Nipsey Hussle was working on the follow-up to his Grammy-nominated album Victory Lap before his death, and sought out advice from Nas’ former manager Steve Stoute on how to avoid the so-called sophomore slump.
The revelation came during Stoute’s interview with the Rap Radar Podcast, where the veteran Hip Hop executive shared the last text messages he received from the late Crenshaw rapper, which were sent just days before his tragic murder in March 2019.
In the text conversation, Nipsey asked Stoute if he felt that he and Nas made any missteps while making It Was Written, the follow-up to his lauded 1994 debut Illmatic.
“This is March 26, 2019. Nipsey says: ‘Top of the week, hope you solid. Got a question I wanna ask you about making my sophomore album. When y’all made It Was Written, do you feel like y’all did anything wrong?'” co-host Brian “B.Dot” Miller relayed while reading out the message with Stoute’s blessing.
“You respond: ‘You crazy crazy for asking that! So smart. The biggest mistake we made was rushing to get Dr. Dre ‘Nas Is Coming.’ It was decent, not great. That was Dr. Dre’s first production outside of Death Row.”
“The smartest thing we did was go for the feature out the gate, utilizing his credibility from Illmatic, so ‘I Ruled the World’ made perfect sense,” Stoute added in his reply, referencing the Lauryn Hill-assisted lead single.
After responding “RIGHT” in all caps, Nipsey Hussle went on to reminisce about the impact that “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)” had on him and how it transformed Nas into a voice for kids like him growing up in Los Angeles, despite the brewing East Coast-West Coast rivalry.
“‘If I Ruled the World’ was undeniable,” he wrote back to Stoute. “I was 11 or 12 and I remember being blown away, and we was on some West Coast only shit back then. That song was the only voice other than ‘Pac that spoke to us as young kids from [the] street on that level.
“‘I Gave You Power,’ ‘The Message,’ ‘Street Dreams,’ ‘Affirmative Action,’ ‘Watch Dem N-ggas, ‘If I Ruled the World.’ Classics.”
Steve Stoute further illustrated Neighborhood Nip’s thirst for knowledge by revealing how he would often see him sat in the front row when giving speeches at events.
“I had spent time with Nipsey. He [was] very special,” the UnitedMasters founder added. “I would go to speak and he’d be in the front row. It was crazy that he would do that. But he was so keen on understanding — that was his whole thing, knowledge of everything.”
That Nipsey Hussle turned to Nas’ camp for guidance is no surprise considering his deep love for the Queensbridge lyricist. Prior to his passing, the Marathon Continues visionary was working on a documentary about his 1999 album I Am…
“One thing he wanted to talk to me about was putting together a documentary on I Am…,” Nas revealed to NME in late 2020. “Once [that album] got bootlegged, I didn’t even want to hear it again. I didn’t want to hear those songs again. I was just upset, you know?”
He continued: “Nipsey was really serious about doing a documentary about it and he was working on it. Not as far as like gathering footage, but I gave him my blessing to do it.”