The feud between rap artists Nas and Jay-Z received public attention beginning in 2001 and ended sometime in 2005. Due to the influence and success of the artists involved, it is one of the more popular recent feuds in hip hop.
Nature of beef
The feud between these hip hop legends is widely considered the most captivating of recent times. Tension between the two supposedly dates as far back as 1996, when Nas refused to make a guest appearance on Jay-Z’s debut album Reasonable Doubt (ironically, Nas did “appear” on the song “Dead Presidents II”- his vocals from “The World Is Yours” were sampled for the chorus). However, the relationship between the two rappers remained peaceful (Jay-Z even giving a shoutout to Nas in his album liner notes), and the tension did not escalate to full-blown rivalry until after the death of the Notorious B.I.G. The position of best rapper in New York (also known as the King of New York) seemed vacant after the death of Biggie, and fans were eager to see who would take over.
In 1997, Jay-Z, who had collaborated with B.I.G., released a song titled “The City Is Mine” which seemed to many people to be making a claim to the empty throne. The album from which the song came, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1, was reportedly originally titled Heir To The Throne, Vol. 1. Nas, the only other rapper in New York with a reputation rivaling Jay-Z’s but who had never received the same amount of commercial success, responded to Jay-Z on his track “We Will Survive” (released in 1999, on his album I Am…), which appears to dismiss Jay-Z as a serious rival as well as attacking both his claims of superiority and his continual evoking of B.I.G.’s legacy.
The tension between the pair surfaced on their next releases, as each included aggressive songs entitled “Come and Get Me”, and various verbal jabs were thrown during subsequent mixtape appearances. The beef bubbled over into the public eye when Jay-Z mocked Nas’s Queensbridge allies Mobb Deep on stage at the Hot 97 Summer Jam hip hop festival reciting the opening verse to “Takeover”, which ended with the line “Ask Nas, he don’t want it with Hov”.
Nas responded with a withering attack on Jay-Z during a radio freestyle over Eric B. & Rakim’s “Paid In Full” beat, effectively dissing most of the R.O.C. members subliminally (with their names bolded in lyric). Innitially, the freestyle was untitled but was later titled “Stillmatic”, perhaps aimed to promote his new album Stillmatic. It is also called “H To The Omo”.
Jay-Z responded with the track “Takeover” from The Blueprint, on which he attacked Nas for never matching the critical success of his debut Illmatic and questioned his authenticity as an artist.
The song was very well-received by hip hop listeners, and many listeners and reviewers immediately dismissed Nas as a contender and feared for the end of his career. Therefore, it was a surprise to many when Nas responded with an equally well-received track titled “Ether” from his album Stillmatic, in which he mocked Jay-Z’s early years as an aspiring young rapper (in which he supposedly idolized Nas) and accused him of being a misogynist and exploiting The Notorious B.I.G’s legacy.
The positive response to “Ether” created enormous interest in the rivalry throughout the hip hop community, the music media and even mainstream news outlets. On “Takeover,” Jay-Z had issued this warning at the end of the third verse. “You know who/ did you know what/ with you know who/ lets keep that between me and you”. Many speculated what Jay-Z was talking about while others dismissed it, believing it to be nothing of importance. Those questions would be answered as the rapper’s response was prompted in a radio freestyle that became known as “Super Ugly”.
In the song, Jay-Z alluded to an ongoing sexual relationship with the mother of Nas’s child, Carmen Bryan. The song also alleges that Bryan also had a relationship with Philadelphia Sixers NBA star Allen Iverson. This release was not as well received as the previous three tracks had been. The feud continued to simmer, and rumors of a live pay-per-view freestyle battle began to circulate but never came to fruition.
