Having first appeared on Nas' 'Life's a Bitch,' which has since been heralded as rap's greatest guest verse, in 14 years AZ hasn't lost a step. With his signature flawless delivery and impeccable, multisyllabic flow, Anthony Cruz has built a career that spans seven solo albums, one group project (The Firm), and several memorable mixtapes (including the essential Memphis Sessions) creating a catalog that quietly rivals almost anyone in the game.

We spoke with AZ about his 'N4L' mixtape, a street accompaniment to Nas' 'Untitled' album with DJ Absolut, his partnership with Nas and his future in this ever changing world of rap.

What inspired you to release 'N4L'?

With all the weirdness that's going on in society now -- Obama, Mike Vick and Sean Bell, as well as getting a lotta flack [about] when me and Nas is doing an album, and the fact that he was dropping that 'N' album, I decided to just do my own thing; to give the fans some kind of hope on what it would sound like if we was to do something together.

So you don't have any plans to do anything together in the future?

To be honest, no.

It has to be annoying ... people always asking you about Nas.

It is what it is. I mean we started out together and did a lot of work so I expect it, but these days it's been a bit more than usual.

Have ever considered doing an album with one producer like Alchemist, Pete Rock, or Premier?

I'm thinking about it now. Just to keep the whole hip hop thing alive. I'm trying to figure out which route would I go ...probably Pete Rock, Premier or Large Professor.

I feel like it'd be a great time for that. Remember that Scratch magazine cover with Nas and Premier?

Oh yeah. Yeah, that would have been dope.

But we all knew it wasn't gonna happen.

S---, he said it wasn't gonna happen... At the end of the day I figured it was, cause it was on the front cover.

Yeah, but that's like when Dre says he's dropping 'Detox'... So, what's your favorite album out of your catalog?

The 'Aziatic' album was one of my favorites, but then again I would say the 'Doe Or Die' cause it was my first one -- both go hand in hand.

Is there any material left over from 'Doe Or Die' that was never released?

There's two or three cuts that didn't make the album. I'm gonna get ready to release them sooner or later.

Are there any plans for a 'Lost Tapes' type release?

I ain't come up with that yet, but it sound like something. I'm gonna piece something together.

Are there artists that you've wanted to work with but never had the chance to?

Probably producers, if any. Like Pharrell [Williams] or Kanye [West]. I've worked with a few producers, but like I said, Pharrell, Kanye, Timbaland, definitely.

What about Big Boi or someone like that? Scarface?

That'd be a good callabo right there. I didn't think about it but that'd be good, definitely good right there.

How do you feel about the music game now, having been involved in it for so long?

The game's constantly changing. It's a good thing on that note, but it's a game of hustle now, so everyone's hustling and the talent and all that don't matter. But at the end of the day, if you're a true artist, that's always a necessity. I can't be mad at how the game go, I just gotta get in where I fit in, and that goes for everybody. It's global now, which makes it more profitable.

What advice would you give to a young kid now, just starting out?

When I first came in the game -- as long as you stay down you gotta come up. Find your niche, find your right path and guaranteed you gotta come up. Guaranteed.

What can people expect from you for the future?

I'm always gonna give my hardcore fans AZ to the tenth power and I get greater with time. I'm always gonna deliver. Count on that ... that's what I want people to know.