The highly-anticipated film Judas And The Black Messiah was finally released on Friday, and with it came a star-studded soundtrack. One highlight is Jay-Z and Nipsey Hussle’s “What It Feels Like,” which was the first official collaboration between the two rappers — and, sadly, the last: Nipsey was killed nearly two years ago at his Marathon Clothing store. In an interview with GQ, Jay-Z, the song’s producers Larrance Dopson, and long-time Nipsey Hussle collaborators Mike & Keys, and more sat down with the publication to speak about the new track and how it came together.
“This beat was born in 2013,” Dopson said. “2015 was when we added the horns. 2017, we put the strings on it and made [Nipsey’s line in his verse] ‘what it feels like’ into a hook.” He added, “We wanted to give you ‘Show Me What You Got’ 2.0,” referencing Jay-Z’s 2006 track produced by Just Blaze. Mike & Keys also revealed that they thought Nipsey didn’t want the beat at first due to his skepticism over certain songs. “When Nipsey says [on the song] ‘Drop another mixtape, my sh*t boomin out this b*tch’ he was talking about Crenshaw,” Keys said, speaking about the mixtape Nipsey released in 2013. “With Nip, you never know,” Mike added, “because a similar situation happened on Victory Lap with ‘Dedication.’”
Jay also revealed that his decision to participate on the song was rooted in his respect for director Ryan Coogler, who produced Judas And The Black Messiah, as well as the story the film told. “My relationship with Ryan, who I consider my little bro, [is what] brought me to the movie,” he said. “And once I saw it, I was blown away by what Shaka King brought to the table. I think I finished the song in the next day or two.”
Nipsey Hussle is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.