The highly publicized feud between Jay-Z and Nas is unique for several reasons. For one thing, the feud seemingly came out of nowhere. Second, one of the diss tracks that sprouted from the rappers’ beef revitalized Nas’ career. And finally, the feud between Nas and Jay-Z has since ended.
But how did we get from point A to points B and C, you might be wondering? Keep reading to find out.
How it all began
Nas and Jay-Z were both born in New York City, and the two rappers met occasionally in the ’90s rap scene. 90s. In fact, the couple almost seemed like friends. That was, of course, until 1996.
From 1994 to 1996, Jay-Z recorded his first studio album titled Reasonable doubt. Apparently, Jay-Z asked Nas to feature on the song “Bring It On” for the album. Nas was a no-show.
Jay-Z and his team continued, however, and dropped Reasonable doubt on June 25, 1996. The disk had no Nas function, but it had a Nas sample. Jay-Z’s classic rap song, “Dead Presidents II,” covers Nas’ 1994 song “The World Is Yours.”
The scene was set.
The feud heats up
From 1996 to 2001, Jay-Z and Nas threw subtle jabs at each other in their verses and interviews. This period of elusive insults was shrewd, sure, but it wasn’t obvious to the casual listener that there was beef mashing between the two.
Then in 2001, Jay-Z kicked this feud into high gear.
At the Hot 97 Summer Jam, an annual hip-hop festival hosted by New York radio station Hot 97, Jay-Z took direct aim at Nas. In a freestyle performance, Jay-Z rapped what would become the song “Takeover”. In the song, Jay-Z references his previous Nas sample:
So yeah I sampled your voice, you used it wrong
You made it a hot line, I made it a hot song.
And then, Jay-Z pushes the knife further:
Use your brain! You said you were in that ten
Been in it five years, upgraded Nas
Four albums in ten years nigga? i can divide
It’s one every say two, two of them were due
One was no, the other was “Illmatic”
It’s a hot album every ten years on average
And it’s so (lame!) N**** change your flow
Your shit is shit, but you’re trying to eliminate knowledge?
Shortly after that performance, Jay-Z released “Takeover” as a track from his sixth studio album, The Blueprint, in 2001. And, fun fact, Kanye West produced “Takeover.”
Nas responds with “Ether”
Nas heard Jay-Z on “Takeover” loud and clear. What Nas did next became a defining moment in his career. In response to “Takeover,” Nas released one of hip-hop’s most famous diss tracks: “Ether.”
Nas has many, many choice words for Jay-Z. He insults the appearance of Jay-Z, rap game (Eminem murdered you on your own shit), and even the way Jay-Z treats women. Nas also claims that Jay-Z sold out: You traded your soul for riches. From top to bottom, it’s an uncensored, unfiltered attack on Jay-Z. And that saved Nas’ career.
“Ether” brought Nas back to the limelight in the hip-hop world after his 1999 album, Nastradamuswas considered one of Nas’ weakest musical offerings by fans and critics.
One more diss and we call your mother
Now in a full-fledged rap battle, Jay-Z responded to “Ether” with the diss track “Supa Ugly.” This Jay-Z diss track was created by the rapper freestyle to Nas’ song “Got Ur Self a Gun.” After the song was released, however, many people thought Jay-Z had gone too far.
Jay-Z’s mother, Gloria Carter, also thought her son went too far, especially in the lyrics where Jay-Z talks about the women in Nas’ life. Gloria strongly suggested that Jay-Z apologize for his “Supa Ugly” comments.
“Mom called and said, ‘It’s gone too far.’ And she never, ever called me about music. So I was like, ‘Okay, okay, okay. I’m going to shut it up,'” Jay-Z said during an appearance in 2001 on Hot 97. “Once again, I apologize,” he said. “I felt like I wasn’t thinking about women’s feelings or [Nas’ former girlfriend’s] feelings, or even my mother. It was really like, ‘Let me respond to your level of disrespect with this level of disrespect.’
With that public apology, “Supa Ugly” was the final diss track in the Jay-Z/Nas beef.
Friends Again (Or at least acquaintances.)
In 2005, the two rappers officially ended their feud by performing together at the Continental Airlines Arena in New Jersey. A year later, Nas signed with Def Jam Recordings. Jay-Z was president of the label at the time of Nas’ signing.
Beef smashed (and enjoyed).