Nas is, without a doubt, one of the greatest rappers to ever touch a microphone. He has at worst, multiple classic albums and some of the greatest concept records ever. Heâs your favorite rapperâs favorite rapper, so ranking some of his best songs of all time is no easy featâ¦ but that isnât stopping us from trying. Below are the 29 best Nas songs of all time. Let us know what you think about our selection.
Between classic DJ Premier scratches on the chorus, Nas first tells the story of a typical child, before flipping the script and talking about a man and woman who live their life selfishly and without responsibility, comparing them to children.
While a seven-song Nas album produced by Kanye West sounds like gold on paper, the end result that came in June of 2018 left a little to be desired for many. With that being said, the standout track for many was “Adam And Eve.” The “Gol-e Yakh” sample is a perfect backdrop for Nas to do what he does best.
This song is as cinematic as Hip-Hop gets. This was the introduction to The Firm, a group that framed its members as mafiosos, which made up much of their content too. This first offering to the world is arguably still their best. The group reunited in 2020 for “Full Circle.”
Jay-Z got a lot of praise for his 2017 albumÂ 4:44Â and how it conveyed great maturity, but when it dropped, many pointed to Nas’ 2012 effortÂ Life Is GoodÂ for his own growth. “Daughters” is one of the standouts from it where Nas raps reflectively about his own fatherhood, its consequences, and more.
Wherever you stand on the “Ether” vs. “Takeover” debate, thereâs no denying that Nasâ diss track is as scathing as any to ever be recorded. It was so impactful that now, âetherâ has become common slang for destroying or ending them. It forced Jay-Z to go too far with âSupa Uglyâ and then apologize, which for many is the win itself.
A remix of the song of the same name which was set to appear onÂ I Amâ¦, the clue to this songâs concept is in what he says before he goes into the first verse. “Beginning of meâ¦ I could see through my belly button window.” Nas takes us through the thoughts of a baby in the womb.
This song samples “Woke Up This Morning” by Alabama 3, which makes perfect sense since itâs also the song used in the intro for The Sopranos. Nas was going for a mafia theme around this time. This song has no special concept like many others on this list but is a great showing of bravado.
“Hate Me Now” is one of the best anthems of all time. Itâs the perfect song to appear on soundtracks and be used as walkout music for fighters and legends like Nate Diaz and Frank Mir have done so. Getting Diddy for the chorus was incredible foresight and a great choice.
Nas himself calls “I Can” one of the most important songs heâs ever made. Heâd made so much music that his own daughter and other kids couldnât listen to by this point that he felt he owed them something that they could relate to.
WithÂ It Was Writtenâs “I Gave You Power,” Nas penned one of the greatest stories ever told in Hip-Hop. He raps from the perspective of a gun, giving it complex emotions like lust for revenge and sympathy for itself. For this song alone, Nas is immortalized.
The lead single and outro ofÂ IllmaticÂ samples Michael Jacksonâs “Human Nature,” which Nas was able to get cleared because they were both on Columbia at the time. The Large Professor beat is hypnotic and Nas weaves in and out of it with ease.
When the Jay-Z beef comes up, “Takeover” and “Ether” get mentioned, but everyone forgets about the next round of songs which on Nas’ end, saw him address it on “Last Real N*gga Alive” fromÂ Godâs Son. From a mature standpoint, he talks about Biggie, his stance on the Jay-Z beef, and more.
“Lifeâs A Bitch” often gets remembered for being the worldâs introduction to AZ and Nasâ fatherâs trumpet solo at the end, but overall, itâs an exceptional record. No matter who you think got the better of who, the song is timeless.
Nas and Mobb Deep both repped Queensbridge, so collaborations were a no-brainer. “Live N*gga Rap” is a fan favorite of the bunch. It was originally done forÂ Hell On Earth, but Nas loved it so much that he bought it from them for his own album.
When talking about this song, Nas credits it with getting Hip-Hop away from the R&B sound that it was geared towards. The Salaam Remi production here is dirty and over it, Nas delivers verses that are stellar and make up one of the signature songs in his discography.
