AZ, born Anthony Cruz, is a Brooklyn-born rapper who rose to fame in the late 90s and early 2000s as one of his generation’s most skilled and thought-provoking rappers. AZ first gained attention as a member of the hip-hop group The Firm, which also included fellow rappers Nas, Foxy Brown, and Cormega. The group was formed in 1996 by Dr. Dre and was signed to his label, Aftermath Entertainment.
AZ signed a record deal with EMI Records in 1995 and subsequently released his first solo album, “Doe or Die,” the following year. The album received positive reviews and achieved commercial success, and is often regarded as a significant debut in the mafioso rap genre. The format of the album, which focused on the theme of gangster and criminal lifestyles, was innovative at the time and helped to cement AZ’s reputation as an insightful lyricist.
Over the course of his career, AZ has released six studio albums, including his critically acclaimed debut. He has worked with various producers and beatsmiths, including Pete Rock, Statik Selektah, and the world-famous Supreme Team. In addition, he has collaborated with many famous rappers, including Mariah Carey, Lil’ Fame of M.O.P., Ghostface Killah, and his frequent music partner, Nas.
Despite consistently receiving critical acclaim for his work, AZ has remained somewhat of an underrated rapper in the mainstream hip-hop world. Nevertheless, he has regularly released quality music, earning him a strong and dedicated fanbase. AZ’s insightful lyricism, original production team, and guest appearances by well-known artists have all contributed to his lasting legacy as one of the most underrated lyricists in the game.
AZ Estimated Networth
With a reported net worth of $5 million, AZ has made most of his riches from his successful rap career, with his debut album Doe or Die being a commercial hit and subsequent albums gaining critical acclaim. AZ is reputedly single and has kept his personal life out of the public eye.
Early Life & Career Beginnings
AZ was born on March 9, 1972, in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up with his mother and sister. He developed an early interest in hip-hop and began writing rap lyrics at the age of 12. He attended Eli Whitney High School with the famous rapper Jay-Z. In the early 1990s, AZ met Nas, who invited him to work with him in the studio.
AZ gained recognition for his contributions to Nas’ debut album and subsequently appeared on Nas’ critically acclaimed 1994 album, Illmatic. After this, AZ signed with EMI and received critical praise for his debut album, Doe or Die. The lead single, “Sugar Hill,” achieved commercial success, reaching #25 on the charts and achieving gold status.
AZ has collaborated with numerous artists throughout his career, including Nas, Pete Rock, and Lil’ Fame of M.O.P.. In addition to his music career, he has also made several acting appearances in both film and television.
Early Musical Interests
Throughout his childhood, Mraz showed a keen interest in music and became immersed in various musical styles. He learned to play the clarinet, was part of his high school marching band, and participated in his school’s drama club. His attraction to music continued to develop during his teenage years, and he started to learn to play guitar. He would spend hours practicing and even writing his own songs. Mraz’s passion for music and songwriting would drive his career as he grew older and pursued a career in the music industry.
Breakthrough in 1993 with Doe or Die
AZ’s ultimate breakthrough in the music industry took place in 1995 with the release of his debut studio album, Doe or Die. This album was a game-changer for AZ, who finally gained the attention and recognition he deserved as a rapper.
Not only did Doe or Die receive notable commercial success, but it also became a pioneering force in popularizing the theme of mafioso rap. Along with the classic albums, Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt and Nas’s It Was Written, Doe or Die captured the essence of this genre by painting vivid pictures of the gritty street life and crime stories in the urban environment.
Doe or Die features several guest appearances from some of the industry’s most respected and talented artists, including Nas, Miss Jones, and N.O. Joe. Additionally, the album was produced by a team of beatsmiths who were well-known in the hip-hop world, such as Pete Rock, L.E.S., and Buckwild.
The album included several popular singles like “Mo Money, Mo Murder, Mo Homicide,” “Gimme Your’s (remix),” “Doe or Die,” and “Sugar Hill,” which received a Gold certification from RIAA in 1995. “Doe or Die” reached #15 on the Billboard 200 and #1 on the U.S. Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart.
