Nas has always been a brutal savage with the pen, but he’s never had a more wicked moment than on his original verse for ‘Ether’ which completely ruined Jay-Z.
Although Jay-Z and Nas are now friends. They’re artists who have collaborated on numerous occasions, most recently on the posthumously released DMX track ‘Bath Salts’. The track was even nominated for ‘Best Rap Song’ at the Grammys, but Hov’s collaboration with Kanye West on ‘Jail’ took home the prize instead.
For a time, hearing Nas and Jay-Z on the same track would have seemed unfathomable. At the turn of the century, they were fierce rivals following a Memphis Bleek lyric in ‘My Mind Right’, released in 2000. Things then took a dark turn when Jay made the mistake of calling Nas “lame” on ‘The Takeover’ which prompted the Illmatic rapper to unleash hell on ‘Ether’.
After Jay said he was past his best, Nas rapped: “I got this, locked since Nine-One (1991), I am the truest, Name a rapper that I ain’t influenced.” Later on in the track, he spat: “When these streets keep calling, heard it when I was asleep, That this Gay-Z and Cock-A-Fella Records wanted beef.”
He brutally continued: “Then you got the nerve to say that you’re better than Big, Dick-suckin’ lips, why don’t you let the late great veteran live”, “You a dick-ridin’ f*****, you love the attention, Queens n***** run you n*****, ask Russell Simmons and put it together, I rock hoes, y’all rock fellas.”
Nas’ brutality didn’t stop there, and he then accused Jay of being a sell-out who “traded your soul for riches”. Shockingly, in an early version, he even rapped that he wishes it was Jay who died in a plane crash rather than Aaliyah, but even Nas knew this was a step too far.
Jay responded to ‘Ether’ with two tracks, and the feud rumbled on for years. In truth, it was mutually beneficial to the pair of them to be sparring in public, and it did wonders to their careers.
There remains doubt about how much of their beef was cleverly deliberately orchestrated for publicity. One thing nobody can question is when he wants to be, Nas can be a murderer on the mic.