Nas and Jay-Z have had a tenuous relationship for years and have both cemented their places as legends in the culture. However, many know the pair from their lyrical battle at the turn of the millennium. As two lyricists from New York, there were bound to be problems, and as Jay-Z began to supersede the once-invincible Nas, things got ugly.
Although Nas (real name Nasir Jones) has a respectful relationship with Jay-Z now, the two are irrevocably tied to each other due to their conflict. During the turmoil, radio stations got blackmailed, DJs got pressured, and fans were eventually forced to pick sides.
Regarding early-1990s New York hip-hop, Nas was undeniably the city’s best lyricist. Irrespective of Biggie Smalls’ commercial appeal, the Queensbridge act told vivid stories and in-depth tales of growing up in poverty that captivated people far more than Bad Boy’s club anthems.
However, by the turn of the millennium, as sonics changed, Nas really seemed to stall, and public opinion was that Jay-Z had taken his place. However, that is not to say that the It Was Written artist wasn’t on his toes.
In 2001, when Jay-Z released his song ‘The Takeover,’ the lyrics saw Jay-Z taunt and goad Mobb Depp and Nas. The two queens acts responded very differently. Mobb Deep’s response was more covert, but Jones went for the jugular by releasing the legendary and savage diss track ‘Ether.’
However, prior to their dispute and in the years that followed, Jones still remained a fan of Jay-Z’s music, and in a 2012 interview with Complex, he spoke about why the Brooklyn emcee’s 1996 album, Reasonable Doubt is a classic, stating, “I seen this kid Jay, I already knew he was nice. I’m watching him come into the game and he delivered a lyrical album, a street album, and he grabbed his spot. A lot of people couldn’t do that. A lot of people that were putting out albums around the time Reasonable Doubt dropped are no longer around.”
He concluded, “He staked his claim. He showed everyone he was nice with his lyrics, he was nice with it. He came in the tradition of the New York streets, the way I did, the way Biggie did. He came in that way, and he’s been holding it down ever since. If you listen to Reasonable Doubt, he made it happen.”
You can listen to Jay-Z’s debut project below.