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Nick Jonas

The poet laureate of hip-hop, Nas is a flashpoint for all the love, hate, respect, and controversy heaped upon the genre. Illmatic, his debut album, is considered by many to be the hip-hop’s high water mark. Songs such as “Memory Lane” and “One Love” are broad in scope: Nas’ sound was that of a man both sixteen and sixty, a shortie on the corner slinging rock and a revolutionary on the capitol steps all at once. The Queensbridge emcee is too talented to be confined to one style, and successive albums like It Was Written found him experimenting with the stylized mafioso fantasies that became hip-hop’s bread and butter. After the slayings of Biggie and Pac, Nas’ legacy was in danger, with albums ranging from merely mediocre (I Am...) to painfully bad (Nastradamus). Fortunately this time in the desert was limited, as 2001’s Stillmatic revealed a revitalized Nas, a promise of renewed greatness that was kept with God’s Son and the politically prickly Street’s Discipline. The world listened when he declared Hip-Hop is Dead in 2006, and his untitled 2008 album (originally named N*gg*r) was characteristically contentious. Recent releases include Distant Relatives, a worldly collaboration with dancehall star Damian Marley, and Life is Good, a mature meditation on “grown-man hip-hop” and his divorce from RnB singer Kelis.