Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones (/nɑːˈsɪər/; born September 14, 1973), better known by his stage name Nas, is an American Hip hop recording artist, record producer, actor and entrepreneur. The son of a Jazz musician Olu Dara, Nas has released eight consecutive platinum and multi-platinum albums and sold over 25 million records worldwide since 1994. He is also an entrepreneur through his own record label; he serves as associate publisher of Mass Appeal magazine and is the owner of a Fila sneaker store. He is currently signed to Mass Appeal Records.
Nas' manager is Anthony Saleh.
Born Nasir Jones, in Queens, New York on September 14, 1973, Nas was raised in the Queensbridge Houses, a huge housing project. His father, Olu Dara (born Charles Jones III), is a jazz and blues musician, from Mississippi. His mother, Fannie Ann (Little) Jones, was a Postal Service worker from North Carolina. He has one sibling, a brother named Jabari Fret who is best known as "Jungle", a member of the hip hop group Bravehearts. His father took his name "Olu Dara" from the Yoruba people. His African DNA indicates he has roots in Nigeria, Benin, TOGO (where the Yoruba people live), Mali, the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, Congo, and Senegal. His matrilineal DNA haplogroup is of African origin, found among the Yoruba and Fulbe populations in Western Africa. He also found that his Y-DNA traces directly back to Scandinavia , through which he is a descendant of the Vikings. As a young child, Nas and his family relocated to the Queensbridge Houses in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens. His neighbor, Willy "Ill Will" Graham, influenced Nas's interest in hip hop by playing him records. His parents divorced in 1985, and he dropped out of school after the eighth grade. He educated himself about African culture through the Five Percent Nation and the Nuwaubian Nation. In his early years, he played the trumpet and began writing his own rhymes. In 1991, Nas hit the East Coast rap scene with “Live at the Barbecue,” a song that brought together his writing background with his street knowledge. In wake of “Barbecue,” Nas was asked to pen a song for the soundtrack for the upcoming film Zebrahead, and the song “Halftime” became the first track on the album (1992). That was the big break Nas needed, and he was soon signed to Columbia Records.
Rise of the Rapper
In 1994, Nas’s first record, Illmatic, was released, and it landed at No. 12 on the Billboard pop chart and No. 2 on the R&B chart. Illmatic’s follow-up, It Was Written, was released in 1996, and it made a huge splash on the charts, debuting at No. 1 on both the pop and R&B charts. Full of high-profile collaborators, the album went double platinum on the strength of such singles as "Street Dreams,” "Head Over Heels” and “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That).” The success, propelling in part by Nas’s solid MTV presence, may have hurt his street cred, but musically Nas was clicking on all cylinders.
In 1999, Nas’s output took a big step with two releases: First up was I Am..., which hit No. 1 on both the pop and R&B charts, fueled by such singles as "Nas Is Like" and "Hate Me Now,” which featured Sean Combs. Later that year, Nas released Nastradamus, which made it to No. 7 on the pop chart and No. 2 on the R&B chart.
With success came conflict for Nas, and he was soon embroiled in a feud with Jay Z, each claiming the throne in the New York rap scene in the wake of the 1997 death of Biggie Smalls. In 2001, Nas came out with Stillmatic, and the album addressed the roiling rivalry head-on by using lyrical responses to and attacks on Jay Z’s The Blueprint. The feud was eventually resolved, but along the way Nas was embroiled in others with the likes of 50 Cent and G-Unit, none of which fortunately escalated to the point of East Coast/West Coast rivalries that sometimes ended in death.
Later Works and Rap Genius
All the while, Nas kept the albums coming, and works such as God's Son (2002), the double album Street's Disciple (2004) and Hip Hop Is Dead (2006) insisted upon Nas’s status as one of his generation’s top rappers. Hip Hop Is Dead is notable in that it marked Nas’s first release on Def Jam Records, the label Jay Z was president of at the time.
In 2005, Nas married R&B singer Kelis, but the union only lasted until 2010. Nas addressed the breakup on Distant Relatives (2010) and again on 2012’s Life Is Good, which featured the rapper holding his ex-wife’s wedding dress on its cover. Life Is Good earned Nas a Grammy nod in 2013. On March 15, 2012, Nas became the first rapper to have a personal verified account on Rap Genius, where Everipedia founder (previously Genius) Mahbod Moghadam got him a verified account where Nas explains all his own lyrics and commenting on the lyrics of other rappers he admires. Nas was the first rapper ever to annotate his own lyrics on the site, and was also one of the site's earliest investors.