It seems that Nas has had some sort of history with seemingly everyone in the world of hip-hop.
From Mobb Deep and Wu-Tang to Kool G Rap to The Notorious B.I.G., Foxy Brown, Terror Squad, and, of course, 2Pac and Jay-Z. But no one has been connected with Nas closer – or longer – than Anthony Cruz, better known as AZ.
The only featured guest on Illmatic, AZ, who has his own long history with others in hip-hop, delivered a classic verse and immediately became a highly sought-after artist himself, eventually signing to EMI and releasing his own stellar debut, Doe or Die, a year later, on which Nas was featured several times. A year later, they formed the supergroup The Firm, appearing on It Was Written and a slew of mixtapes before releasing the platinum-selling yet ultimately disappointing album.
The two super lyricists were tight. As Nas said himself, “I was making my rounds with AZ.” But after The Firm fiasco, they drifted apart before once again linking up in 2001. Since then, the two have recorded a few songs and have appeared on stage together, but the project for which the fans are clamoring – a joint album – appears to be only a dream. (Although Mick Boogie did create a mixtape titled Executive Decisions that comes closest.)
Until that happens, we’ll have to make the most of what we have. I’ve put together my own Nas/AZ playlist and while this is far from a comprehensive list, but the duo’s chemistry and prowess show why everyone wants them to release a full LP.
Nas f/AZ – “Life’s a Bitch” [Illmatic, 1994]
AZ f/Nas – “Gimme Yours” [Doe or Die, 1995]
AZ f/Nas – “Mo Money, Mo Murder ‘Homicide'” [Doe or Die, 1995]
Nas f/The Firm – “Affirmative Action” [It Was Written, 1996]
Nas f/The Firm – “Affirmative Action” (Remix) [“Street Dreams” maxi-single, 1996]
DJ Clue f/The Firm – “The Welcoming” [R&B Pt. 2 – Just Cruisin’ Again, 1996]
The Firm – “Firm Fiasco” [The Album, 1997]
The Firm – “Phone Tap” [The Album, 1997]
The Firm – “Time” [unreleased, 1997]
DJ Doo Woop f/The Firm – “Sosa vs. The State” [Hustler’s Handbook 2, 1997]
The Firm – “La Familia” [unreleased, 1997]
AZ f/Nas – “How Ya Livin'” [Pieces of a Man, 1998]
Nas f/AZ – “The Flyest” [Stillmatic, 2001]
AZ f/Nas – “The Essence” [Aziatic, 2002]
Kool G Rap f/Nas, AZ & Nawz – “Holla Back” [unreleased, 2002]
AZ f/Nas – “Serious” [Anthology (B-Sides & Unreleased), 2008]
Bonus: Nas & AZ Sprite Commercial 
Christopher Pierznik’s nine books are available in paperback and Kindle. Check out more of his writing at Medium. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, Medium, Fatherly, Hip Hop Golden Age, and many more. Subscribe to his monthly newsletter or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.
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