Today in Hip Hop History: Nas Released His Third LP ‘I Am’ 23 Years Ago


Released by Columbia Records, Nas’ third album, I Am, debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart. The album sold 470,000 copies in its first week and was certified double platinum in the United States. The album was nominated in 2000 for Best Rap Album at the 43rd Grammy Awards.

Originally intended to be a double album titled I Am…The Autobiography, the album was arguably Nas’ most honest and poetic project at the time. Although the additional tracks were scrapped due to bootlegging of the original sessions, the intention for the theme and tone of the project can still be felt on the released single-disc LP.

Nas’ cover art has always been an iconic staple of his work. Usually consisting of his face superimposed over his native Queens, each cover has served as a visual representation of Nas as an artist. Famed portrait photographer Danny Hastings shot this particular cover. To create the image of Nas’ face in the Pharaoh mask in a pre-Photoshop world, Hastings made a clay mold for Nas’ face (which, in fact, almost killed him when clay got lodged in his nostrils, nearly suffocating him).

This album wasn’t only popular in the United States. I Am… made appearances on music charts in Australia, Canada, Norway, France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. The two official singles from this project claimed spots on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. “Nas Is Like..” peaked at #86, and “Hate Me Now” climbed a little higher to take the #62 spot.

After the release of this album, Nas released seven more solo albums and two collaborative projects. Nas continues to perform and is known as one of the most prolific rappers of his or any generation. Take some time today to listen to this album appreciate the career of a living legend.