Nas, the legendary rapper from Queensbridge, has a storied history in hip-hop that’s peppered with an array of iconic collaborations. His emphatic lyricism, penetrating narratives and indelible influence on the genre have been amplified by the dynamic synergy he’s harnessed with other artists. This list is a careful examination of the spark that’s generated when Nas merges his lyrical prowess with the unique talents of collaborators like Lauryn Hill, AZ, Q-Tip, Eminem, Diddy, among others, fanning the flames of hip-hop’s evolving soundscape.
Nas’s discography weaves together unique sound profiles, potent storytelling, and the relentless pursuit of hip-hop innovation. The raw energy within his collaborations with artists like Big Sean, Don Toliver, and 50 Cent, juxtaposes with the soul-searching flows of his work with luminaries like Amy Winehouse and Kanye West. These collabs highlight the many facets of Nas’s artistry – from the street-side storyteller to the introspective muse, tracing the trajectory of his impressive career.
Nas has collaborated with the following artists:
- Amy Winehouse
- Beastie Boys
- Big Sean
- Don Toliver
- Ms. Lauryn Hill
- Fivio Foreign
- Damian Marley
- A$AP Ferg
- A$AP Rocky
- DJ Premier
- 50 Cent
- Lil Wayne
- Foxy Brown
- 21 Savage
- Kanye West
- Chrisette Michele
- Olu Dara
So let’s get into it. From “Adam and Eve” to “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)”, here are the Best of Nas’ collaborations ranked.
20. Cherry Wine
It’s a mellow joint that explores Nas’ quest for a meaningful connection beyond materialistic desires, a common theme in his discography. He traces his idea of an ideal partner – someone who’s as real as he, not starstruck by fame or fortune, and also deeply committed to societal wellbeing. Nas skillfully intertwines desires of companionship with reflections on societal ills, the pitfalls of fame, and personal introspections. The rapper evokes a sense of loneliness and longing, invoking powerful imagery with the repeated motif of coming home to a missing partner and ‘red and cherry wine’. Despite a tinge of melancholy, the song paints an optimistic picture as Nas affirms ‘life is good’.
19. Oochie Wally – Remix
The lyrics revel in graphic sexual escapades, casting Nas and his crew as unabashed playboys. The song emphasizes a raw carnality, reminiscent of the cruder side of the bling era, filled with braggadocio about sexual prowess, and lustful escapades. The chorus is hypnotically catchy with its “oo-chie wally wally, oo-chie bang bang” repeatedly, creating an infectious hook that resonates even if the content is a far cry from Nas’s more thoughtful offerings. This excursion into hedonistic territory is punctuated by explicit narratives and tongue-in-cheek humor, marking it as a notably divisive entry in Nas’s discography. In essence, “Oochie Wally – Remix” is Nas letting his hair down, surrendering to the explicit, party-fuelled vibe of the late ’90s and early ’00s hip-hop scene.
18. You Owe Me (feat. Ginuwine)
The silky smooth sounds of r’n’b crooner Ginuwine add a different flair to this Nas hit, showcasing the versatility of the Queensbridge luminary. Lyrically, “You Owe Me” has Nas in full Don persona, painting a picture of lavish living and high-rolling that’s as engaging as it is captivating.
The essence of the track lies in the idea of reciprocity. Nas, in his suave style, uses owed debts as metaphors for the game of seduction, intertwined with references to socio-political issues. Throughout the song, he interweaves the narrative of being owed something– whether it’s tax, rent, or a girl’s attention. The song captures Nas at his playboy best, combining his slick lyricism and storytelling with Ginuwine’s melodic hooks to create a hip-hop classic.
17. Replace Me (feat. Big Sean & Don Toliver)
Hitting hard on the topic of irreplaceability, Nas demonstrates his trademark storytelling prowess, delving into the complexities of personal connections and emotional evolutions. He uses vivid imagistic language, symbolizing his unique value in the relationship and challenging the capability of any potential replacement.
Big Sean and Don Toliver add their unique flavors to the track, extending on Nas’ narrative and further adding to the song’s rich tapestry. Sean’s verses balance introspective thoughts with shellacked braggadocio, contributing to the overall theme of irreplaceability. Don Toliver’s mellifluous vocals on the hook add an extra layer of emotion to the lyrical landscape. The overall message of the song appears to centre on understanding one’s worth in relationships and projecting self-confidence in the face of potential heartbreak. A dynamic collaboration, “Replace Me” enriches Nas’ discography with its potent exploration of universal themes.
