The Jay-Z song Nas owns the rights to
(Credit: Wikimedia/Hip Hop Hero)

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The Jay-Z song Nas owns the rights to

In an appearance on the Drink Champs podcast with Noreaga and DJ EFN, the executive producer of Illmatic, MC Serch, gave an in-depth explanation of how Nas owns part of Jay-Z‘s publishing. 

While talking about the legendary battle between the pair that occurred in 2001 with ‘The Takeover’ and ‘Ether’ diss tracks, Serch (real name Michael Berrin) explained the meaning behind Jay-Z’s iconic lyric, “And you ain’t get a coin, n***a, you were getting fucked then/I know who I paid, God: Serchlite Publishing.”

On the 1996 Hov song ‘Dead Presidents,’ the rapper made use of a Nas sample from his 1994 song ‘The World Is Yours’ in which he raps, “I’m out for dead presidents to represent me.” Explaining how Jay-Z reached out to clear the sample, Berrin disclosed, “Dame, and Jay come to my office and say, ‘Hey, we have to clear this ‘Dead Presidents’ sample’ I said ‘Okay, no problem, give me $2,500, but know that we’ll have 25% of your record, on the publishing. He was like, ‘Alright, cool.’”

He continued, “Jay gave me a cheque for $2,500, I delivered it to [Zomba Music Group]. But if you look at the liner notes of ‘Dead Presidents,’ Nas is one of the publishers. So that line can live as long as it lives, but Jay don’t own a piece of Nas’ catalogue, but Nas owns a piece of Jay’s catalogue. And that’s a fact, though.”

In ‘The Takeover,’ Jay-Z boasts about sampling ‘The World Is Yours’ rapping, “I took your voice and used it better than you!” However, irrespective of whether the Brooklyn mogul believes he did a better job with the lyric, Nas continues to make money from the 1996 track.

Inside the cover for Reasonable Doubt, where the credits appear, Ill Will Music (Nas’ company) is credited as a publisher and under ‘Dead Presidents II’, the Queensbridge emcee (real name Nasir Jones) is listed as a writer.

Although Berrin helped Nas make money from Illmatic, he admitted to Noreaga and DJ EFN that he purposefully made sure not to tie the young, hungry artist into an exploitative deal as many label executives do, stating, “I wasn’t going to be the Jew to take advantage off the Black man. I don’t need to get wealthy off Nas, and I don’t. My checks are very humble, and I’m okay with that. Cause they’ll go for the rest of my life. When you look at streaming, Illmatic streams 400 million a year to this day. I get my fair share.”