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The Essential Nas, released in August 2013, followed the rather flawed Greatest Hits (November 2007) and slightly less problematic Playlist: The Very Best of Nas (January 2013) as the third U.S. Nas anthology. A 30-track, two-disc set, The Essential Nas goes significantly deeper and lacks one major cut: It Was Written highlight "If I Ruled the World." The other 13 songs included on Playlist are here, along with deeper cuts from all but one of Nas' albums. (2008's Nas is shut out.) 1994's Illmatic, represented with four selections, is essential for anyone with the slightest amount of interest, and this complements that classic rather well since there are no other five-star releases in Nas' catalog. Columbia/Legacy would have been smart to include Main Source's "Live at the Barbeque" and MC Serch's "Back to the Grill," '91/'92 posse cuts on which a then-teenaged Nas is featured; perhaps licensing obstacles prevented their presence. Ego Trip's Gabe Alvarez contributes an excellent essay filled with knowledge, context, and insightful analysis about this brilliant and occasionally baffling MC.

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