There is no question that Nas is one of the greatest emcees of all time, as he has been molding his artistry and technical ability as a writer for over thirty years. Since his 1994 debut album, Nas has been hailed as one of hip-hop’s most prized possessions for his skill and advanced storytelling.
Wu-tang general RZA had some kind words about the Queens emcee on Lex Fridman Podcast. The producer compared Nas’s skill to none other than legendary chess prodigy Bobby Fischer.
Nas made his debut on Main Source’s “Live at the Barbeque” at age 17 before taking the rap game by storm with Illmatic at 21 years old. Back in the late 1950s, Fischer became the youngest ever U.S. Chess Champion at age 14 and the youngest chess grandmaster at the time at 15.
I got to put Nas in that category,” RZA said when asked about who he believes are the greatest rappers outside of the Wu-Tang Clan. “We got a chess board in front of us, and one of the greatest chess players — the youngest grandmaster before, I think, [Magnus] Carlsen — was Bobby Fischer. One of the greatest American chess players.
“He was a master at, what, 14? To me, I met Nas when he was 15, and he was already a master lyricist. It takes about 10 years to become a master lyricist, so by the time the world heard Wu-Tang, most of us had 10 years of rapping in us already. The GZA was already a master when Nas was a master, but GZA was 21 — Nas was 15!”
“I think I’m four or five years older than Nas,” RZA continued. “So. I was always feeling my confidence in what I was doing,” he said. “But when I was like, ‘This kid is only 15?! Sheesh.’ When he turned , then we got Illmatic!”
Nas and RZA have collaborated a few times over the years, on tracks like Wu-Tang’s Verbal Intercourse,” and “Let My Niggas Live,” and, most recently, “Tanasia” and “Highly Favored” from 2019’s The Lost Tapes 2.