For many fans and artists alike, Nas’s 1994 debut Illmatic ranks among the top Hip Hop albums ever created. Now, in honor of the God’s Son’s impending album Life is Good, Complex flipped the script and asked the QB emcee to name his 25 favorite LPs.
Although Nas included cuts like Marvin Gaye’s Here, My Dear and MC Shan’s Down By Law, perhaps one of his most notable picks is former foe Jay-Z’s debut Reasonable Doubt. He said that even as Hova was dropping his debut back in ’96, he could tell that he was cut from the same cloth as the Notorious B.I.G. and himself, and that Jay wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
“I seen this kid Jay, I already knew he was nice. I’m watching him come into the game and he delivered a lyrical album, a street album, and he grabbed his spot,” he recalled. “A lot of people couldn’t do that. A lot of people that were putting out albums around the time Reasonable Doubt dropped are no longer around. He staked his claim. He showed everyone he was nice with his lyrics, he was nice with it. He came in the tradition of the New York streets, the way I did, the way Biggie did. He came in that way and he’s been holding it down ever since. If you listen to Reasonable Doubt, he made it happen.”
Nas also name-checked Boogie Down Productions’s 1987 debut Criminal Minded. Although it was hard for him to admit given that BDP’s “Bridge Wars” rivals the Juice Crew hailed from his native Queensbridge, the fact that they managed to make such a splash on the scene at an independent level deserves respect. He also stated that KRS-One is a revolutionary emcee who up and coming artists should study.
“The artists today are spoiled and they want to go from nobody to the best who ever did it. It’s foolishness,” he explained. “Criminal Minded, KRS-One was the streets coming after the empire of rap, the Juice Crew, without the major backing that the Juice Crew had. You know this takes a lot for me to say [that] because The Juice Crew was founded in my projects, but I gotta keep it real and give credit where credit is due. When KRS-One made the classic Criminal Minded—he didn’t need Warner Brothers, he didn’t need MCA records. He did it with an independent label. That’s why I say people show study him because here you are coming out with a classic album on an independent label, so did MC Shan. Cold Chillin’ was not a major label when Shan put out Down By Law. Artists today don’t see that entrepreneurship, they don’t live it. They claim to be the streets yet they’re looking for superstar record deals.”
He added, “I feel like young artists should study KRS-One because here he is, a strong voice in Hip Hop and he started off independent. I just feel like that’s a real street movement. I don’t see real street movements like that in New York anymore. I see people claiming to be the streets but I don’t see real street movements like that anymore. Big up to KRS.”