Source: All Music Guide
One of the numerous thoughtful, literate gangsta rappers to emerge from New York during the mid-'90s, AZ never garnered the attention of peers like Nas and Jay Z. Instead, he saw his debut album, Doe or Die, become a critical favorite in late 1995 before his career suddenly went downhill after such modest and short-lived success. Critics and b-boys alike celebrated AZ and his debut album for a literate approach to the gangsta lifestyle. Like his aforementioned peers Nas and Jay Z, AZ not only brought intelligence to his rhymes but also an impressive flow and delivery that further set him apart from the flood of New York MCs fighting for survival in the crowded rap game. Unfortunately, despite Doe or Die's quiet success, AZ stumbled in successive years, finally scoring a new major-label relationship with Motown in the early 2000s.
Born in Brooklyn as Anthony Cruz, AZ first came to the greater rap community's attention in a big way after his stellar performance on Nas' "Life's a Bitch" in 1994. Given AZ's similarity to Nas and the overwhelming response to Nas' Illmatic album, it was just a matter of time before AZ would score a record deal, a feat he accomplished in 1995. The resulting debut album, Doe or Die, shook the New York hip-hop scene as Nas' Illmatic and Mobb Deep's Infamous had done shortly before it. Like those albums, Doe or Die reveled in the street life -- hustling for cash, peddling drugs, violent encounters, mandatory boasting, struggling daily just to maintain -- but took a literate and thoughtful approach to the often exploitative gangsta motifs. Furthermore, like Nas, AZ had Pete Rock crafting the beats, which won the young rapper instant credibility among the hip-hop community.
When word hit the street that AZ was an official member of the supergroup known as the Firm, his status only rose higher. Anchored by Nas, Foxy Brown, Nature, and AZ on the mics, with Dr. Dre and the Trackmasters on the beats, it would seem as if the group could do no wrong. The group's 1997 album ended up being a surprise failure, though, buried under ridiculous expectations and too much hype. But AZ's bad fortune didn't stop there. He returned a year later with his sophomore album, Pieces of a Man, an album that came and went relatively unnoticed and uncelebrated. For the next few years, AZ became a forgotten name. No longer with a major-label contract, he managed to release the little-heard S.O.S.A. record in 2000. It didn't sell many copies or resurrect his career but rather re-affirmed the fact that he was indeed a talented rapper whether the public and the industry wanted to acknowledge it or not.
Within a year's time, AZ secured a new major-label relationship with Motown, a label that had never had much, if any, success with rap artists. Still, the Brooklyn rapper wouldn't let the label's reputation hold him back, as he illustrated on 9 Lives, unofficially billed as his comeback album. Though lacking big-name production and employing a skimpy roster of guest rappers, the album did showcase AZ's lyrical prowess and his endurance, anchored by the sample-laced lead single "Problems." Aziatic from 2002 received positive reviews overall and two years later by the double disc career overview Decade 1994-2004. ~ Jason Birchmeier, All Music Guide
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Whats Real??? | Reviewer: Bj | 5/15/13
Why people want to hear that Jail talk?? Let me explain that I was this and I do that Shit!!! I've been listening to AZ from the beggining and if U have lived that life it ain't hard to tell this Nigga spitting the truth and realities. of the streets "its ferocious.when broke Niggas get focused"
The Best Kept Secret | Reviewer: Born Allah | 1/18/12
The GOD is the best kept secret his flow is ridiculous he's always dropping jewels. I got every album he's ever done. Peace to the GOD Allah Zig Zag Zig(AZ) for yall 85er's that don't know! Peace
Az top 5 | Reviewer: dstyleone | 11/25/11
All you critics and suck ass commercial hip hop fucked over Az. He has some of the coolest punch lines and sickist flows. Listen to "The Format, exactly! I am the truth,the format,the come up the list goes on block boiling pot. Some rappers took shit from the albums u critics said was trash and turned into a gold mine at Az expense. I truly believe his style&flow was the future and u soft twinkle toe bitches shitted on him.
The Most Influential and Helpful | Reviewer: Derrick | 5/18/10
Man I can't say enough about AZ especially the song he made called This is what I do/ I mean it just helped me get over a bad break up wit someone I was wit for over a year and they left me at the last minute for her x cause he got a little more than me but I joined the military for us to have a better life and I was mistreating her it was her parents that looked at me bad cause I lied in the beginning but this was in December and they still kept rubbing it in my face like they was all good and never did nothing. I mean I just can't believe right before I get everything together she would just leave me like that I mean it hurt but by listening to that song AZ - This is what I do it really helped me get over that big situation ya heard I love you AZ you the best man keep going people need you
ONE OF THE BEST | Reviewer: TAY WEST | 3/6/09
i think az is still one of the best rappers alive, he has always kept up wit the time. He never faded to me his lyrics has always been on point, i always thought he was underated. Keep doing u thing dude iam and aspiring artist doing my thing overseas finally i know the struggle shout out to me CHARLOTTE, N.C THE VETERAN TAY
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