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AZ (rapper)

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AZ
AZ (born Anthony Cruz in Brooklyn, New York City, New York) is an African-American rapper/East Coast hip hop musician who has achieved a cult following in spite of little mainstream success. He first came to prominence appearing on Nas' landmark Illmatic (1994, 1994 in music) and soon released Doe or Die (1995, 1995 in music) to critical acclaim, even from critics who hated hip-hop but liked AZ's moralistic and realistic portrayals of the dangers of thug life.

AZ's fanbase grew considerably after he joined The Firm, a supergroup consisting of AZ, Nas, Foxy Brown and Nature with Dr. Dre and The Trackmasters producing. The Firm's debut, The Firm: The Album, was a critical and commercial failure, as was Pieces of a Man, AZ's second solo release. Without a major label, AZ released S.O.S.A. to little fanfare in 2000 (see 2000 in music). Soon, however, AZ signed to Motown and released 9 Lives, which returned his name to popular consciousness among hip hop critics but did little to bolster his sales.

In 2002, he released Aziatic. The video to its first single, "I'm Back," received moderate MTV2 play. 2004 saw the release of Final Call, thought to be his retirement album, though he is scheduled to release an album in 2005.

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