“Memory Lane” is regarded as one of the best Hip-Hop songs of all time. Nas takes us back to his childhood where he was forced to grow up quickly, witnessing things no child should. The DJ Premier production, despite his own thoughts on it, is classic.
Arguably the best song on the arguably the best album of all time, “N.Y. State Of Mind” would be a gem in any rapperâs discography at any point in their career. The fact that Nas wrote it in his teens is unbelievable. It was made to portray to the world what was going on in New York at the time. This introspective look into the tumultuous lifestyle of a teenager struggling in the “Big Apple” is one of the hardest-hitting Nas songs ever made.
Up until this point, DJ Premier had done a bunch of classic records with Nas, but he always wanted to get his first single. “Nas Is Like” ended up being just that. On the track, Nas combines braggadocio with introspection as few others can.
Another entry from The Lost Tapes here. Over production from The Alchemist, Nas paints one of his most vivid pictures ever. If indeed no idea is original, the QB rapper does a great job of making his own stories sound fresh.
“One Mic” fromÂ StillmaticÂ is another classic in Nasir Jonesâ discography. The chorus is quiet and unassuming but the verses rise in energy and rage to a crescendo, quite like Phil Collinsâ “In The Air Tonight,” the song it samples. A fun fact: Jungle wrote the first four lines of Nasâ first verse.
For thisÂ Lost TapesÂ cut, Nas channels his inner Temptations and takes inspiration from “Papa Was A Rolling Stone.” Itâs a dedication to his father who was in his life unlike many of his friends at the time. Despite what the credits say, this song was actually produced by Kanye West.
The content of this song isnât dissimilar to a bunch of other great Nas records. He jumps from perspective to perspective, telling different stories with great detail. The catch here is that he uses the weed, a.k.a. purple, to get away from it all. The instrumentation is mellow, which suits the title of the song perfectly.
Produced by the great Jay Electronica, this beat is stripped down and features a hypnotic, melodic piano. Over it, Nas is Picasso. It serves as the intro to his Untitled album and maybe its best song. Thereâs also a very slick 50 Cent diss in here too.
When a vocal minority talks aboutÂ IllmaticÂ feeling a little monotonous with age and citing its production as a reason for that, perhaps theyâre forgetting about “Represent.” Itâs one of the more upbeat records on Nasâ debut album and a fan favorite.
“Rewind,” as the title suggests, sees Nas telling a story backward. It starts with a bullet leaving a gun and goes from there. The song is really impactful when you read the lyrics from the end. Creatively, on the only part of the song that doesnât feature a quote backward, the beat is in reverse instead.
Even if youâre not a big Nas fan (for some reason), you might know “The Message.” Itâs the opening song onÂ It Was WrittenÂ but itâs more well known for being a song that offended 2Pac enough to diss Nas. Nas later confirmed that he was actually dissing Biggie in the song. With that side though, itâs yet another example of some of the best storytelling and picture painting in Hip-Hop.
“Whose world is this?” Pete Rock asks in the chorus. Nas responds “itâs mine.” Itâs a reference to Scarface, to which this song and its accompanying music video both pay homage. Even if youâve never heard this song, youâve heard something directly influenced by it. There’s no doubt in my mind that this Golden Era Hip-Hop gem is one of Nas’ best songs of all time.
The last song onÂ I Amâ¦Â is “Undying Love,” a cruel tale about infidelity. But of course, this is Nas and nothing is ever as simple as that. He paints the picture of himself in Vegas, staying loyal to his girl, only to find her in bed with another man when he gets home. Itâs beautifully done and will leave you staring into the abyss for a minute or two after you listen.
On perhaps my favorite song of his, Nas spits over Large Professor production and a chorus that actually says “sugarman,” but sounds like “youâre da man.” The verses are some of his most poetic. In the second, he utters “I saw a dead bird flying through a broken sky,” which could genuinely be mistaken for Shakespeare.