Nas' 50 Most Valuable Life Lessons


For the first time in years, Nas has garnered adulation from both critics and fans with his latest project, Life Is Good. It debuted at No.1 on the Billboard charts this upcoming week. Whether it's his ghetto Aesop's fables, personal anecdotes, or wise sayings he shares from experience, Nasir Jones has always conveyed messages in his songs. For nearly two decades, fans have taken upon quotes after quotes from Nas' catalog, deciphered them, and applied them to their lives. Here's 50 of his best life lessons to keep in your mental arsenal. —XXL Staff (@XXL)

“Life is parallel to Hell but I must maintain...” —“N.Y. State of Mind,” Illmatic (1994)


Translation: Times get tough, but the key to making it through is persistence and perseverance.

“I switched my motto; instead of saying ‘fuck tomorrow’/That buck that bought a bottle could've struck the lotto...” —“Life’s a Bitch,” Illmatic (1994)


Translation: Imagine if you put your efforts towards building for the future, rather than quickly enjoying (or lamenting) the moment.

“Never talking to snakes cause the words of man kill...” —“Memory Lane (Sittin’ in da Park),” Illmatic (1994)


Translation: Be careful what you say and who you trust.

“Born alone, die alone, no crew to keep my crown or throne...” —“The World Is Yours,” Illmatic (1994)


Translation: People come in and out of your life, but, in the end, all you’ve got is yourself. Bet on yourself, and you’ll go far.

“I had to school him, told him don't let niggas fool him/Cause when the pistol blows the one that's murdered be the cool one...” —“One Love,” Illmatic (1994)


Translation: It may seem cool to committing rhymes or blasting rounds from a gun at foes, but the result is you’re locked up and their life will be mourned.

"Trick my wisdom, with the system that imprisoned my son..." —"De Ja Vu" or "Verbal Intercourse" (1995)

De Ja Vu

Translation: Stay smart if you want to avoid getting locked up in jail, or get affected by the sometimes ruthless force of the law.

“A case of beers in the staircase I wasted years/Some niggas went for theirs, flipping coke as they career...” —“Street Dreams,” It Was Written (1996)


Translation: Even when things aren’t looking up, don’t dwell in your own misery. The only way you’ll come up is if you go and get yours. Feeling sorry for yourself doesn’t do any good.

“I got no game, it's just some bitches understand my story...” —“Watch Dem Niggas,” It Was Written (1996)


Translation: Just be yourself, do you, and the ladies will catch on.

"But a thug changes, and love changes, and best friends become strangers, word up..." —“The Message,” It Was Written (1996)

It Was Written_The Message

Translation: Oftentimes, due to various circumstances (money, greed, lust) close relationships can face unpleasant outcomes. It's a natural occurrence of life, and it is bound to happen one way or another.

“Why shoot the breeze about it, when you could be about it?” —“Take It In Blood,” It Was Written (1996)


Translation: Don’t simply say what you plan on doing. Actually do it.

“Your value: too much to be measured/I wonder how you could ever be played/Your pussy worth gold/Amountin’ to more than the world, but not knowin nothin’ about you...” —“Black Girl Lost,” It Was Written (1996)


Translation: Ladies, understand your own self-worth. Don’t let a man or your sexuality define this for you. Set high standards for yourself and hold yourself and those around you to those standards.

“It's elementary, they want us all gone eventually” —“If I Ruled The World (Imagine That),” It Was Written (1996)

It Was Written_If I Rule The World

Translation: Others will plot on your demise.

“Cause you could have all the chips, be poor or rich/Still nobody want a nigga having shit” —“If I Ruled The World (Imagine That),” It Was Written (1996)

It Was Written_If I Ruled The World_Part 2

Translation: Black communities face oppressive forces and institutional racism even in today’s society.

"A lot of niggas scheming, some real, some niggas fronting, but I'm a big dreamer, so watch me come up with something..." —“NY State Of Mind, Pt. II,” I Am... (1999)

I Am_NY State of Mind Part 2

Translation: A lot of people are planning to acquire riches. While some are actually executing their plans, others are merely talking about it. As Nas referred to himself, look forward to create something that's bigger.

“You wanna hate me? Then hate me, what can I do? But keep getting money, funny I was just like you...” —“Hate Me Now,” I Am... (1999)


Translation: Some people hate. All you can do is keep doing you.

“If we united, a nation of thugs, who could fight it?” —“We Will Survive,” I Am... (1999)


Translation: The people in our communities are better off coming together instead of fighting one another.

“Do not speak to fools, they scorn the wisdom of your words...” —“Ghetto Prisoners,” I Am... (1999)


Translation: Those who are in a less desirable position than you may try to chop you down. Don’t let them deter you.

