DAR Hip Hop: Ranking Nas' Albums

By @TrueGodImmortal

It's the GOAT's birthday. That's right, Nas' birthday is today and what better way to pay tribute to the Queensbridge legend than to take a look at his catalog and rank his albums? He's got a lot if albums, and while some people feel he doesn't have a great catalog, to me personally, I think he has a top 10 hip hop catalog overall. Whether or not you agree with my rankings is irrelevant to me, you're welcome to share your opinions in the comments below. However, let's get into it.

14. Nastradamus (1999)

-His worst album by far. Now, was his lyrical composite on this album horrible? Not at all. In fact, Nas has some quotable verses here, but in actuality, this album is quite forgettable and seems very unfocused. I'm not a big fan of the production here, though DJ Premier serves Nas another banger in "Come Get Me", and I enjoy the simple production on "Project Windows", but overall the album just fell flat. Though I might be the only person who enjoys both the title track (minus the hook) and "You Owe Me".

13. The Firm- The Album (1997)

-Now, perhaps this shouldn't count, but if I have to include it, I consider this album a lot better than some would say, but still pretty bland and lacking. The classic "Phone Tap" is a highlight and while Nas isn't featured on every track, he shows up when he's needed and delivers each time. The album is weighed down a bit by the theme, as it's a bit more generic than the albums of the past with mafia themes. Still a decent project, just fell flat when compared to the rest of his catalog.

12. Nas and Ill Will Records Presents QB's Finest (2000)

-This isn't a Nas solo, but he appears enough on this project to constitute it being featured. While the guest appearances here shine at times, they weigh the project down a bit. Of course, this was the project that features the infamous "Oochie Wally" remix, but this also features some great Nas moments like his collaboration with Prodigy on "Self Conscience" and his classic solo track "Find Your Wealth". If this features more Nas solo moments, this would like be a bit higher, as it had a ton of promise and potential.

11. Distant Relatives w/ Damian Marley (2010)

-As a standalone project, this album is solid. I enjoy it. I just think it's far too much Damian Marley centered than focusing on both. Nas delivers lyrically as always, but the production and some of the songs seem a bit out of his comfort zone, which could be great, but here it's a bit middle of the road. Some of the highlights include "My Generation", which feature Lil Wayne and Joss Stone, "Leaders", and "Patience", all songs that seem to fit both very well. Though I think this doesn't fit Nas too well in the sound department, I also like the rhythm of "Africa Must Wake Up". An overall decent project, but just seems more Damian featuring Nas than an actual collaborative effort.

10. Hip Hop Is Dead (2006)

-A lot of people love this album. I'm not one of them. Does this album have great moments? Certainly. Are they more frequent than the flat or bad moments? Debatable. I'd say no, as I think Nas makes some terrible beat choices and some songs here just lack the fire that he needed to bring. This album put Nas back in the conversation and sold well due to the surrounding hype of he and Jay squashing the beef, but it's one of his weakest albums. The highlights? The intro "Money Over Bullshit", the Jay collaboration "Black Republican", "Still Dreaming", "Can't Forget About You", and the final song "Hope", where Nas absolutely kills it.

9. Untitled (2008)

-I don't dislike this album. I don't hate this album. I don't love this album. I love elements and pieces of it. I love some of the songs here. I just think the concept was missing some vital songs and that if Nas had put some of the songs he used on The Ni**er Tape on here, that he would have had a classic. It's lyrically sound, and with amazing moments like "Queens Get The Money", "Testify", and a pretty good concept in place, Nas had the tools to make his most daring album ever. I just think with songs like "Hero", "Make The World Go Round", he could have foregone the commercial route on singles and kept it clear to the message. That's the only knock to the album, along with a few clunker choices for production. Overall, this is a good album, but had potential to be something epic.

8. I Am (1999)

-Nas has albums that really had potential, but never lived up to the hype. This is one. Originally a double album, this album was heavily bootlegged and made Nas change his plan. The bootlegged version was truly amazing and seemed to bridge the gap between the Nasty Nas of Illmatic and the Mafioso Nas Escobar of It Was Written. Unfortunately, the finished product we got was a really good album that only was disliked by most fans because they knew what he had planned via the bootleg. Highlights here are "Small World", "Undying Love", and "Nas Is Like", and while this album could have been much better, it's still a solid listen some 17 years later. Check out our solo article on this album.

