Five Great Nas Songs You May Have Missed
Tonight, hip-hop legend Nas will be sitting down with Rolling Stone contributing editor Anthony Decurtis at the 92Y for a discussion on his lengthy, important and influential career. For over 20 years, Nas, with his innovative writing style and signature delivery, has contributed some of the most celebrated works in rap. From his lauded debut Illmatic through unforgettable singles like "Ether" and "Made You Look," Nas' presence in hip-hop is unmistakable. While they'll have plenty of his critically acclaimed works to discuss, we thought this occasion would be a good time to discuss some stellar Nas performances that go far-too-often overlooked.
MC Serch featuring Red Hot Lover Tone, Nas and Chubb Rock "Back to the Grill Again," 1992
Much has been written about Nas' first recorded appearance on Main Source's 1991 posse cut "Live at the Barbecue." One of rap's most dazzling debuts, Nas' then-manager and former one-half of 3rd Bass MC Serch attempted to recreate the magic for his solo album's posse cut "Back to the Grill Again." A spiritual successor in both title and certain parallels in Nas' verses ("When I was 12 I went to Hell for snuffing Jesus" seems to go hand-in-hand with "I'm waving automatic guns at nuns."), it's one of the few fleeting glimpses we have of an unrefined sinister Nas pre-Illmatic.
"One on One," 1994
The same year Nas dropped his masterpiece debut Illmatic, he had a song on the surprisingly dope Street Fighter soundtrack. Also featuring new music from Ice Cube, the Pharcyde and LL Cool J, the hip-hop compilation justified its movie tie-in by referencing either the movie, the video game or the act of fighting in the street itself at some point in each song. Nas' "One on One" is a cold exploration of how the introduction of weapons changes one's life. Here, an unarmed Nas' first verse is cut short as he gets robbed. The second verse follows Nas, now with a gun, confident and no longer suffering the same problems. The final verse abruptly ends early once the protagonist is ambushed and killed. "One on One" is a well constructed nuanced parable that manages to not be noticeably tarnished by the inclusion of the line "I brawl with Blanka / caught Bison in the thinker."