nas at 40

Nas Turns 40: 40 Things I've Learned From Nas

Chuck “Jigsaw” Creekmur

Today, Nas celebrates his 40th birthday today and we at AllHipHop celebrate with him. In honor of the legendary rhymester, AHH’s chief of staff Chuck “Jigsaw” Creekmur wrangled a whopping 40 things he’s learned from Nas. Read on and see if there’s anything you can relate to and add on to the lessons we’ve amassed from the 40-year-old lyrical phenom.

40) NORMAL SUCKS. Nas is the ultimate rap introvert. But, it seems, at one point he decided to be a reluctant star and totally embraced being a stand out.

39) PERFECTION? You don’t have to be perfect. When Nas came in the game, he was spitting bars so immaculate that critics and fans made him into the heir apparent to the likes of Rakim and Kool G Rap. However immaculate his rhymes, we found that Nas was far from perfect, and that made for a more interesting person.

Nas probably captured a lot of angry, rebellious youth sentiments when he was dropping all those ill rhymes early on(“I went to hell for snuffin’ Jesus”). Later in life, the lesson comes and you’re actually God’s son (or daughter). Believe that.

There has always been this love hate thing with Nas. But, he’s produced his best work when he’s completely honest in his life and his fans respond appropriately.

Greatness doesn’t concern itself with the opinions of the mediocre. Nas’s presumed foibles have generally redeemed themselves over time.

35) FEAR. “N****s fear what they don’t understand, hate what they can’t conquer.” – “Hate Me Now”

Nas has always has a great mix of ill lines and conscious jewels. You could tell he cared about kids, the community as well as killing the competition. A lot of artists have tried to do this (Common, Killer Mike, Talib, Saigon, Ice Cube) with varying degrees of awesomeness, but I think Nas mastered it.

Nas was an avid reader and that is apparent in the quality, color and depth of his lyrical content. You can travel the universe by reading.

Nas has run with a lot of people through the years. Most of them aren’t around these days for a variety of reasons. Nas’ life has taught us that, sometimes you have to take that trip – your journey – alone.

31) TURN PAIN INTO PASSION. Stillmatic is still a beloved Nas album. On it, the QB King turned his deepest pain (loss of his mother, streets saying he was “dead”) into one of the most epic moments in history.

I hated when Nas tried to simulate lynching Jay Z at Hot 97’s Summer Jam. It would have sullied his legacy had he been allowed. Even emcee illness has limits.

“Belly” is a cult classic movie, but acting was definitely not a strong suit of the “chipped tooth don” at that time.

28) BE A FATHER. Nas’ song “Daughters” was a risky move, but an inspirational one for those of us with little ladies. Still, a rapper rapping the vitues of fatherhood is a good example for all, even if it includes putting your own on blast a bit.

27) FINISH THE JOB! My homey and journalist friend Jerry Barrow is still waiting for that Nas/Preemo album. “Sometimes the thing you want to do the most is the hardest to finish,” Jerry says. Lets make that happen, Nas!

26) WOUNDS HEAL. “I had a pretty public divorce. They’re not easy – divorces – and it took me a long time to really get through.” – Nas Give it time. Wounds heal if you let them.

Nas has had a lot of beef, many of which come from his friends. But, he’s gotten his respect by putting them in their place from time to time. “From time to time, Nas has had to put former friends in pocket and still get their respect – Prodigy, Cormega and so on,” says edit legend Daetwon Thomas.

After his first album, Nas gave up a lot of the fatigues and Tims for leather outfits and suits. It was necessary at the time and these days, he’s close to being a Hip-Hop style icon. Those rappers that dissed him are one of those “trapped in the 90’s n***as” now.

23) LOOK. “In the land of the blind, the man with one eye is the King.” – Nas on “N.I.*.*.E.R.” (Originally from scholar Desiderius Erasmus)

22) TRUST. Trust is hard and sometimes you have to have eyes every where. But, there are some people that you have to trust. Nas is one of them. When he did the “Untitled” (at first called N.I.*.*.E.R. album, I had to go on Fox News and defend Nas without even hearing the album. I trust him on this one and he came through with a dope album.

Earlier this year, at the 2013 Grammys, Nas said, “Peace, god.” Most people didn’t get it, but it was that was a revolutionary moment. Keep it revolutionary.

20) BE SPECIAL. “Anybody can be a rapper, but not anybody can be a classical artist.” – Nas

19) CLASS ACT. Do it with class. The general public doesn’t quite know all that Nas gone through in his personal life. One thing is for sure, he’s been a class act dealing with it, unlike so many Hip-Hop artists with messy lives.

