In 2001, Nas and JAY-Z formally engaged in one of the most legendary feuds in hip-hop. They released a number of diss tracks aimed at each other, and 20 years later, Nas’ “Ether” and Hov’s “Takeover” are now two of the most revered musical attacks in hip-hop.
Speaking to Rick Rubin during his Broken Record podcast, the Illmatic rapper shared his delight in being part of such an important moment in hip-hop history. “The art of emceeing was right there on full display. It was like, if you’re in the rap game, this could happen: a battle,” he said. “It was like, ‘This rap thing is real. A battle could really happen,’ you know, so I was honored to have that part of my life happen because that’s how I saw the greats do it coming up. I saw some of the greats do it.”
The Def Jam Recordings co-founder then stated that their back-and-forth “elevated everybody” as the rap beef truly focused on their lyrical prowess more than anything. Nas agreed, “Again, it’s about the art of emceeing and when you’re trying to make the best stuff you can make and you bump heads with another MC, and then you guys have a war or whatever, that’s what this art form was since the beginning, since Double Trouble and Busy Bee and Kool Moe Dee.”
He continued, “But that’s what I like about hip-hop compared to other genres is that, they go at it in hip-hop. Like, really at it. Not to say that other rockers didn’t go at it, other reggae artists didn’t go at it, other crooners didn’t go at it, but hip-hop will always be around, I think, because of how competitive it is.”
The pair ended their feud in 2005 by performing “Dead Presidents” and “The World is Yours” together during a sold out show for Nas’ I Declare War tour.
Watch Nas’ interview with Rick Rubin above.
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