“Freedom or jail, clip's inserted, a baby's being born/Same time a man is murdered, the beginning and end” —“Nas Is Like,” I Am... (1999)


Translation: The universe is a balance. Without pain, there is no joy.

"Look way deep inside yourself, discover the diamond inside, find your wealth, once you get it, you got to live it the limit, niggas never wanna see you with it, fuck them though!" —"Find Ya Wealth" (1999)

Find Ya Wealth

Translation: Find your identity by studying who you are as an individual. When do achieve that state, take your abilities to the limit. You'll come across haters, but dismiss them.

“Diamonds are blinding, I never make the same mistakes...” —“One Mic,” Stillmatic (2001)

Stillmatic_One Mic

Translation: It’s easy to have your judgment clouded by beautiful things and people and seemingly too good to be true situations. Sometimes when things appear to good to be true, they are. Learn from your mistakes.

“Junior high school dropout, teachers never cared/They was paid just to show up and leave, no one succeeds...” —“2nd Childhood,” Stillmatic (2001)

Stillmatic_2nd Childhood

Translation: Don’t limit your education to what they teach (or don’t teach) in the classroom. Take control of your own future.

“Religion misoverstood is poison...” —“What Goes Around,” Stillmatic (2001)

Stillmatic_What Goes Around_1

Translation: Religion and religious doctrines employed for the wrong reasons can be harmful, oppressive, and even deadly.

“Life is short is what some nigga said/Not if you measure life by how one lives and what he did...” —“What Goes Around,” Stillmatic (2001)

Stillmatic_What Goes Around_2

Translation: Your impact on this earth is not based upon possessions or how long you live, but they way you affect the lives of others.

"I pray for you, deadbeat daddies, 'cause when them kids get grown it's too late for you, now you old and you getting shitted on..." —"What Goes Around," Stillmatic (2001)

Stillmatic_What Goes Around_3

Translation: Take care of your kids.

“Do your body right it loves you back, you only get one life, and yo, because of that..." —“Doo Rags,” The Lost Tapes (2002)

Lost Tapes_Doo Rags

Translation: Take care of your body with the proper nutrients and exercise. In order for you to accomplish more as an individual, you need the full support of your physical form. Plus, you only get one body for your lifetime.

“Everything will eventually come to an end, so try to savor the moment, ‘cause time flies, don’t it?” —“Nothing Lasts Forever,” The Lost Tapes (2002)

Lost Tapes_Nothing Lasts Forever

Translation: Carpe diem.

“Where they used to stand at, somebody’s taking they place, a younger man perhaps, hand slaps, can’t understand that, same walk, same talk, I wonder can that, be possible, a thug dies, another step inside his shoes…” —“Purple,” The Lost Tapes (2002)

Lost Tapes_Purple

Translation: The circle of life is evident. Whether that's a good or bad.

“So what’s a black man’s true religion, who should we follow? Use your own intuition, you are tomorrow…” —“Black Zombies,” The Lost Tapes (2002)

Lost Tapes_Black Zombies

Translation: The future lies upon your hand. It's not determined by those who are enforcing upon a false belief. Figure things out on your own terms, and decide the path you think it's righteous.

“Some niggas fuck their enemies in they ass when they catch 'em/Weird-ass niggas are dangerous, so don't test 'em...” —“Get Down,” God’s Son (2002)

God's Son_Get Down

Translation: Watch your back.

“Boys and girls, listen up/You can be anything in the world, in God we trust/An architect, doctor, maybe an actress/But nothing comes easy, it takes much practice...” —“I Can,” God’s Son (2002)

God's Son_I Can_1

Translation: You can be and achieve anything that you want, but it only comes with hard work and dedication.

“Watch the company you keep and the crowd you bring...” —“I Can,” God’s Son (2002)

God's Son_I Can_2

Translation: Keep your circle tight. The negative influence of others can not only influence others’ perceptions of you, but also the person you become.

“Be careful, some men be/Rapists, so act your age, don't pretend to be/Older than you are, give yourself time to grow...” —“I Can,” God’s Son (2002)

God's Son_I Can_3

Translation: You have your whole life to be an adult. Enjoy your childhood. The time to be a grown up will come.

“Nobody says you have to be gangstas, hoes/Read more learn more, change the globe...” —“I Can,” God’s Son (2002)

God's Son_I Can_4

Translation: Don't resign to a future that society says you will fulfill. Pursue knowledge and become great.

"Death threats given by clowns, I guess living is prison when you live around clowns." —“Book of Rhymes,” God’s Son (2002)

God's Son_Book of Rhymes_1

Translation: Living is no different that prison when you're around those who can't elevate your stance. Surrounding yourself around dung, will make you smell like dung and be treated like a dung. Stay away from those who are of no help.