16. Adam and Eve
Dropping knowledge like a seasoned preacher, Nas delves deep into the genesis of his roots, discussing the cyclical nature of life and his experiences growing up in the ‘hood. He confronts the dichotomy of good and evil, wealth and poverty, power and oppression, symbolized by the biblical figures of Adam and Eve. Just like the ill-fated couple, Nas reflects on his innocence lost to the realities of his Queensbridge upbringing. Through impeccable lyricism, Nas weaves a tale of his personal struggles, successes, and lessons learned, highlighting the grim environment that shaped him. Ultimately, through “Adam and Eve,” Nas stresses the importance of breaking free from destructive cycles to create one’s own destiny, thus delivering an influential piece of social commentary powered by profound storytelling.
15. EPMD 2 (feat. Eminem & EPMD)
Nas starts the track, laying down meticulously crafted bars that reflect his experiences, peppered with vivid metaphors referencing everything from the garden he’s grown to the burdens of poverty he’s witnessed. Nasir Jones reiterates his stance in hip-hop, asserting he and Hit-Boy are ‘running shit,’ painting an intense picture of their dominance.
Following Nas’s verse, Eminem enters the scene. The Detroit wordsmith delivers an aggressive, fast-paced flow filled with self-referential wordplays and clever puns. He acknowledges the greats that have passed, including DMX, MF DOOM, and Nipsey Hussle, while claiming his spot among the legends like Jay-Z, Kanye, and, of course, Nas himself. The track is rounded off by Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith (EPMD), reinforcing the narrative of strength and resilience in the face of adversity.
14. Nobody (feat. Ms. Lauryn Hill)
A deeply introspective track that pulses with the desire for escape and self-discovery. Embracing themes of freedom, self-awareness, and introspection, Nas lyrically navigates the struggles of fame, the trappings of success, and the need to reconnect with his higher self. His crafted bars have a confessional quality, lending a panoramic view of his inner mental landscape and personal journey. Every word feels like a carefully planned step on his journey to “being nobody.”
The song truly becomes complete with the contribution of Ms. Lauryn Hill, who brings a raw, incisive introspection to the track. Her verses highlight the struggle against societal expectations and the quest for authenticity amid superficiality. The duo’s lyrical prowess unites to form a potent commentary on the struggle for personal freedom and the sacrifices required for true liberation. The track is a much-needed reminder of how hip hop can be a platform for self-revelation and profound commentary on society and the struggles inherent within it.
13. Spicy (feat. Fivio Foreign & A$AP Ferg)
Nestling comfortably in the middle of our list, it emanates a spirit of opulence and unapologetic confidence that’s often found in the hip-hop arena. This track sees Nas dropping bold and assertive lines about his transition from owning the block to owning the boardroom. He effortlessly blends the street life sensibilities with the high-end corporate world, reminding us that he’s not just a rapper, but a business mogul.
Fivio Foreign and A$AP Ferg, bring their own kind of heat, adding flavors to the mix. Ferg’s verse discusses his transition from rough beginnings to his current status. He talks about his flashy lifestyle, filled with Tiffany’s grills and jet-set models. While Fivio uses his verse to flaunt his wealth and talk about his pricy lifestyle.
The track is steeped in the essence of New York, punctuated by a rich tapestry of the hustler’s ambition, lavish lifestyle, and the cutthroat competitiveness that characterizes the hip-hop scene.
12. Wave Gods
The lyrical content of the song showcases Nas and A$AP Rocky as metaphoric deities of the rap game, acknowledging their prowess and celebrating their place in hip-hop’s pantheon. Nas reflects on his journey, status and the respect he commands in the industry. He gives a shoutout to Max B, acknowledging the influence of the ‘Wave God’ himself. Nas also makes a notable reference to Gang Starr, likening his partnership with Hit-Boy to that legendary duo. A$AP Rocky, on his verse, gives us a glimpse into his mindset, reflecting on his roots, the adversity he faced, and his motivation to strive for greatness. The underlying theme of the song is the acknowledgement of one’s achievements while staying grounded and remembering where you came from. “Wave Gods” is a celebration of legacy, influence, and hip-hop royalty.
