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. In 1997, he and Nas appeared in a Sprite commercial. AZ signed with Motown/Universal Records and released 9 Lives. In 2002, he released Aziatic. A single from the album, "The Essence," (featuring Nas) was nominated for the 2003 Grammy Awards for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.
In 2004 AZ was going to release "Final Call". It got pushed back multiple times and heavily leaked until it was scrapped. Instead, A.W.O.L. was released in late 2005. Final Call was finally released on November 11, 2008.
In 2009, AZ released Legendary on June 2nd, 2009 through Real Talk Ent..