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BET Awards 2021: 5 Nas Lyrics That Clearly Inspired Today’s Top Hip-Hop Artists

Nas, who is nominated for "Album of the Year," is proclaimed as one of the greatest lyricists of all time.

In 1991, social media wasn’t even a thing. Thankfully, a teenaged Nas didn’t need to go viral on the Internet to establish himself as a lyrical prodigy. Thirty years after he took the streets by storm with his razor-sharp mic skills, the Queenbridge legend’s flow is still a national treasure, one reason why he’s been nominated for a 2021 BET Awards Album of the Year nomination for King’s Disease. From the nostalgia-filled reunion of his 90s co-conspirators Foxy Brown, AZ and Cormega (“Full Circle”), to fresh collabs with today’s hottest stars, including 2021 BET Awards nominees Lil Durk (Best Video with Drake, “Laugh Now Cry Later”) Anderson .Paak (Best Group with Silk Sonic), Nas continues to inspire the game’s best writers.

In honor of his latest nomination, here are five unforgettable Nas lyrics that are still influencing the game’s hottest MCs today:

RELATED: BET Awards 2021: What’s The Chemistry That Makes Bruno Mars And Anderson .Paak A Slam Dunk As Silk Sonic?

  1. 1991: “Street’s disciple, my raps are trifle/I shoot slugs from my brain just like a rifle.” - “Live At The BBQ”

    At 19 years old, Nas became the most talked about rapper in the game off of the strength of a single verse. From the opening line of Main Sourcer’s posse cut “Live At The Barbecue,” Nas made his verbal mastery seem effortless, tying up complex rhyme schemes and metaphors that were well beyond his age and era. With just one feature verse, the young phenom instantly raised the bar for the entire game and created huge anticipation for his debut album. The buzz was so deafening that legendary producers Q-Tip, DJ Premier and Pete Rock insisted on producing his rookie effort, knowing it would be an instant classic.

  2. 1994: “Wipe the sweat off my dome, spit the phlegm on the streets, suede timbs on my feets, makes my cipher complete” - “The World Is Yours”

    Inspired by the lead character in Scarface’s motto, Nas wrote this song to give hope to kids who grew up with nothing. Over an uplifting jazz sample of Ahmed Jamal’s “I Love Music,” Nas drops infinite jewels about taking control of your image and surroundings, including this iconic rhyme that continues to define New York fashion: “Suede timbs on my feets, makes my cipher complete.” Throughout his career, Nas has put his “World Is Yours” theory into practice by claiming ownership of real estate assets, his own intellectual property, and multiple start-up businesses.

  3. 1998: “Freedom or jail, clips inserted, a baby’s being born same time a man is murdered, the beginning and end” - “Nas Is Like”

    Nas is a pure poet no matter the topic, but he is at his best when he’s describing everyday experiences in the streets. Back when he still went by Nasty Nas, the gifted wordsmith only needed one bar to paint a vivid image of the life and death stakes he observed growing up. Rappers today carry on that tradition by reporting on the moments of joy and pain that color our lives with the same unapologetic rawness as Nas did in his 90s heyday.

  4. 1998: “I’d open every cell in Attica, send ‘em to Africa” - “If I Ruled The Worich rld”

    Long before prison reform was a popular talking point, Nas was advocating for radical changes to the justice system. While listing the many changes he would make in the world if he had full authority, Nas painted a picture of a Utopian society, free of the vicious manifestations of white supremacy, all backed by a flip of Kurtis Blow’s 1980s classic “If I Ruled The World,” which inspired Nas when he was a kid.

  5. 2001: “Diamonds are blinding, I’ll never make the same mistakes, moving with a change of pace, lighter load, ‘cause now the King is straight” - “One Mic”

    On “One Mic,” Nas reflects on the highs and lows that come with reigning supreme in the rap game. With just a microphone and a powerful drum beat, he unloads three unforgettable verses full of introspective lines that set the standard for elite rhymers today like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole. This bar in particular hinted at the metaphor behind his ‘Album of the Year’ nominee this year, King’s Disease. Historically, King’s Disease was another term for gout, which was caused when royals overindulged on rich foods and alcohol that were available to them in no short supply. Nas’ project speaks to the jewelry, fame, and fast lane that consumes so many rappers while they’re still learning how to wear their crowns.

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