I was introduced to Nas’ music in early 1999, long after he was already a known name in hip hop. If I Ruled The World and Street Dreams had received heavy radio and MTV play time. I was familiar with those songs plus a few others, but I didn’t know anything outside of mainstream singles. It wasn’t until a friend asked me “Have you ever heard Illmatic?” and proceed to play Life’s A Bitch. That was the day my life changed completely. AZ had an amazing first verse, but it was Nas’ opening rhymes that blew my teenage mind to pieces.

“I woke up early on my born day, I’m 20, it’s a blessing
The essence of adolescence leaves my body, now I’m fresh and
My physical frame is celebrated cause I made it
One quarter through life some Godly-like thing created”

That was it for me. I had officially fallen in love with hip hop. From then on I intended to find other songs, albums, and artists just like it. Of course I went on to play out every thing that Nas did, even skipped school with my friends to purchase I Am… on release day. Nas is easily one of the reasons why I became obsessed with music, period. His come up, from a young teenage kid who was considered “the next Rakim” to establishing his own identity that remains relevant 22 years after his debut album, is the stuff that every artist dreams about.

Ten albums deep and Nasir Jones still remains one of the most consistent, sought after, and critically acclaimed rappers in hip hop history. As was stated on DJ Khaled’s album, his eleventh album is done and it should be released soon. But before adding another notch to his discography, today he celebrates his 43rd birthday. This playlist features 50 of the best Nas tracks, including a few of his guest features on other albums, such as his first ever appearance on Live At The BBQ. Happy birthday Nas.