Why Nas left off Lauryn Hill from ‘If I ruled the World’
(Credit: Mikamote)

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Why Nas left off Lauryn Hill from 'If I ruled the World'

Nas was one of the most prominent lyricists of the 1990s on the East Coast, and his landmark debut Illmatic, created a lot of buzz around the emcee. In 1996, the artist (real name Nasir Jones) released his sophomore project, It Was Written and worked with a range of figures, including Dr Dre and even former Fugees member Lauryn Hill.

‘If I Ruled The World’ by Nas is an interpolation of a 1985 Kurtis Blow song by the same name on which he raps about his desire to eradicate poverty, war and all the woes of society and uplift the Black community. On the track, Blow raps lines such as, “If I ruled the world, was king on the throne / I’d make peace in every culture, build the homeless a home” and “People started flowin’ as they reached for my hand / I said, ‘Thank you for bringin’ me to your promised land.'”

When Nas first recorded the song and released the track for radio rotation in 1995, he didn’t include Lauryn Hill on the credits as she was relatively unknown and had yet to blow up with The Score as one of the Fugees. 

Hill had just turned 21 when she recorded the song. The vocalist features in the chorus, singing, “If I ruled the world, I’d free all my sons / Black diamonds and pearls If I ruled the world.”

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Jones unveiled that Hill had immediately came to mind when he heard the Trackmasters-produced beat. However, he didn’t think that he needed to write down her name when his label decided to put out the song on a white label. 

Speaking to the publication, Jones explained, “When Lauryn Hill came to mind, it was just right on time. It’s funny because when we released the record, people didn’t know it was Lauryn Hill because I guess we just white-labelled it at first and didn’t want anybody to know – anticipation for my second album was so great, we didn’t want any distractions from people to keep them from listening to me.”

He continued, “At that point, the Fugees album hadn’t just come out and blew up, so we left her name off of it, and for about two to three weeks, by the time we let people know who was on the record, it was already taking off. So when they found out it was her, forget about it, man. Forget about it.”

‘If I Ruled the World’ only debuted at 53 on The Billboard Hot 100 but landed at 12 on the UK Singles chart. You can listen to the track in the video below.