Words: Johnny "Jbutters" Mann; Photography: Fubz

With four albums, a gold single, and a starring role in one of the most highly anticipated collaboration projects in hip hop underneath his belt, AZ should be considered a bonafide hip hop superstar. Instead label politics, shoddy promotion and bad timing have relegated a powerful voice well below the surface of the mainstream. Although many fans would be hard pressed to name all four of AZ’s official titles, they can’t deny the impact of the man’s arrival. Back in the early to mid 90’s emcees like Nas, Jay-Z and the Wu Tang Clan started bringing criminology to the rap table embracing the rudiments of Mafioso lifestyle. Around that same time, Anthony Cruz was incorporating those same elements into his rhymes. It was this similarity in approach that first brought him and Nas together. Once they linked up destiny handled the rest.

“I knew a few cats from Brooklyn who knew a few cats from Queens and everybody used to get on the phone and rap,” reminisced AZ speaking on how he first met up with the QB lyricist. “It was at least six of us and the shit Nas was spitting was just like the stuff I was going for and he felt the same way. Everybody exchanged numbers and here and there he’d holla at me like my brother just got locked up and I’m like word my cousin just got locked up or my man just got killed and he’d be like word my man just got killed.”

Magazine:Elemental Magazine
Date: March 09, 2004