18) GET HELP! On Illmatic, Stillmatic and Life Is Good (and others), Nas reportedly allowed other people to pick the beats he rapped over. That’s not a knock against him, but he’s never been regarded as the created A&R. He’s a better artist because of it.

17) BE A LIVING EXAMPLE. A lot of rappers have come and gone, but we only examine a few by the full breadth of their lives. Nas is different in that we’ve watched him go from boy to man in all the tests that go with that. There are a lot of lessons in a public life like that if you look closely.

Nas wasn’t mentioned in the same breath as the early greats like Rakim, Kane and Kool G Rap for no reason. He studied those guys and then took it to another level to augment his own greatness.

15) HISTORY. “Make history before you go.” – Nas on “Life Is What You Make It”

One of the hardest challenges of any great artist is topping your own greatness. Nas has done this by evolving with the times, and taking his craft into uncharged waters, all the while silencing his critics. A lot of people were disappointed by his second album, It Was Written, but its still his most commercially successful album to date. Shout out to The Trackmasters!

Honestly, “Oochie Walley” is one of my least favorite Nas records. Still, every time it plays in the club, we rock to it.

Nas found it. He looks younger than most rappers half his age.

11) FALLING OFF AIN’T SO BAD. One of my best friends, Chris reminded me that Nas has fallen off a few times and taken lots of backlash for his failures. That only makes the comeback so much sweeter.

– AllHipHop scribe, Biba Adams says, “One of the things I’ve learned from Nas is to never give up even when all looks lost.”

9) WATCH AND LISTEN. AllHipHop writer Keith Nelson told me that Nas taught him to listen and watch. “Nas taught me to take your surroundings and understand there’s a story everywhere. The girl you see with the ballers is probably a ‘Black Girl Lost.’ Those bullets on the ground have a story too (‘I Gave You Power’), letters you write are art as well (‘One Mic’). Nas was and will always be the greatest Hip-Hop storyteller ever to me.” 

One of the best moments in Hip-Hop history was when Jay Z and Nas ended their beef. They were better for it and so were we.

7) KEEP IT HONEST. Nas’s career is arguably book marked by his best two albums Illmatic and Life is good (excluding The Lost Tapes). Part of that is because those albums are extremely relatable but also reflective of his life and times.

Nas’s divorce had everybody hating Kelis, but not Nas. He wrote about his wrongs and their relationship in “Life Is Good,” keeping it so honest his ex didn’t take issue with it.

I’ve always appreciated that Nas gives wisdom through his art. Tumblr has a whole world of Nas quotes to take in.

A lot of people wanted Nas to be the consummate business man like Jay Z. But, Nas seems in a great space now, where he’s happy being who he is, where he is.

3) ETHER. One of the best times to go after your enemies is when they think they have beaten you. They thought Nas was finished after Jay dropped “The Takeover.” They couldn’t have been more wrong.

2) SLEEP. “I never sleep, ’cause sleep is the cousin of death.” – Nas on “New York State of Mind.” This lyric literally changed my life and the lives of millions. The metaphor can be taken a number of ways, choose one.

1) NAS LOST. Really? You can lose, but you never lose the chance to get back up. “Nas Lost.” You’ve heard it over and over and there have been lost of jokes. But character is built more through trials and tribulations more than victories. Nas had definitely had his share of set backs – personally and professionally – but this is what endears us to him. “I want to have fun. It’s a beautiful life. You learn, you win, you lose, but you get up.” – Nas

In fact, if you get back up, you don’t really lose.


  • Opposite Of Everyone

    41 – I learned from Nas that I don’t particularly enjoy listening to MC’s who don’t have a sense of humour. For my taste, all that Aristotlean profundity needs to be balanced with some funny ish for it to imprint, and to me, Nas is the archetypal miserable MC.

    • The Unhealer

      STFU SON

      • Opposite Of Everyone

        thanks for the feedback. I’ll certainly think about taking it on board.

  • Alexandrite

    Humility is everything! Like I just recently found out Nas co-owns the company that does Rock The Bells.. Made me think he might be richer than most people think. Most think cuz he’s ”deep” and an introvert he’s broke. But Rock The Bells is huuuge.

    • Mongo Slade

      I knew he co-owned it and u right because Nas don’t choose to throw his wealth in people face… people assume he ain’t chillin but many people are deaf dumb and blind anyway

  • Mongo Slade

    FOWTBS CHUCK! The article is good til u say he woulda sullied his legacy by doing a mock lynching of Jay Z at summer jam FOH… first off that’s ridiculous — 2nd it was cool for Jay Z to start the whole beef with Takeover and talking about condoms in baby carseats but he couldn’t even handle being called ugly, damn near started crying on Angie Martinez show, what part of the game was that???? Ain’t no rules in war my nigga…. In the eyes of true Nas fans we would’ve lost no respect if he woulda lynched a big ass Jigga puppet LOL — I hated when Hot 97 stepped in to try and save this takeover guy who got ETHERED but certain so called “street niggas” have a history of calling the authorities for help LOL!