11. Office Hours (feat. 50 Cent)
A braggadocious celebration of Nas’s place in hip-hop hierarchy while simultaneously paying homage to those who paved the way. The track resonates with Nas’s belief that his path in rap is “everlasting like Curtis Jackson”. The lyrics gig deep into the monstrous underbelly of hip-hop, its politics, its power plays, and the struggle artists face to maintain their relevance and integrity. His keen observation of the genre’s dynamics gives us lines like “I shouted people on verses that ain’t deserve it.” His partnership with 50 Cent brings in the street-savvy edge of the Southside, and inherently the turbulent, troublesome, and transformative journey both rappers have traversed to reach their positions. Nas’s choice to collaborate with 50 Cent on this track fuses two giant personas from the golden era, adding an impactful perspective to his impressive catalog of collaborations.
10. One Love (feat. Q-Tip)
The track, from his influential debut album, ‘Illmatic,’ finds him penning a series of letters to his incarcerated friends. Through his words, listeners get a firsthand view of the challenges faced by urban youth, from the temptation of crime to the perils of prison. Nas deploys intricate wordplay and raw, unfiltered emotion to capture the harsh realities of his environment, hoping to encourage his friends to stay strong and rise above their circumstances. The haunting, ethereal beat, provided by none other than Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest, adds to the track’s poignant atmosphere. It’s a sobering interaction between two remarkable talents, coming together to deliver a cornerstone moment in 90s hip-hop.
“Patience” by Nas & Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley makes a deep impression as it seeks to unpack the complexities of human existence, questioning universally accepted norms and diving deep into societal issues. Each bar touches upon profound themes like truth seeking, spiritual consciousness, societal ignorance, and a critique of western culture. The track’s fusion of hip-hop and reggae has Nas & Damian juggling with the cords of contemporary global problems while wearing an introspective lens, all tied together with the central motif of patience.
Damian Marley’s verse critiques the lack of regard for the suffering, alluding to the distorted representation of ‘the other’ in the media (“On the TV the picture is savages in villages”). He also takes a hit at cultural appropriation insights (“You buy a khaki pants, and all of a sudden you say a Indiana Jones”). Marley emphasizes on the exploitation of the less privileged, hinting at western ignorance and debunks the illusion that westerners have the tools to navigate through global crises (“Get tricked by the beast”).
8. Too Many Rappers
The Beastie Boys’ “Too Many Rappers” featuring Nas, is a critique on the state of the hip-hop game, packing lyrical jibes aimed at the industry’s fakers and challengers. The protagonists are voicing their disdain for the saturation of the genre—too many rappers, not enough emcees—with emcees being the ones who bring authenticity, skills, storytelling, and respect for the culture. They lament the decline of real hip-hop in favour of repeated themes and superficial lyrics.
The track begins with a traditional ‘mic check’, setting the stage for Beastie Boys members—MCA, Ad-Rock, Mike D—to coordinate their lyrical attack, with rap legend Nas joining the powerhouse. The artists criticize the imposters in the game, promising to call them out for their lack of authenticity.
7. Never Die (feat. Lil Wayne)
The track embodies a resilience that’s been hard-earned, mirroring the artists’ successful careers in the industry. The lyrical content is filled with bravado yet intertwined with subtle reflections on their past struggles. Nas opens the track with a contemplative tone, expressing uncertainty about the future while proclaiming that he’s an icon in real time. He also laments the challenges he’s faced, even as he stays resolute.
Similarly, Lil Wayne articulates his status as an icon, comparing his skills to those of legendary athletes and commenting on the constant hustle to maintain relevance in the game. He claims nobody has a flow like his, and he’s ready to drop wisdom while challenging the new generation to step up. The verse portrays Wayne as a rap veteran sharing his insights, affirming that his game is unmatchable.
Overall, “Never Die” is an anthemic track that explores a sense of immortality, acknowledging both Nas and Lil Wayne’s indelible imprint on hip-hop. Their artistry and talent won’t fade away; they are icons in real time who ain’t gon’ never die.
6. Affirmative Action (feat. AZ, Cormega & Foxy Brown)
Set to eerie and grimy beats that mirror the street life they depict, Nas and crew spit verses laced with vivid narratives which take you through the journey of illicit hustles and gritty confrontations. The labyrinthine mathematics of street-level economics is broken down with a sharp precision that’s ever characteristic of Nas.
