JAY-Z and Nas’ relationship has been contentious at times, to say the least. For years, the two Hip Hop titans took their animosity toward one another to wax, leading many to believe their rift would never end.
Ultimately, Nas and Jay publicly reconciled in 2005 at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey during Hov’s I Declare War’ Tour. But DJ Cassidy remembers another moment where he believes they truly squashed their beef.
“At the time, I’m doing all of Jay’s parties and Jay was the president of Def Jam and L.A. Reid was CEO,” he told Serch. “So, Jay and L.A. had already signed Nas to Def Jam and this was a big deal. I think Nas was coming from Columbia, so this was a huge deal because the JAY-Z and Nas battle had taken over the world. Several years later, Def Jam signs Nas while JAY-Z is the president of Def Jam, so this was an end of an era, the end of their beef, the two greats coming together — one as the label head, one as the artist.
“So Def Jam has an annual retreat over the holidays where all the staff and some of the artists, and they have parties. I did the opening night or the closing night party. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know if I’ve ever told this story.”
Cassidy continued, “I’m on a stage at a casino restaurant and we’re not talking a ballroom — we’re talking like the P.F. Changs at the casino. On one side of the room is Jay, on one side is Nas. I led myself into this epic 30-minute back-and-forth between Jay records and Nas records, and not just the hits. Like ‘Memory Lane,’ so on and so on. If my memory serves me correctly, the space between them started to get smaller and smaller.
“Before you knew it, I passed someone a mic — this is all very casual, there was nothing set up for a performance. This is like standing on a restaurant table. Next thing you know, they’re rapping each other’s lyrics. You could feel it in the room from L.A. Reid down, that everyone was like a little kid at Disney World witnessing their favorite superheroes come out of the castle. And they were doing their own but next to each other.”
After that night, Jay and Nas seemed back on track. Years later, Cassidy and Jay were at the same function and ran into each other.
“I was very young at the time, in my low 20s and this was all still very exciting to me,” he added. “By the way, as it is now. None of that has gotten old for me. But for someone in your young 20s, just to be down with anything JAY-Z or Nas is doing is out of this world. When I would see Jay at a party, I would go say what up and walk away and I got my minute to say hi and that was enough for me.
“I remember him walking over to me that night and tapping me on the shoulder. He said ‘You made that happen that night.’ My heart dropped. I will never forget that one moment when he kind of credited for me for this epic coming together that was not public. Of course, they went on to do great things together and share many stages together. This is either the first, or one of the first, times where that happened. It was an amazing moment.”
As the tale goes, it all started in 1996 when the Illmatic architect allegedly skipped a recording session for Hov’s single “Bring It On” from his debut album Reasonable Doubt, which seemed to be the catalyst for their impending fallout.
In July of that year, Nas released his sophomore album It Was Written, which included several perceived shots at Jay on the album opener “The Message.” Although Nas admitted the song was inspired by Jay, he denied it was intended to be a diss. But by that time, it was too late. Memphis Bleek then hopped in the mix, sparking a war of words between himself and Nas.
Things were taken to a whole other level when Jay blatantly dissed Mobb Deep and Nas on his 2001 album The Blueprint. On the Kanye West-produced track “Takeover” — which he initially performed at Hot 97’s Summer Jam — he calls Nas a has-been with lines such as, “One was, NAHHH, the other was Illmatic/That’s a one hot album every ten year average/And that’s so LAAAAAAAME! Nigga switch up your flow/Your shit is garbage, but you try and kick knowledge?”
Nas managed to take it up a notch with “Ether” from his 2001 album Stillmatic, a song that would go down in history. At one point in the track, Nas addressed Jay’s “has-been” accusations.
“I got this, locked since ’91, I am the truest,” he spit. “Name a rapper that I ain’t influenced … Y’all niggas deal with emotions like bitches/What’s sad is I love you, ’cause you’re my brother/You traded your soul for riches/My child, I’ve watched you grow up to be famous/And now I smile like a proud dad watchin’ his only son that made it … In ’88, you was gettin’ chased to your buildin’/Callin’ my crib, and I ain’t even give you my numbers/All I did was give you a style for you to run with.”
Jay then fired back with “Supa Ugly” in which he bragged about having an alleged three-year long affair with Nas’ then-girlfriend Carmen Bryan. The track prompted Jay’s mother Gloria Carter to call up Hot 97 and suggest her son apologize to Nas and his family for the brutal tongue lashing.
With all of that in the rearview, Nas and Jay’s once-severed relationship is firmly a thing of the past. Jay’s friendship with Kanye? Now that’s another story.
The Serch Says Podcast airs every Wednesday from 10 p.m. to midnight ET. Watch the DJ Cassidy clip in full above.