One of the most legendary beefs in hip-hop history occurred two decades ago, between Nas and Jay-Z. Starting at the beginning of the century, the two Brooklyn acts bumped heads for quite some time. In 2001 they traded a pair of undeniably iconic diss records: “Ether” and “Takeover.” Nas recently made an appearance on Rick Rubin’s Broken Record podcast where he revisited that battle and discussed its impact on hip-hop.
“The art of emceeing was right there on full display,” Nas said. “It was like, if you’re in the rap game, this could happen — a battle. It was like, ‘This rap thing is real; a battle could really happen,’ so I was honored to have that part of my life happen because that’s how I saw some of the greats do it coming up. I saw some of the greats do it.” After Rubin suggested that Nas and Jay-Z’s beef “elevated everybody” around them, the Illmatic rapper how battles within hip-hop have been present since the genre’s early days.
“Again, it’s about the art of MCing 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 said. “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 crooner didn’t go at it, but Hip Hop will always be around because of how competitive it is.”
You can watch the clip from the Broken Record podcast above.