Nas dropped the seething JAY-Z diss track “Ether” in November 2001. In a recent interview with The Art of Dialogue, Ras Kass recalled the day the song dropped and subsequent events that transpired. As Ras explains, he first ran into Nas at the studio with DJ Premier.
“It had to be 10 a.m., 11 a.m. when Nas bops in,” he recalls. “He’s usually very chill. Every time I’ve encountered him, he’s humble and nice. Not to say he wasn’t humble then, but he walked in, boppin’. I remember for like an hour, me him and Premier talking, like an overview of the record […] At the time, Jay was crushin’ everything.
“It was interesting watching the changing of the guards […] I knew some of the things that Nas was sayin’. I didn’t even know all of it, as far as the personal jabs on that record. I lived with JAY-Z for a summer, so I just knew it was clinically written deadly. It was a deadly written, personal record. ”
But that was just the beginning. Later that night, Ras Kass went out to a local New York City club where he saw JAY-Z and fellow Roc-A-Fella co-founder Damon Dash posted up. As fate would have it, the DJ decided to throw “Ether” on much to Hov’s disapproval. Ras says Jay told Dash to have the DJ shut it down, but the DJ refused.
“The ironic part is I saw [Nas] during the day at the studio, then at night, I went out to the club,” he continues. “We went out and saw Jay and Dame at the club […] They played ‘Ether’ in the club and Jay was heated, and I remember that. I remember him saying, ‘Dame, tell that n-gga to turn that shit off.’
“But the club was going up, and that’s when I knew it was over. The DJ was like, ‘Fuck that,’ and played that shit. And the club went up. That’s when I knew Nas won. The streets had spoken. The DJ played it and Jay was in the building […] Nas beat Jay.”
It took years for Nas and JAY-Z to make peace. Although the two rap titans publicly reconciled in 2005 at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey during Hov’s I Declare War’ Tour, DJ Cassidy said they truly squashed their beef a year later. In an August 2021 interview with The Serch Says Podcast, Cassidy recalled DJing at a Def Jam holiday retreat in 2006 at Connecticut’s Foxwoods Resort Casino, a place he likened to Atlantic City.
“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,” Cassidy said. “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.”