"The money's your religion, sky the limit live life, numbers is big business makes the poor live trife...” —“Book of Rhymes,” God’s Son (2002)

God's Son_Book of Rhymes_2

Translation: Living one's life solely based on money leads to foul deeds, including hurting those who are poor. Live your life to the fullest, but money shouldn't be the end all, be all.

"Keep your ears to the street, y'all never lose, man, make your enemies believe there's love there...” —“Book of Rhymes,” God’s Son (2002)

God's Son_Book of Rhymes_3

Translation: Be aware of your surroundings. And keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

"That's when it all just hit me, you see the broads and Bentleys is nothing, lest my niggas spend it all with me, I'd give it all away quickly...” —“Heaven,” God’s Son (2002)

God's Son_Heaven

Translation: Sharing is caring.

“Live now niggas, there’s no promise of a second time around, put it down, we’ll just live now, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t, everything is up to you…” —“Live Now,” Street's Disciple (2004)

Street's Disciple_Live Now

Translation: You only live once, so live your life to the fullest.

“Death, real shit’ll start coming to light, niggas you ain’t like dicking your wife…” —“Rest of My Life,” Street's Disciple (2004)

Street's Disciple_Rest of My Life

Translation: Your death will spark some very unfortunate happenings, including your enemies trying to get a nut with your loved one. Therefore, always be aware.

"Become a creature of habitat, the average cat, won't see where it's at, or where it's going, the hood waits for no one..." —“Street's Disciple,” Street's Disciple (2004)

Street's Disciple_Street's Disciple

Translation: It's easy to get lost in the 'hood environment, not realizing the existence of the outside world. This could be detrimental, as the 'hood has no sympathy towards those that are left behind.

"Rats get their tails snapped and trapped..." —“Money Over Bullshit,” Hip Hop Is Dead (2006)

Hip-Hop Is Dead_Money Over Bullshit

Translation: Snitches will get reprimanded. So be careful what you utter on these streets, society, or corporate environment.

"Crossed the line from her world of news casting, to a world of entrapment, a good girl gone backwards..." —"Still Dreaming," Hip Hop Is Dead (2006)

Hip-Hop Is Dead_Still Dreaming_1

Translation: Stay in your lane, and watch where you're going. Otherwise, you'll get hurt.

"Dwelling on the past when you was alright, when you was getting cash, but wasn't too bright, now your luck down you feel like busting them shells, nobody owe you, can't do nothing for self..." —"Still Dreaming," Hip Hop Is Dead (2006)

Hip-Hop Is Dead_Still Dreaming_2

Translation: Be wise with your spending habits, because not everyday is sunny. Or you might end up doing something stupid like busting guns to gain riches.

"They say the close ones will hurt you, so let's keep a small circle, on the road to riches, and diamond rings in the land of the blind, the man with one eye is the king..." —“N.I.G.G.E.R.,” Untitled (2008)


Translation: The bigger your circle, the more likelihood of you dealing with individuals with wrong intentions. The world is full of people who are blinded (or dumb). To win, you must have knowledge.

"It's a journey, some'll get left behind, cause in life, you cannot press rewind/Get it right, you only have one first chance, to make one first impression that lasts a lifetime..." —"Strong Will Continue," Distant Relatives (2010)

Distant Relatives_Strong Will Continue

Translation: Unlike his song "Rewind," things don't go backwards or return to the way they were. So cease the opportunity you're granted if you don't want to get left behind.

"My life been good since I started finding peace..." —"Loco-Motive," Life Is Good (2012)

Life Is Good_Loco Motive

Translation: Remove yourself from scuffles and tribulations of life, and you'll be in a better state.

"They say the coolest playas and foulest heart breakers in the world, God gets us back, he makes us have precious little girls..." —"Daughters," Life Is Good (2012)

Life Is Good_Daughters

Translation: Karma's a bitch.

"Some seek fame 'cause they need validation, some say hating is confused admiration..." —"Stay," Life Is Good (2012)

Life Is Good_Stay

Translation: Some people seek fame to feel better about themselves, while some people hate out of jealousy or longing to be in the same position their subject stands upon.

"It's better to dead a beef than let it breathe, then we don't succeed..." —"World's An Addiction," Life Is Good (2012)

Life Is Good_World's An Addiction

Translation: Don't waste your time on the bullshit, because it's a blockade from allowing you to accomplish bigger and better things.

"If you scared to take chances, you’ll never have the answers..." —"Trust," Life Is Good (2012)

Life Is Good_Trust

Translation: Opportunities don't fall from the sky, you must strive to achieve them on your own.