In my lifetime…(see what I did there?) one of the most epic rap beefs took place. Two heavy hitters squared off due to some personal issues and instead of taking it to the streets, they kept it on records. At that time period in hip-hop and even today, most rappers claim to live a “thug” lifestyle. Hardcore types engaged in gun totting, drug slinging, bitch smacking, street brawling, and bad assery. As most of us know this is 99% false. Some rappers even purposely go out and accrue charges to give themselves a criminal record. Probably one of the most ignorant things I have ever witnessed. However, much is too be said for these individuals because it remained a conflict that was resolved without violence. They even did a song together a few years later. The debate remained very hot and can still light a room up today as too who was victorious. Some of the votes bias because of neighbor hood affiliations, some because of general dislike for one of the artists. However, my purpose today is to break down the battle using the two starter tracks followed by the supplementary records produced and attempt to crown an un-bias champion. Let’s begin with Takeover.
This track appeared on the Blueprint album in 2001, and was produced by Kanye West. Of course we could expect nothing but the best from Kanye in the production realm, but at this time he was still gaining ground and notoriety. The track itself is a beautiful work of art, sampling a classic Doors song, Five to One with a bit of KRS-ONE for good measure. The flow of the track starts off as a boast to Roc-a-Fella’s domination of the music industry and a few shots at some other less important rappers (Mobb Deep). At the end of the second verse, Jay-z begins to start his verbal assault of Nas by saying, “He don’t want it with HOV, ask Nas he don’t it with HOV.” Now let’s break down the verse itself and see what damages the most.
I know you missing all the Faaaammmmmeee!
Along with a celebrity comes about 70 shots to your frame
N!@@ you are Laaaaammmmmeee!
This particular verse intro is significant because Nas was at a career standstill in 2001. After a glorious debut with Illmatic, his subsequent albums had faltered horribly and no one was looking for Mr. Escobar on shelves anymore. Also, note that Jay-z informs Nas of the true price that comes with being a celebrity.
You’re fag model for Karl Kani/Esco ads…Went from Nasty Nas to Esco’s trash
Has a spark when you started, but now you’re just garabge
Fell from top ten to not mentioned at all…to your bodyguards Oochie Wally verse better than yours
Matter fact you had the worst flow in the whole fuckin’ song
But I know son don’t shine, then son don’t shine
If you’ve ever seen the ads where Nas modeled clothing, they were quite homosexual in nature, just my opinion. This is a bit of a cheap shot, but in rap it is hands up at all times. The most significant part of these bars references Nas’s fall from fame. I spoke on this earlier and it continues to be a trend in the Takeover song. Even the part about Oochie Wally, which was pretty popular song, holds some truth as Nas was not the superior rapper on the track and doesn’t have the most memorable verse. As for the last line, I believe that Jay-z was hinting at Nas only being the best on tracks at which he is paired with inferior rappers.
That’s why your Laaammmmmeee! Career has come to end, there is only so long fake thugs can pretend
N!@@ you ain’t live it, you witnessed it from your folks pad, you scribbled it on your note pad and created your life
I showed you your first tec on tour with Large Professor, and then I heard your album about a tec on the dresser
In my opinion, perhaps some of the hardest hitting lines of the song, Jay-z pokes a large hole in Nas’s “gangster” image. He hints at a fabrication of a thug lifestyle and also being one of the first people that introduced Nas into the grit by showing him illegal weapons.
So yeah I sampled your voice you were using it wrong, you made it a hot line, I made it a hot song
You didn’t see a coin N!@@ you was getting’ fucked then and I know who I paid Searchlight publishing
Another damaging blow as Jay-z points out his song “Dead Presidents II” which sampled a line from Nas’s “The World Is Yours”. Most people are paid a bit of money when their intellectual property is used but in this case Nas didn’t get a dime. Jay-z notes that he turned a one liner into an award winning track, which did appear on a classic album (Reasonable Doubt). This segway’s into Jay-z blatantly calling Nas a dummy.
Use your braaaaiinnnn! You been in this ten, I been in it five smarten up Nas
Four albums in ten years, I can divide
That’s one every two, two of them shitz was due
One was Nahhhh, the other was Illmatic, that’s one hot album every ten year average
Noting that Nas’s catalogue was less than impressive after Illmatic, he speaks on the potential of Nastrodamas, which didn’t do well either. Also, bringing to light that Jay-z having less time as a rapper, produced a better catalogue in a shorter timespan.
And that’s so laaaammmmmeee! N!!@@ switch up your flow
Your shit is garbage but your tryin’ to kick knowledge
You gonna learn to respect the king, don’t be the next constant on the summer jam screen
Because you know who, did you know what with you know who, let’s keep that between me and you
The biggest take away from the closing is the implications of Jay-z sleeping with Nas’s “baby momma”. This of course is addressed in a follow up freestyle titled “Superugly”.
Next time we will address the comeback track “Ether” and the final outcome of the beef itself. As a result, Nas’s career was revived and we were given another quality album. One of the most significant things to take away as well is that this entire verse is 32 bars… Nas rebounded with a full song.