R&B albums chart.
For the single ‘If I Ruled the World (Imagine That),’ Nas earns his first Grammy nomination in the ‘Best Rap Solo Award’ category.
Sparking off a significant moment in his career, Nas’ feud with Jay-Z goes public, with both artists releasing songs dissing each other.
“God’s Son” becomes a big hit and is declared the best hip hop album of the year by “TIME” magazine.
After 15 nominations, Nas wins his first Grammy Award for ‘Best Rap Album’ for “King’s Disease.”
Why We Love Nas
He is one of the greatest
If not the greatest, Nas is undoubtedly one of the greatest rappers of all time, having been acknowledged by media and fans too. His path-breaking lyrics, poetic ability, and hits have established him as a force to be reckoned with in the hip-hop genre.
He supports causes wholeheartedly
Nas is one of the famous rappers who has supported a variety of charities with the most generosity. He contributes to several charitable organizations involved with music, assisting the poor, and supporting UNICEF's work in Africa.
He is not afraid of speaking his mind
His lyrics and public feuds with other rappers and musicians all point to his outspoken nature. However, Nas frequently uses his lyrics and voice to bring attention to topics that affect the general public.
5 Surprising Facts
Amy Winehouse sang a song about him
British singer-songwriter Winehouse’s hit song ‘Me and Mr. Jones’ is based on Nas.
He was suspended from school
Nas was suspended from school in the seventh grade when he used a pencil to stab a friend.
Harvard established a fellowship in his name
The Nasir Jones Hip Hop Fellowship, established in 2013, funds scholars and artists associated with the genre of hip hop.
He is a fan of Everton F.C.
A sports buff, Nas avidly follows football and has declared that Everton F.C. is his favorite club.
He sold a painting for $14,000
In 2011, a work he painted for Art Basel Miami was auctioned off and sold for a whopping $14,000, which was all donated to charity.
Is Nas the rapper Indian?
No. Nas is an American with African-American ancestry from his parents.
Is Nas a millionaire?
Yes. Nas is a multi-millionaire rapper and entrepreneur.
Why is Nas famous?
The Grammy-winning rapper has acquired fame for his expressive lyrics detailing inner-city life and is today one of the most influential rappers.
Nas’s birthday dates