After the promoters of Hot 97’s Summer Jam festival refused to allow headlining Nas to hang an effigy of Jay-Z during his performance at 2002’s show, he appeared on Hot 97’s rival Power 105 and attacked both the music industry’s control over hip hop and the rappers who he saw as submitting to it, including Jay-Z, Nelly, N.O.R.E. and Jay-Z’s label mate Cam’ron : “Y’all brothers gotta start rapping about something that’s real. […] Rappers are slaves.” This brought Cam’ron into the Jay-Z/Nas feud; Cam’ron controversially made disparaging remarks about Nas’ mother. Ironically, after Cam’ron established his group the Diplomats, he attacked Jay-Z in Winter 2005. After this incident both continued to go against one another on various tracks, the shots taken including Jay-Z criticizing Nas for his apparent hypocrisy on his The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse album’s title track. On “Blueprint 2,” Jay begins his diss against Nas in the second verse by attacking his street cred. Jay also says that while he himself is more successful, he is more generous than Nas with his money:
Jay goes on to mock Nas’s spiritual persona from Stillmatic and after, accusing Nas of using both this appearance and convoluted lyrics in an attempt to appear more intelligent than he is: “Cause the nigga wear a kufi, it don’t mean that he bright/Cause you don’t understand him it don’t mean that he nice/It just means you don’t understand all the bullshit that he write.” In the lines immediately after, he also accuses Nas of hypocrisy for putting out commercial/materialistic-oriented tracks and then denouncing materialism and misogyny on other songs.
Meanwhile, Nas compared himself and Jay-Z to the characters Tony Montana and Manolo respectively from the film Scarface, on his track “Last Real Nigga Alive” from his God’s Son album. However, the feud died down somewhat toward the end of 2002, with no real winner decided.
There are arguments go on to this day in the hip hop community about who came out on top overall, with the results of a Hot 97 radio phone-in, held days after Jay-Z’s release of “Super Ugly” and pitting the track against “Ether”, revealing a 58% - 42% split in favor of Nas. Also, after the release of the Black Album, both Nas & Jay-Z have since paid tribute to each other in interviews, likening the battle to a world title boxing match that pitched the best against the best, and pleased with the entertainment it provided fans. The rivalry also impacted their careers critically and commercially. The battle was significant in that it revived the trend of using ‘beefs’ as a source for publicity and promotion for hip hop artists, originally unpopular following the tragic deaths of 2Pac and Biggie, now prevalent within the hip hop community.
Present Day Friendship
In what may be perhaps a pivotal moment in hip hop history, the feud was formally ended in October 2005 at Jay-Z’s I Declare War concert, where Nas made a special guest appearance and performed the hook to “Dead Presidents” and a few of his own tracks such as “NY State of Mind” and “Hate Me Now”. In 2005 at another 105.1 concert Jay and Nas reunited on stage and performed a song together.
In January 2006, Nas signed with Jay-Z’s Def Jam, further emphasizing the truce and raising expectations for a possible collaboration.
Nas and Jay-Z are now good friends and they have toured, recorded and appeared on television and radio together throughout 2006. Jay-Z is set to appear on Nas latest album “Hip Hop is Dead” which will be released under Nas new partnership with Def Jam. The song is titled “Black Republican”.
In advance of the album and in celebration of the renewed friendship, a mixtape hosted by Mick Boogie was been released to the mixtape community in November 2006. The mixtape, titled “Mick Boogie - Jay-Z & Nas: God’s Gift Special Edition” brilliantly cuts and pastes Jay’s song “Takeover” which attacks Nas’ & Nas’ response “Ether” to make a “call & response” type song turning it into a duet where the two artists are insulting each other. Another track called “What’s Beef?” explains the former beef between the two from both rappers perspectives.
Other new collaborations between the two on the mixtape include:
Nas & Jay-Z - Black Republican
Jay-Z & Nas - The Rulers (produced by Hasan Insane)
Jay-Z, Beanie Siegel & Nas - Kill At Will (produced by The Kickdrums)
Jay-Z & Nas - United Nations Interlude
Jay-Z & Nas - What’s Beef?
Jay-Z & Nas - Analyze This
Edited by themainburger on 28 Nov 2006, 14:22
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