Nas' 10 Greatest Concept Songs

When it comes to concept rap songs, Nas is king. He has channeled a gun, rapped backwards, and kicked knowledge from the viewpoint of a prison cell. Here are Nas' 10 best concept songs.

of 10

"Fried Chicken"

(Photo © Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images)

Taken from his controversial Untitled album, "Fried Chicken" is a concept song in the vein of "I Gave You Power." Nas and Busta Rhymes personalize deep-fried poultry, making thousands of listeners salivate in the process.

of 10


(Photo © Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

Nas narrates childbirth through the eyes of a…yes, fetus. It's a challenging listen at first, but God's Son has the skill to pull it off. "I existed in the womb, just like an abyss. Came from behind the sun, my hands balled in a fist. Punchin' my mom's stomach, kickin' on her cervix."

of 10

"Who Killed It?"

(Photo © Andrew H. Walker/Getty)

Dismantling the apparatus of mediocrity is a tough job. Nas is glad to oblige. After declaring hip-hop dead, Nas dons his best James Cagney impression and embarks on a quest to find hip-hop's killer.

of 10

"Last Words"

Nas is like...
(Photo © Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

Nastradamus is arguably the most maligned album in Nas' discography. It did, however, manage to sell over a million copies and spawn a few surprises. One of them is "Last Words," in which Nas raps from the perspective of a prison cell: "My nickname the can, the slammer, the big house. I'm the place many fear cause there's no way out. I take the sun away put misery instead. When you with me most folks consider you dead."

Nas and Jay Z
(Photo © Frazer Harrison/Getty)

After trading jabs for a decade, Nas and Jay Z come together on "Black Republican." They don't use the song to pat each other on the back or contrive a common ground. No. They use the song to celebrate their differences. Jay is the black Republican making the ka-ching off his poetry. Nas is a black militant taking over the government. Concept song done right. More »

of 10

"Book of Rhymes"

Nas. © Def Jam

Writing is a toil rife with false starts, rough drafts, self doubt, and the occasional flash of creativity. "Book of Rhymes" peels back the window and gives us a view of Nas' writing process. He discards weak ideas but saves a sweet note to his daughter at the end of the song (how adorable). This is the side of the game we rarely get to see.

of 10

"I Gave You Power"

Rapping about gun violence wasn't exactly groundbreaking in 1996 (that was when "I Gave You Power" arrived). What's fresh, though, is Nas' smooth criminal flow. Peep the way he employs raw, descriptive metaphors throughout the song. Sure, he gives away the plot in the intro, but he still had me hanging on every word. Nas believes that this song also influenced 2Pac's "Me & My Girlfriend." Bonus brownie points, if that's true.

of 10

"2nd Childhood"

Riding Primo's sinewy drums and a smooth sample of "Born to Love," Nas reminisces about three different grownups who never quite grew up, starting with the man in the mirror.

of 10


N-A-S are the letters that spell... © Andy Sheppard/Getty Images

"Rewind" is known in hoods everywhere as "The Song Where Nas Rapped Backwards." It's a neat feat. Yes, he really kicks the whole story backwards. Do you know how tough it is to kick a story backwards and still have it make sense? I tried this technique once. Years later, my brain still hurts.

of 10

"One Love"


One of the best songs on Illmatic, "One Love" finds Nas writing a letter to incarcerated homies over Q-Tip's jazz-rap pillow.