Life's a Bitch (song)

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"Life's a Bitch"
Single by Nas featuring AZ
from the album Illmatic
ReleasedApril 19, 1994
Format12" single
Songwriter(s)Nasir Jones
Anthony Cruz
Olu Dara
Ronnie Wilson
Oliver Scott
Nas singles chronology
"It Ain't Hard to Tell"
"Life's a Bitch"
"The World Is Yours"

"Life's a Bitch" is the fourth single from Nas' debut album Illmatic (1994). It was released as a 12" single on April 19, 1994 by Columbia Records. It features rapping from AZ and cornet playing by Nas' father Olu Dara. It is produced by L.E.S., who samples "Yearning for Your Love" by The Gap Band and "Black Frost" by Grover Washington, Jr. for the songs down-tempo jazzy beat. AZ's verse was the first recorded verse of his rap career and gave him much positive attention. Because of his verse on "Life's a Bitch", his debut album (Doe or Die) was anticipated much like how Nas' verse on "Live at the BBQ" raised expectations for Illmatic. "Life's a Bitch" was the first of several Nas/AZ collaborations such as "Mo Money, Mo Murder", "The Essence" and "The Flyest". Lyrics from AZ's verse on "Life's a Bitch" are sampled on "Keep It Real" by Miilkbone & on "Nasty Scene" by Deda.


Olu Dara's cornet work was the first on-wax collaboration with his son. "Jungle Jay" and "Dance" eventually followed, as did the 2004 single "Bridging the Gap". According to Nas:

"I asked my dad to play on the end of it — I told him to play whatever comes to mind when he thinks of me as a kid. I think he's really proud to see me coming up and really taking my life serious and doing what I want."[1]


This single is seen as a classic by many fans because of its laid-back and jazzy beat and complex lyricism. AZ's verse is highly dense and discusses his intentions to "carry on tradition" of those who paved the way for him, how society is governed by the wealthy, and the close relationship between money and power. Nas's verse discusses how he is happy to be alive at 20 years old, his rough childhood, consisting of "robbing foreigners" of their green cards, and selling crack. However, the tone of his words suggest that he is reflecting rather than glorifying his deeds, and now has a more positive outlook on life. In the years since the release of Illmatic, listeners still debate which verse is better. Although many seem to agree that AZ's verse was more lyrically complex, they simultaneously laud Nas's verse as one of his best, not only on Illmatic but throughout his whole career.

Thematic continuation[edit]

The song's title and concept was later mentioned in Nas' verse on the collaboration track "Affirmative Action" off his 1996 album It Was Written in which Nas raps "Life's a bitch but god-forbid the bitch divorce me". This track also featured AZ along with fellow Queensbridge rapper Cormega, Park Slope and Brooklyn rapper Foxy Brown.

In popular culture[edit]

In the 2009 film Fish Tank by Andrea Arnold, the song is played in one of the final scenes, bringing thematic closure to the narrative. It is also played as the closing credits roll.

Track listing[edit]


  1. "Life's a Bitch (Radio)" (3:37)
  2. "Life's a Bitch (Dirty)" (3:29)
  3. "Life's a Bitch (Instrumental)" (3:29)


  1. "Life's a Bitch (Arsenal Radio Mix)" (3:31)
  2. "Life's a Bitch (Arsenal Dirty Mix)" (3:31)
  3. "Life's a Bitch (Arsenal Instrumental Mix)" (3:35)