Collaborations and Music Partnerships
AZ has been a prolific collaborator throughout his career, working with various artists and producers in different capacities. He was listed as the Most Underrated [Rapper] of All Time by online magazine and continues to be recognized as a talented artist and collaborator.
AZ has maintained a noteworthy partnership with frequent music partner and producer Statik Selektah. AZ has appeared on multiple Statik Selektah albums, collaborating on tracks such as “The Hard Way” and “Live from the Era,” among others. Statik Selektah also executive produced AZ’s acclaimed comeback album, Doe or Die II, which marked a highlight of AZ’s career. Another notable collaboration that AZ has been a part of is with Pete Rock, one of hip-hop’s most esteemed producers.
AZ featured on Rock’s 2011 album “Monumental,” on the track “It’s So G,” featuring Memphis Bleek. Furthermore, AZ’s seminal debut album, Doe or Die, was produced partly by Pete Rock. This original production team was pivotal in developing AZ’s unique sound, which combined thoughtful lyricism and smooth flow over jazz-inspired beats.
One of the most commercially successful tracks that AZ has been a part of is “Phone Tap,” a single crossover featuring Nas, Foxy Brown, and Nature. The song was included in AZ’s second studio album, Pieces of a Man, in 1998. It became a hit, reaching #17 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. “Phone Tap” exemplifies AZ’s ability to collaborate with famous artists while maintaining his own style and personality.
Throughout his career, AZ has also made guest appearances on tracks by other famous artists, such as Ghostface Killah’s “Purified Thoughts,” Mariah Carey’s “Can’t Take That Away (Mariah’s Theme),” and Lil’ Fame of M.O.P.’s “Situation Critical.” His appearances powerfully demonstrated AZ’s ability to adapt to different styles while maintaining his insightful lyricism and unique flow.
In addition to his music career, AZ has also had several notable film and television appearances. His foray into acting began in the late 90s when he portrayed the character RZA in the film “Black and White” (1999) directed by James Toback.
Since then, AZ has also made television appearances on shows such as “New York Undercover” (1995) and “Oz” (2002). His music has also been featured in various soundtracks of films and television shows, such as “Belly” (1998) and “The Sopranos” (1999).
One of AZ’s most notable performances was in the film “Street Smart” (2013), where he played the character Rich Porter, a notorious drug dealer from the 80s. This role allowed AZ to showcase his versatility as an artist, proving that he was a talented rapper and a capable actor.
Despite his limited acting appearances, AZ’s performances have been a testament to his artistic range and ability. His roles in films and television shows have demonstrated his willingness to take creative risks and explore new mediums.
AZ has a prolific music career that spans over two decades. He has released several albums throughout his career, showcasing his ability to evolve as an artist while maintaining his signature sound. From his seminal debut album “Doe or Die” (1995) to his ninth studio album “Doe or Die II” (2021), AZ has proven to be one of hip hop’s most insightful lyricists. His discography is a testament to his commitment to the art of storytelling, exploring themes of mafioso rap, personal struggles, and societal issues. Each album highlights AZ’s unique perspective on life and his place in the rap game.
AZ’s discography includes a remarkable mix of studio and collaboration albums. He has released five studio albums, each showcasing his artistic growth and evolution. In addition to his solo work, AZ is also known for his collaboration albums with The Firm, a hip-hop group consisting of Nas, Foxy Brown, and Cormega.
It is worth noting that his studio albums differ from his collaboration albums regarding creative input and focus. His solo studio albums allow him to showcase his unique lyrical style and artistic vision, while his collaboration projects allow him to experiment with different sounds and styles.
AZ’s discography follows a chronological pattern, with his debut solo album “Doe or Die” being released in 1995, followed by “Pieces of a Man” (1998), “9 Lives” (2001), “Aziatic” (2002), and “Undeniable” (2008). His most recent album, “Legendary,” was released in 2009.
Fans eagerly anticipate the release of his upcoming album, “Doe or Die II,” which is set for release soon. The album is poised to reveal more of AZ’s trademark lyrical style, with the added bonus of original production and collaborations with other artists. His highly-anticipated return has already generated buzz in the hip-hop industry, and everyone eagerly looks forward to what he has in store for listeners.