    • Malik

      I still have a copy of that Angie Martinez show in the archives for when any Jay Z stan would want to contest the fact he was damn close to tears on the show that day. I recall he was particularly upset the streets crowned Nas the victor.

      • Mongo Slade

        @ Malik that was a classic time I remember it was like the world stopped when Ether dropped — Unbelievable! I actually lost mad respect for that other guy after those hot 97 “cry baby” shenanigans especially after he started the whole shit…. NAS was NEVER thinking about that guy as competition he always just did his own thing… the older homie hating on younger brother syndrome kicked in and he went in for the Takeover… unlike Kanye who made Big Brother which was a half ass diss record…. NAS showed dudes how you ETHER a nigga… I never even heard that word before Nas said it

      • Detroit bred

        Well said my brother

    • GuestwithacapG

      Can’t forget the song Stillmatic over the paid in full beat when Nas went at Bleek, Beans, Freeway and Jay. He just was letting them know, I’m still that dude and none of y’all can fork wit me.

      • Mongo Slade

        Hell yea and that was the warning shot!

  • Mongo Slade

    Chuck though I disagree wit u sometimes you and Grouchy Greg are still hip hop social media icons and heroes of mines and totally under-rated for your vision mad love homie BUT FOWTBS tho 🙂

  • Dan_Tebasco

    Good drop

  • Malik

    Chuck, this ish would have been more enjoyable if you had just signed it with your moniker ‘illseed’…ha!

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  • ShaStud


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  • GuestwithacapG

    It Was Written changed my life. I never looked at Hip Hop the same after that. So many jewels on that album. How can people say it wasn’t a classic. Nas was so far ahead of his time on that one that I’m thinking Maybe If dudes listened to it now, in 2013, they would get it. Still my favorite Nas album. Yes, even more than illmatic.

    • Mongo Slade

      I always said that was just some industry bullshit when cornballs was saying the 2nd album was weak shit was classic and haters was just hating including that guy who waited years to take his punk shot when he thought Nas was done ONLY to get ETHERED!

    • bigdoe6

      Yea It Was Written was like a masterpiece to me. I never understood why people always down played that album.

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  • Julia

    My Uncle Bentley got a year 2013 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class Sedan only from working off a macbook… see here now………..buzz55.ℂom

    • Dante Rapper

      It would be cool if your uncle bentley got a 2013 bentley

      • Naguk101

        Nice 1

  • MrGalione973

    One edit you have to make is that Nas lost his mother after Stillmatic, and wrote about it in God Son. Other than that, this is a fantastic read, like the other guy said, you need the moniker “illseed out”

  • Big Daddy Scrumptious

    I dont care what anyone says…Ether should have destroyed jay…but that just proved how dope the jigga man is. When two rappers beef and one rapper destroys the other, its always referred to as “being ether’d” and we can thank Nas for that. Nas gets love and props everywhere from everyone, even the haters and hes STILL probably the most underrated out there to this day. One love Nas.

    • Mongo Slade

      it proves nothing but the same corporate forces that intervened when Nas was going to mock lynch this guy are the same forces that put a spin on the ether shit and continued to elevate their guy in the media — speaking of media that shows you how GREAT NAS is he’s rarely in the media this other guy at times was putting out a press release every week about all types of random dumb shit…. Nas does none of that and his legacy remains in tact that’s some real powerful flow that dude must have, his records sale he’s critically acclaimed and barely gets airplay — the truth is the the truth

    • Malik

      Uh? Who is it again that underrates Nas?

  • Detroit bred

    Best artist of my generation hands down

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  • HalfPast7

    Peace King! This dude will never know how much he’s taught me, there’s a difference between rappers now and Nas, Nas is timeless. They gonna be quoting Nas in textbooks down the line. Our modern day Socrates Aristotle etc, sad to see the blind overlooking this cat smh

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  • Thabiso Simons

    Nasty Naz, the best. Still got it goin on at 40

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  • Naguk101

    Happy Belated Birthday 2 The Don, aka Escobar, aka Nasty, aka NAS.Props on all your art, your a true star masterful lyricist & only saw you in Belly, Dam that is some film & you shone in that. Nothing but love & respect, wish you all the best. May the rest of your life be everything you wan it 2b. #1Love

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