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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.
In 1995, Nas did guest performances on the albums Doe or Die by AZ, The Infamous by The Infamous Mobb Deep, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx by Raekwon and 4,5,6 by Kool G Rap.
MTV ranked him at #5 on their list of "The Greatest MCs of All Time".The album also expanded on Nas's Escobar persona, who lived more of a Scarface/Casino-esque lifestyle.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.Nas also parted ways with manager MC Serch, enlisted Steve Stoute, and began preparation for his second LP, It Was Written, consciously working towards a crossover-oriented sound.It Was Written, chiefly produced by Tone and Poke of Trackmasters, was released during the summer of 1996.The album spawned several singles, including "The World Is Yours", "It Ain't Hard to Tell", and "One Love".Shaheem Reid of MTV News called Illmatic "the first classic LP" of 1994.Nas, the poetic sage of the Queensbridge projects, was hailed as the second coming of Rakim—as if the first had reached his expiration date.[...] Nas never became 'the next Rakim,' nor did he really have to. The sublime lyricism of the CD, combined with the fact that it was delivered into the crucible of the boiling East-West conflict, quickly solidified [his] reputation as the premier writer of his time.From 2001 to 2005, Nas was involved in a highly publicized feud with Jay-Z. In 2010, he released Distant Relatives, a collaboration album with Damian Marley, donating all royalties to charities active in Africa.His 11th studio album, Life Is Good (2012) was nominated for Best Rap Album at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards.