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His neighbor, Willy "Ill Will" Graham, influenced his interest in hip hop by playing him records.As a teenager, Nas enlisted his best friend and upstairs neighbor Willy "Ill Will" Graham as his DJ.

Steve Huey of All Music described Nas's lyrics on Illmatic as "highly literate" and his raps "superbly fluid regardless of the size of his vocabulary", adding that Nas is "able to evoke the bleak reality of ghetto life without losing hope or forgetting the good times".It Was Written featured the debut of The Firm, a supergroup consisting of Nas, AZ, Foxy Brown, and Cormega.The album also expanded on Nas's Escobar persona, who lived more of a Scarface/Casino-esque lifestyle.It Was Written, chiefly produced by Tone and Poke of Trackmasters, was released during the summer of 1996.Two singles, "If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)" (featuring Lauryn Hill of The Fugees) and "Street Dreams", including a remix with R. These songs were promoted by big-budget music videos directed by Hype Williams, making Nas a common name among mainstream hip-hop.Reviewing Nas's second album It Was Written, Leo Stanley of allmusic believed the rhymes to be not as complex as those in Illmatic but still "not only flow, but manage to tell coherent stories as well".

Columbia Records began to press Nas to work towards more commercial topics, such as that of The Notorious B. G., who had become successful by releasing street singles that still retained radio-friendly appeal.

His African DNA indicates he has roots in countries with high Yoruba populations Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Ghana – as well as Mali, the Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Congo, South Africa, and Senegal.

His matrilineal DNA haplogroup is of African origin, found among the Yoruba As a young child, Nas and his family relocated to the Queensbridge Houses in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens.

In 1994, Nas's debut album, Illmatic, was finally released. It also featured production from Large Professor, Pete Rock, Q-Tip, LES and DJ Premier, as well as guest appearances from Nas's friend AZ and his father Olu Dara.

The album spawned several singles, including "The World Is Yours", "It Ain't Hard to Tell", and "One Love".

On the other hand, Illmatic, which, while having numerous references to Scarface protagonist Tony Montana, was more about his early life growing up in the projects. Dre's Aftermath Entertainment label, The Firm began working on their debut album.

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