Let's put it this way: When was the last time you heard a non-bling-oriented MC not say modern hip-hop is a fucking old mess? For some rappers, making inflammatory statements about the state of the game might simply be part of the business plan. Brooklyn MC AZ has been uttering a few himself, but he does seem sincere when he states there's substance missing in his genre.

Born Anthony Cruz to an African-American mother and a Dominican father, AZ first appeared in hip-hop fans' consciousness 14 years ago, when he was featured on Nas's 1994 track "Life's a Bitch." (This made him, in fact, the only guest MC to appear on the latter's explosive debut, Illmatic.) Later he came to prominence as a member of Nineties rap supergroup The Firm, which put him on the same stage as Nas, Foxy Brown, and Nature.



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Now that his relationship with Nas has undergone some continental drift, he feels safe to imply that Nas — whom AZ sounds quite a bit like — had money on his mind when he decided to name his 2006 album Hip-Hop Is Dead. And maybe even more so when he decided to name his upcoming album Nigger (an idea that was immediately torpedoed by Def Jam Records). "He has some kind of motive behind what he's doing," AZ said of Nas in a recent interview with "I haven't spoken to him about the situation, but I know that he's a smart brother, so I'm sure there'll be some science behind it."

Of late, AZ himself has focused on pushing his new album, Undeniable, since its release by Koch Records this past April 1. Guest MCs on the album include Jay Rush, Ray J, and Styles P.


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