The Top 10 Nas Albums

Esco's worst album is likely better than your favorite rapper's best

Nas has been a remarkable force in hip-hop for decades. Since the early 90s, Nasty Nas has created enough material to make him a strong contender for the hip-hop crown. Nasir Jones is just a handful of MCs who comfortably cracks most people's top ten lists. In fact, if he isn't top 10 on your list then your list is wack. He's No. 1 on mine, in case you're wondering. Need proof? Here's a rundown of Nas' best albums, ranked from worst to best.

10
of 10

Hip-Hop Is Dead

Nas - Hip-Hop Is Dead &copy Def Jam.

 On the cover of , Nas holds out a black rose, while hunkering down on a symbolic tombstone with the words "Hip-Hop Is Dead" inscribed on it. This was by far the biggest statement of his career. One notable highlight was the first ever collaboration between erstwhile rivals Nas and Jay-Z, "Black Republican."

09
of 10

Street's Disciple

Forget the unintentionally hilarious album cover for a second. Street's Disciple has a handful of classic Nas moments ("Nazareth Savage," "These Are Our Heroes"), some brilliant one-liners, and a few clunkers. The biggest issue with Street's Disciple is that it's a double album. Double albums are inherently doomed, as far as hip-hop goes. Very few MCs have enough quality material to spread across two discs. That said, some of Nas' brightest moments ("Suicide Bounce," "Virgo," "Just a Moment") can be found on this album.

08
of 10

Distant Relatives

Distant Relatives
Distant Relatives. © UMG

 Without a template to follow (no rapper has ever collaborated with a reggae artist on a full-length project), Nas and Damian Marley connect on the strength of their shared ancestry and music background. Both artists hail from music families, Nas' father Olu Dara being a jazz musician and Marley's father...well, he needs no introduction.

07
of 10

The Nigger Tape

The Nigger Tape

Nas teams up with DJ Green Lantern on this politically-charged preamble to his controversial Untitled album. While Nas exercised PR-enforced restraint on the proper album, he holds nothing back on this mixtape. This is Nas raw, uncut and unfiltered.

06
of 10

It Was Written

 It Was Written finds Nas trying to match the grit and glory of Illmatic. One of the outstanding songs from Nas' 2nd entry was "The Message," which 2Pac saw as a personal attack because of the lines "Fake thugs, no love, you get the slug" and "Across the street you was wildin, talking 'bout how you ran the Island in eighty-nine." It also featured "If I Ruled the World," a classic collaboration with then 21-year old Lauryn Hill.

05
of 10

Stillmatic

Nas - Stillmatic

 As the title suggests, Stillmatic is Nas' attempt to repeat the classic feat of Illmatic. He came pretty close, but let's just say this isn't quite Illmatic.Stillmatic arrived at the height of the legendary Nas vs. Jay-Z rivalry, so a few lines were devoted to that matter. Who am I kidding? "Ether" was devoted entirely to that topic. Other outstanding songs from Stillmatic include "2nd Childhood" and "One Mic."

04
of 10

The Lost Tapes

Nas - Lost Tapes
Nas - Lost Tapes. © Columbia

It's telling that some of Nas' best works, The Lost Tapes and The Ni--er Tape among them, are not albums in the traditional sense. Ever since he set the standard with Illmatic, Nas hasn't had much success with the album-making process. But when he has room to let his rhymes run wild, free from the form restraints of an album, Nas truly shines. This compilation of heavily bootlegged outtakes from previous albums shows a world-class MC whose worst effort is better than most people's best. Gems like "Drunk By Myself"

03
of 10

God's Son

God's Son finds Nas at his most introspective. Nas had just emerged from the fiery battle with Jay Z, endured the revelation that his ex had an affair with his rival, and worst of all, lost his own mother. Nas' mix of fortune allowed him to harness his deepest thoughts into one of the most remarkable albums of his career. Standout moments include: "Get Down," "Made You Look," "Warrior Song," and "Book of Rhymes."

02
of 10

Life Is Good

Nas Life is Good
Nas - Life is Good. © Island Def Jam

Not since Illmatic had Nas managed to combine lyrical mastery with quality production. Life is good, inspired by post-divorce blues, is Nas returning to his poetic roots, while flanked by some of the best producers around. 

01
of 10

Illmatic

Nas - Illmatic
Nas - Illmatic. © Columbia

Nas' 1994 debut revealed a young and hungry poet at his most inspired. With his borough, Queensbridge, as a constant backdrop, Nasty Nas offers vivid stories about blunt heads, fly ladies and prisoners. Equal parts bleak and hopeful; dark alleys and sun rays. "Life's a B*tch" is a celebration of youth: "I woke up early on my born day, I'm twenty years of blessin'/ The essence of adolescence leaves my body now I'm fresh'n/ My physical frame is celebrated 'cause I made it." Yet, he's clued in to the struggle ahead, as he often paints grim pictures of life in the debilitated ghettos of Queensbridge. In the end, Nas created a potent piece of poetry that still endures. The gold standard for hip-hop albums.