The lyrics are heavy with themes of money laundering, mob warfare, and a life lived fast under the threat of constant reprisal. The grittiness of their lived realities pervades the song, with a chess-like logic threading their words together, reflecting the strategic mindset needed to navigate the cutthroat environment the emcees know all too well. The bellowing chorus of “The Firm baby, volume one uhh”, capstones this compelling testament to the underworld they’re entrenched in.
5. One Mic, One Gun
The song finds Nas reflecting on his journey and place in the game. Without mincing words, he denounces bandwagon rappers chasing likes, reaffirming his commitment to authenticity over popularity. As a hall-of-famer, Nas sees his legend status as transcending the need for relevance, a nod to timeless artistry versus fleeting hype. He addresses his detractors, acknowledging the controversies and negative press, bur asserting his perseverance and influence on the genre. Nas drops jewels on investing in real estate and stocks, displaying a business acuity often overlooked in his persona. His pride in his Queens, NY roots is unwavering, framing his narrative as an indomitable figure in the rap game. “One Mic, One Gun” is Nas displaying his longevity, financial savvy, and abiding connection to his roots, telling the world that he’s a timeless legend, undeterred by setbacks, and unfazed by his critics.
4. Hate Me Now (feat. Diddy)
The lyrics give listeners a front-row seat to Nas’ meteoric rise from gritty hood storyteller to a respected figure in hip-hop, which came with its fair share of envy and backlash. Flaunting his elevated lifestyle of Gucci and Fendi, ‘Esco makes it clear he won’t apologize for his success, or the flashy trappings it brings.
His words cut sharp against the haters who wish to see his downfall, as he stands firm in his journey, celebrating his achievements against the odds. Nas presents his life as a testimony of hustle, resilience and ambition, highlighting his ascension from the projects to global rap stardom. His audacious narrative of defiance encapsulates the classic theme of rap: audacity in the face of adversity, relentless pursuit of paper, and an earnest reminder to never underestimate the determination of a hungry spirit.
3. Still Dreaming
The lyrics are packed with imagery, visualizing a world where dreams spring from concrete realities, a hustle that never eases even when fame and fortune are achieved. Nas weaves a narrative of betrayal, ambition, and dream-chasing, providing an almost M. C. Escher-like view of the streets where nothing can be taken at face value. He throws into sharp relief the transient nature of material wealth and underscores the ever-present possibility of falling from the mountaintop. Figures once celebrated for their riches are now bustin’ shells, their fates hanging in the balance of their next moves.
In an arena where loyalty can often be bought and sold, Nas advises navigating it with smarts and caution, with dreams firmly tied to concrete ambition and not fantasies of sudden wealth. Through his incisive verse, ‘Still Dreaming’ stands as a rich, majestic tapestry of life in the fast lane—part cautionary tale, part street anthem, all Nas.
2. Life’s a Bitch (feat. AZ & Olu Dara)
The lyrics offer a poignant snapshot of coming of age in the gritty streets of New York, depicting the harsh realities of city life with raw honesty. Nas and AZ discuss the struggles of youth, the allure of fast money, and the fleeting nature of life itself. The verse where Nas celebrates his 20th birthday, paints a vivid picture of how growing up in such surroundings can leave an impressionable young mind. The inclusion of Olu Dara’s trumpet offers a jazzy vibe, grounding the song in a rich musical tradition while serving as a stark contrast to the hard-hitting lyrics. The song encapsulates the ethos of ’90s East Coast rap, balancing despair with resilience, and street wisdom with introspection. The repeated phrase “Life’s a Bitch and then you die,” underscores the perilous lifestyle and the uncertain fate of those living on the edge.
1. If I Ruled the World (Imagine That) (feat. Lauryn Hill)
Nas paints a vivid picture of a world where prejudices, poverty, and injustices are non-existent. As a ruler, he envisages a utopia where everyone lives in harmony, emphasizing equity and freedom. Nas’ vision includes luxuries like designer clothes, diamond timepieces, and no undercover police operations. His dream extends to rectifying systemic issues, releasing political prisoners, prioritizing education to empower the next generation, and even appointing Coretta Scott-King as city mayor. He juxtaposes this idea of paradise against the harsh realities of his present life. Featuring Lauryn Hill’s soulful voice on the chorus, the song becomes an intensely personal yet universal plea for a better world, underlining Nas’ brilliance in weaving intricate narratives and strong social commentary through his lyrics.