Nas’ early projects are a testament to his musical genius and extraordinary lyricism. The icon was a rapper, songwriter, and storyteller whom many artists greatly envied. The musician (real name Nasir Jones) immersed his listeners in all of his stories, and his music remains some of the most memorable hip-hop creations ever. As such, his contribution to the culture is unparalleled.
Jones’ first three projects are widely considered his most outstanding. From the groundbreaking Illmatic to It Was Written and I Am… the 1990s was a momentous decade for the emcee. However, in 1999, one of Nas’ music videos caused quite a stir in the hip-hop community.
The music video that saw a lot of criticism was for the 1999 track, ‘Hate Me Now’. The song was released as the second single of I Am… and featured Diddy. Produced by The Trackmasters, the visuals for the single were based around the Bible and Jesus in particular.
One scene in the video is of a crucifixion that sees Diddy on a cross. Although, initially, the Bad Boy founder agreed to film it, Diddy ordered the scene cut before the video aired. However, the wrong edit was sent to MTV and circulated with the segment in place.
In anger, Diddy (real name Sean Combs) hit Nas’ manager, Steve Stoute, over the head with a champagne bottle. Following this, Stoute sued the ‘I Need A Girl’ emcee for assault.
In an interview with the esteemed publication Rolling Stone, Jones recalled the making of ‘Hate Me Now’ with videographer Hype Williams and Diddy, unveiling, “There was a play in New York City where a black man played Jesus, and caught a lot of flak. I think, even the mayor at the time, Giuliani, was against it. So my thing was I wanted to be crucified like Jesus in the video, to get back at all those people that don’t want to see a black man doing his thing.”
He continued, “Me and Puff got hammered to the cross, but after Puff expressed his religious beliefs and speaking to his pastor, he wasn’t ready to take that stance, so it was really my idea anyway, so we took his part out. For some reason, I think Steve Stoute let it fly with Puffy still being crucified to the cross, so there was that fight at the office!”
‘Hate Me Now’ peaked at number 26 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 14 on the UK Singles charts. Although it never made it into the top ten the video circulated widely and the crucifixion scene was never removed. You can watch the visuals for the track below.