Nas and J. Cole have had a tenuous relationship, and it all stemmed from a song that the emcee (real name Jermaine Cole) released over a decade ago. Upon his arrival in the mainstream in 2011, Cole sought to release a debut project to showcase his lyrical skill and talent. Entitled, Cole World: The Sideline Story, the album was revered by many and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. One hip-hop legend who thought highly of the album was Nas, and the Illmatic star even took it upon himself to reach out to Cole to congratulate him on his debut. However, this amicable relationship would only last for a while.
As Cole was carefully crafting his sophomore album, he made a huge mistake that underwhelmed and disappointed Nas. Speaking with the online music publication Fuse, the Forest Hills Drive artist explained how his fallout with the ‘N.Y. State Of Mind’ act played out. Explaining the label problems he was experiencing at the time, the Fayetteville emcee explained that between 2011 and 2013, he could only release unofficial mixtapes as he was left “waiting around for an album release date by the label.” With this being the case, he recorded and experimented during the interim. However, one track he had an affinity for.
Elaborating on the song’s creation, Cole divulged, “It’s two years [later], and I still don’t have an album release date. But I made this song … ‘Work Out.’ I was excited that I had made something that I felt was a guaranteed smash. So I finally put out the single, and it was the worst response I’ve ever gotten on any song I’ve put out.” Never one to lie, Nas (real name Nasir Jones) hated the track and asked their mutual friend (No I.D.) to relay the message.
According to Cole, No I.D. called him and asked, “Why did y’all put out that song? I’m gonna tell you the truth. I was in the studio with Nas and we were talking about you, like, ‘why’d he put out that song?’ Doesn’t he know he’s the one and that he doesn’t have to do that?'”
Cole explained how it affected his mental health and revealed that it hurt him as Jones was an emcee he had idolised growing up. Feeling as if he had let the Queensbridge lyricist down, Cole put pen to paper and wrote ‘Let Nas Down.’ Even though ‘Work Out’ was a hit, for Cole, Nas’ disdain for the track tarnished its triumph. Addressing his sentiments following the single’s appearance on the charts, Cole stated, “Eventually ‘Work Out’ became a massive record, but at the time, it was hurtful. So I really vented on ‘Let Nas Down.'”
You can listen to ‘Work Out’ and ‘Let Nas Down’ in the videos below.