In 1994, Nas announced himself to the world in the grandest way possible; by dropping an all-time masterclass album that would change hip-hop forever when he released his seminal debut, Illmatic. This record captured the hearts and minds of hip-hop loving souls worldwide who had found an album that completely resonated from start to finish.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a favourite album list from anybody operating within the confinements of the hip-hop world who doesn’t include Illmatic among their most treasured records. While Nas hasn’t always produced the goods and, over the last 25 years, he has occasionally dropped a record that fails to hit home, which is frustrating due to the sheer talent that the man possesses. It’s an indisputable fact that Illmatic is at least one of the most important and the most divine hip-hop record of all time, but what are the albums which make it into Nas’ favourite list?
Thankfully, he divulged this information to Complex back in 2012. Nas has a way with words that few others in music can compete with and his list of favourite records paint a divine picture of the influences that shaped him into this fine wordsmith. One clear takeaway from his favourites list is the lack of new releases that have managed to smash their way on to his list, with the most recent admission coming from 1998.
Artists like Nas and others who helped make hip-hop one of the most delectable genres in the world owe a lot of their sound to jazz, which is an area of music that the rapper truly appreciates. The first names on his list are Miles Davis’ Kind Of Blue and John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme.
On Kind Of Blue, Nas commented: “Miles and Coltrane made the ultimate jazz albums; there’s a lot of others too. Miles also got commercial success from a jazz album and if you play it, it sounds like it was supposed to be made. That album was supposed to be made. This world wouldn’t be the same without that album.”
Meanwhile, his compliments were just as strong for, A Love Supreme, noting: “It’s probably my favourite record of his but I love so many other records by him. It just exists on a planet by itself. It’s just a different thing. It’s mature, it’s grown, it’s timeless, it’s sexy, it’s classy, it’s unorthodox. I’ll stop there.”
Nas then revealed how Ice Cube’s Death Certificate proved to be a life-changing album for him, “Death Certificate is one of the albums that changed my life along with Down By Law, Criminal Minded and a few others. Death Certificate hit me at a time when I was hustling, when I was hanging with hustlers, when I was making life-changing decisions in my life. Death Certificate spoke to me. To this day, it’s one of the boldest, bravest, realest rap albums that will ever be made.”
He is also grateful for another hip-hop masterpiece from Ice Cube’s old-bandmate in N.W.A, Dr. Dre. The Chronic was a psychedelic, funkadelic, California hip-hop genius piece of work,” Nas dotingly said. It lifted rap music as a whole to its next stage. That album single-handedly lifted the whole culture higher, made it stronger, kept it street, and it’s just beautiful. It’s a beautiful-sounding album and hardcore at the same time.”
For many years, Nas and Jay-Z were going head to head in a bitter feud. They were previously friends but after Nas no-showed to the studio after previously agreeing to feature on Jay’s debut effort, Reasonable Doubt, the two men started a war of words against each other which wouldn’t end until 2005. Despite refusing to appear on the album, it does make his list of favourite albums of all time. Hopefully, this goes some way to make up for his no-show all those years before.
Commenting on what made this album a classic, Nas said: “I seen this kid Jay, I already knew he was nice. I’m watching him come into the game and he delivered a lyrical album, a street album, and he grabbed his spot. A lot of people couldn’t do that. A lot of people that were putting out albums around the time Reasonable Doubt dropped are no longer around.
“He staked his claim. He showed everyone he was nice with his lyrics, he was nice with it. He came in the tradition of the New York streets, the way I did, the way Biggie did. He came in that way and he’s been holding it down ever since. If you listen to Reasonable Doubt, he made it happen.”
Check out the full-list and playlist, below.
Nas’ favourite albums of all time
- Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
- John Coltrane – A Love Supreme
- Bob James – One
- Stevie Wonder – Songs In The Key of Life
- Marvin Gaye – Here, My Dear
- Michael Jackson – Thriller
- Run-D.M.C. – King of Rock
- Anita Baker – Rapture
- Boogie Down Productions – Criminal Minded
- Eric B. & Rakim – Paid in Full
- MC Shan – Down by Law
- Big Daddy Kane – Long Live the Kane
- Slick Rick – The Great Adventures of Slick Rick
- Public Enemy – It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
- Kool G Rap & DJ Polo – Wanted: Dead or Alive
- Main Source – Breaking Atoms
- Ice Cube – Death Certificate
- A Tribe Called Quest – The Low-End Theory
- Scarface – Mr. Scarface is Back
- N.W.A. – Niggaz4Life
- Dr. Dre – The Chronic
- Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt
- The Notorious B.I.G. – Life After Death
- Outkast – Aquemini