Nas is good, but CNN thinks Nas is damn good. In a story titled “A case for Nas, hip-hop’s finest MC” the news outlet defends its stance that the man born Nasir Jones is “the greatest lyricist of all time.”
The story cites Nas’ longevity, he turns 40 next summer—and the the gift of rhyme, of course—as one of the main reasons for the lofty praise, both qualitatively and quantitatively.
With “Life is Good,” Nas dropped his ninth No. 1 hip-hop album since 1994. Seven of those have gone platinum, which places him second among rappers only to Jay-Z with 11. (We’re not counting compilations or collaborations here, only original solo efforts, and yes, Tupac Shakur had nine, but five were posthumous releases.)
It also ties Nas with Snoop Dogg or Snoop Lion or whatever his name is, and it puts the Queens native one plaque ahead of Eminem, Too Short, OutKast and LL Cool J, all of whom belong in the greatest-ever discussion, as well.
As for the inevitable, “What about Tupac and Biggie?” question, Nas acknowledge the greatness of the late rap icons. “I just think Biggie was something else. He was the Hitchcock of this thing, man,” Nas told CNN. “He told you a story. There was a seriousness that came with it that can’t compare with nothing.”
The “Cherry Wine” rapper added, “I’d probably be better if they were still around. I think I’d be a lot better.”
If you’re a true rap fans you’ve already thought of that line from Jay-Z’s “Where I’m From”: “I from where ni–as pull your card, and argue all day about who’s the best MC’s, Biggie, Jay-Z, and Nas.”
And as for Hova in this debate, according to CNN writer Eliott C. McLaughlin, the Brooklyn MC is most definitely skilled, but only has the edge on Nas when it comes to business side of the game:
Here is where that “lyricist” v. “hip-hop artist” distinction becomes important.
Jay-Z said it best himself: He’s not a businessman; he’s a business, man. When you consider 11 of his albums have sold at least a million copies — seven of those 2 million or more — as have his four collaborations, two with R. Kelly and one each with Linkin Park and Kanye West, it’s as if Hova is King Midas, but with platinum.
He’s a hit maker extraordinaire, maybe the world’s best, but that doesn’t translate to best lyricist. Jay-Z acknowledged as much on “Moment of Clarity” when he rhymed, “If skills sold, truth be told/I’d probably be, lyrically, Talib Kweli.”
Even in dissing Nas on “Takeover,” he explained why he had sampled Nas’ lyrics on “Dead Presidents”: “So yeah, I sampled your voice; you was using it wrong/you made it a hot line; I made it a hot song.”
Not a bad argument at all. Let us know who you think is the “greatest lyricist of all time” in the comments.
Photo: Def Jam