Anthony Cruz (born March 9, 1972 in Brooklyn, New York), better known by his stage name AZ, is a Grammy-nominated rapper currently residing in Englewood, New Jersey. He is mainly known for his close association with Nas, his membership in the hip hop supergroup The Firm, and his multi-syllabic rhyming pattern and deep content within his solo albums. He released his debut album, Doe or Die, in 1995 and has since released 1998's Pieces of a Man, 2001's 9 Lives, 2002's Aziatic, 2005's A.W.O.L., 2006's The Format and 2008's Undeniable. AZ is currently working on his 10th studio album titled Doe or Die 2 to be released sometime in 2011.
AZ was born Anthony Cruz to an African-American mother and a Dominican father. Although he had been rapping since 1992, AZ first came to prominence by appearing on Nas' landmark album Illmatic on the song "Life's a Bitch" (1994)—he was the only guest emcee to appear on that album. After a bidding war, AZ signed with EMI, and soon released Doe Or Die (1995) to more critical acclaim than commercial sales. The album's lead single, "Sugar Hill", became AZ's only major commercial success as a solo artist, reaching the top 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and achieving Gold status. AZ's EMI contract was transferred to sister label Noo Trybe Records/Virgin Records when the EMI Label Group was shut down.