After an unreleased Nas track dissing Tupac was unearthed last week, many rap historians and critics have revisited the battle for New York City rap supremacy in which Nas was a contender during the late ’90s and early aughts. In addition to Nas, the other key players were Jay-Z and DMX, who also had their own subtle rivalry dating back to their mid-’90s rhyme war in a Bronx pool hall.
Now a 2001 Nas interview with FELON Magazine has resurfaced and is shedding new light on one of the most creative and competitive eras in hip-hop’s history. Ahead of the release of his highly anticipated album Stillmatic and at the height of the Queens Bridge rapper’s monumental beef with Jay, Nas circled back with the outlet after initially declining to discuss the conflict, saying, “You know what? I want to talk about this s**t with Jay-Z—FELON is a street magazine, and I f**ks with the street magazines. It’s only right that I keep it real with the streets.”
Esco went on to allege that during a party thrown by Steve Stoute around 2000, Hov said that he was a superior emcee to the late The Notorious B.I.G. and that DMX and Tupac only appealed to “starving street ni**as.”
“We were kickin’ it and he told me that he’s better than Biggie now,” Nas shared with FELON. “I looked at him like he was crazy. Then, he started telling me Memphis Bleek was a fan and that I shouldn’t go at him. He predicted that Beanie Sigel would never sell more than 600,000 copies. He said that Sauce Money was to him what Nature was to me. Then, he really got crazy. He said that Tupac and DMX were not lyricists—they just had the hungry, starving street niggas coppin’ their shit—but me and him had all the money niggas buying ours. I told him that I disagreed with him—that Tupac was the greatest ever—period, and that DMX really brought that street shit back into the game.”
When asked about the root of his feud with Jay-Z, Nas speculated that it could be a number of things, but said that Hov needs to let it go. “I don’t know—I don’t know if it’s over a bitch, I don’t know if it’s over the joint I didn’t do with him, I don’t know if he’s trying to show me ‘I told you so’—meaning that he would be as successful or more successful as me—and if it’s that, it shouldn’t be because I never told him that he wouldn’t or that he couldn’t. All I know is that something is really bothering him and he needs to address it, release it, and get over it.”
While DMX would get wind of Hov’s comments, exacerbating his disdain for the Brooklyn-bred rapper, the two would never engage in an all-out war like Nas and Jay, which continues to captivate the public even 20 years later.
Nas and DMX, who co-starred in the 1998 cult-classic Belly, collaborated with one another on numerous occasions, including the song “Walking In the Rain” from X’s posthumous album, Exodus. Jay-Z also appears on Exodus alongside DMX and Nas on “Bath Salts.” Scroll down to check out both tracks: