Nas attends Nas & Hennessy Hip-Hop's 50th Anniversary party.
Source: Getty Images

From "Illmatic" to "It Was Written": Ranking Nas's Top 5 Albums of All Time

Nas released some classic projects throughout his career. While it's impossible to pick a favorite, we ranked his top five albums based on sales.


Apr. 24 2024, Published 3:51 p.m. ET

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When Nas released his debut album, Illmatic, he changed the rap game forever. The record catapulted the Queens native into superstardom and is widely regarded as one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time.

Nas is now one of the most decorated rappers of his generation. The “If I Ruled the World” MC has been nominated for 17 Grammy awards, with a win for Best Rap Album for his 2020 project King’s Disease.

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From Illmatic – which celebrated its 30th anniversary on April 19 – to God’s Son, Nas demonstrates a lyrical prowess that resonates with fans worldwide.

His discography is filled with hits, but some projects were more successful than others. Here is a ranking of Nas's best albums based on critical acclaim, streams, sales, and overall popularity.

5. Nas took a different approach with ‘God’s Son.’

nas gods son album
Source: Legacy Recordings

Nas 'God's Son' album

Following the death of his mother, Ann Jones, and the loss of his close friend, Ill Will, Nas channels his grief and introspection into God’s Son. The album's title reflects Nas's grappling with spirituality amidst life's trials and tribulations. The record sold more than one million copies after peaking at No. 12 on the Billboard 200 chart.

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4. ‘Stillmatic’ marked a triumphant return for Nas.

Fans waited with bated breath for the release of Nas’ fifth studio album, Stillmatic, and it didn’t disappoint. The project was released in 2001 and peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 chart.

Stillmatic has since sold more than one million copies, according to Best Selling Albums. The album served as a reaffirmation of Nas’s lyrical abilities. Songs like "Ether," a scathing diss track aimed at Jay-Z, have since become legendary in hip-hop lore.

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3. “I Am…” was proof of Nas’ longevity.

nas i am album
Source: Legacy Recordings

Nas 'I Am..' album

Nas's I Am... came at a pivotal moment in the rapper's career. The success of Nas’s first two albums built pressure for his third project, and it proved to be a worthwhile follow-up to It Was Written.

I Am... delves into themes of introspection, self-discovery, and resilience. It claimed the top spot on the Billboard 200 chart for two weeks and has since sold more than two million copies, per RIAA.

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2. ‘Illmatic’ is regarded as one of the best rap albums ever.

Widely hailed as a masterpiece and a cornerstone of East Coast hip-hop, Illmatic remains Nas's magnum opus. The album is a vivid portrayal of inner-city life, delivered with unparalleled lyricism.

Tracks like "N.Y. State of Mind" and "The World Is Yours" showcased the rapper’s musical genius, which is felt throughout the project. According to Best Selling Albums, Illmatic has sold more than 2.2 million copies since its release in 1994.

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1. ‘It Was Written’ was a huge success.

nas it was written album
Source: Sony

Nas 'It Was Written Album'

Following the monumental success of Illmatic, Nas ventured into more commercial territory with It Was Written. While some purists lamented the departure from his gritty debut, the album's fusion of street narratives and mainstream appeal proved irresistible.

It Was Written became Nas’s best-selling album to date, selling more than three million units. Hits like "If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)," featuring Lauryn Hill, solidified Nas's crossover appeal, while songs like "The Message" maintained his street credibility.

The author’s content and opinions have not been pre-reviewed, approved or endorsed by Discover.

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