MUSIC: Street Stories

Rapper Nas blends smooth melodies and harsh themes

Maybe death by flesh-eating bacteria isn't the worst way to go. When Nasir Jones was growing up in the projects in New York City, it sometimes seemed to him that his whole world was ill and being eaten away. Drugs were devouring minds, crime was destroying families, poverty was gnawing at souls. Then in May 1992, Jones' brother and best friend were shot on the same night. His brother survived, his friend died, and Jones knew he had to do something with his life. "That was a wake-up call for me," he says.

Two years later, the 20-year-old Jones, who goes...

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