7. God's Son (2002)

-I think this is still the most personal Nas album and with good reason. After the passing of his mom, Nas sought solace in the music, and created something extremely deep after winning the first round of the feud with Jay-Z. I love this album and think it's his 2nd most underrated album. From the throwback sound of "Made You Look" to the immaculate storytelling on "Last Real Nigga Alive", or the concept of "Book of Rhymes", Nas went inside of his mind and soul and crafted something special. I only dislike two or three songs here and that's more so due to beat selection than anything else.

6. Street's Disciple (2004)

-The most underrated Nas album of them all. A double album that is still personally one of my favorite double albums ever. I think this was ahead of its time, mature and honest in every way possible, as Nas took us essentially through the story of his life, in double album form. There's different styles, emotions, and moments of pure honesty here as Nas prepares for getting married to Kelis and what could come from it. Songs like "These Are Our Heroes", "A Message To The Feds", "Nazareth Savage", "Reasons", "Just A Moment", "You Know My Style", "Thief's Theme", and the epic "War" all set the tone for an album that I consider almost an classic. There are a few songs I don't enjoy, but for the most part I think both discs are great, though disc 1 is slightly better than 2. Truly slept on at the time of release and still slept on by people who likely haven't given the album a listen in some time.

5. Life Is Good (2012)

-Nas owns a classic in the 90's (2 to be exact), a classic in the 2000s (2 if you count Lost Tapes), and also one in the 2010s. Now, if you don't agree with that, cool, but I think this is accurate. This album is a classic and it represents a change for Nas. Whether in production choice, aggression in rhymes, or in general. Comparing it to Marvin Gaye's Here My Dear, it is essentially a divorce album, with themes of nostalgia and maturity within it. Songs like "Daughters" and "You Wouldn't Understand" showcase Nas in his most reflective state, while "Stay" is one of his greatest songs ever. I also love the feel of "Bye Baby", and this album really got me through the end of 2012 and some of 2013. I hold it as a personal classic, but there's really not one bad song on the album, unless we consider "Reach Out" or "Summer On Smash" to be so. Overall, a nearly flawless album that showcased Nas at his best yet again.

4. Stillmatic (2001)

-The comeback album. The album that truly showcased Nas at his best. Another nearly flawless album and in reality, it is flawless, because "Braveheart Party" never happened (seriously Nas, what the hell man? That song is god awful and a waste of my listening time). Released after he had been written off by many and during his Jay-Z beef, Nas captivated audiences with an album that elevated the game. Songs like "2nd Childhood", "The Flyest", "You're Da Man", "One Mic", "What Goes Around", and "Every Ghetto" are some of his absolute best music ever, and a very welcome return to the lyrical Nasty Nas we knew and loved. His imagery in these tracks are out of this world. A perfect comeback.

3. The Lost Tapes (2002)

-This album is more of a collection of tracks recorded over the previous years, but this is honestly the best compiled work of Nas music ever. Some songs are from the 1998-1999 I Am sessions, a few of them are from the Stillmatic sessions, but regardless, these tracks are truly dope. The opening track "Doo Rags" is profound and shows Nas in his element lyrically, as his depth shines. His wordplay and imagery on tracks like "Black Zombie", "Purple", and "No Idea's Original" are truly out of this world. It's the greatest display of Nas' lyrical ability ever.

2. Illmatic (1994)

-This is commonly referred to as his greatest album and it's certainly debatable. I just feel as if Illmatic isn't as creative as his sophomore album. However, it's absolutely one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time and with songs like "It Ain't Hard To Tell", "Memory Lane", "One Love", "Life's A Bitch", and "The World Is Yours", who could deny the legacy? The only reason why I wouldn't consider this album his best is because Nas elevated this even higher with his 2nd album, which I'll get to in a second. Regardless, Illmatic is a timeless hip hop classic and one of the best albums we have ever heard.

1. It Was Written (1996)

-This is the one. I just covered this a few months ago for the 20th anniversary of it. This album is amazing. Nas goes into this Mafioso style, but executes it so perfectly. Everything he does on this album seems to work, and his lyrics here are even more advanced than what we heard on Illmatic. He uses more internal rhyme schemes, multis, and his imagery even becomes much better. He flexes his storytelling and conceptual muscle on this album as well, and when you have an album that features songs as great as "Watch Dem Niggas", "Take It In Blood", "Suspect", "Shootouts", "The Message", and of course "Black Girl Lost", how could any other album possibly be better? I'm bias probably because this is my favorite hip hop album of all time, but can you blame me? It's Nas' finest hour ever.

I'm sure some will disagree with this ranking and that's fine. Opinions are meant to be diverse and different. Regardless, this is my ranking of Nas albums and the perfect way to end this article off is to just wish the legend Happy Birthday. Peace king.



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