Where did the baby name Nas come from in 1997?

Nas in the music video for the song "If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)" (1996).
Nas in a music video

The name Nas debuted in the U.S. baby name data back in the late 1990s:

  • 1999: unlisted
  • 1998: 5 baby boys named Nas
  • 1997: 5 baby boys named Nas [debut]
  • 1996: unlisted
  • 1995: unlisted

What put it there?

New York rapper Nas (pronounced nahz).

His 1994 debut album Illmatic — today considered one of the best hip-hop albums ever made — didn’t meet commercial expectations.

But his second album, It Was Written (1996), saw mainstream success and produced two big singles. The first, “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)” featuring Lauryn Hill, reached #53 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in August and received a Grammy nomination. The second, “Street Dreams,” peaked even higher (#22) in January of 1997.

Nas’ stage name is short for his legal first name, Nasir (which also rose in usage as Nas rose to fame). Here’s how he explained his name back in 1994:

My whole name is Nasir Bin Olu Dara Jones. Nasir is Arabic. It means “helper and protector.” Bin means “son of.” Jones is the slave part. N*ggas weren’t trying to say my name back in the days. When we used to tag up on trains and high places, we’d climb up — I didn’t want to write Nasir, you couldn’t even say it — I’d just write Nas or Kid Wave.

(“Kid Wave” was a name he used for breakdancing.)

Nas’ father, Mississippi-born jazz trumpeter Olu Dara, changed his name from Charles Jones III in the late 1960s. His new name is comprised of the Yoruba words olu, short for oluwa, meaning “God” or “lord,” and dara, meaning “good.”

What are your thoughts on the name Nas?


  • Dreisinger, Baz. “Nas and his dad’s jazz.” Los Angeles Times 5 Dec. 2004.
  • Garcia, Bobbito. “Streets Disciple.” Born to Use Mics: Reading Nas’s Illmatic, ed. by Michael Eric Dyson and Sohail Daulatzai, Basic Civitas Books, 2010, pp. 225-235.
  • Nas – Billboard
  • Nas – Wikipedia

P.S. From 2005 to 2010, Nas was married to singer Kelis. Their only child together was a son named Knight, born in 2009.

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