Song: "It Ain't Hard To Tell" (1994)
Despite his rhetorical intricacies, his eye for narrative detail, his thoughtful, meditative observations, you can't get past the thing that first grabbed you about Nas: he just did this kind of thing so much better than everyone else. "Excel" is almost an understatement, a word used in academia that surely doesn't do great rap justice; "prevail" might seem like one too, until you consider the full threat the world posed to him. But then again, that's Nas, isn't it? Giving humdrum words power they've never had before, that they could only have in rap.