J. Cole and Nas Cover Vibe

Rappers team up for Vibe's 20th Anniversary issue.

Posted: 08/13/2013 02:54 PM EDT

(photo: Vibe Magazine, Summer 2013)

J. Cole and Nas come together on the second installment of Vibe magazine's triple cover 20th anniversary issue. Additional covers feature Janelle Monae with Robin Thicke, and Pharrell and Daft Punk.  

Nas and Cole's tag team discussion finds the two sharing insight on a bunch of topics, including rap today compared to the '90s, why Nas hasn't been "outshined" on a feature, and the possibility of collaborating. 

Hip hop's winning streak broke records this year (for the first time in history, four rap albums took consecutive turns in Billboard's top spot), yet even in its evolution, Nas sees traces of a throwback era. "This is a special time right now," he explained. "I'm happy I can see it -- the fact that I'm seeing him [Cole] Kendrick, Drake and the dudes that's out there ... I was talking to Diddy and he was like 'Yo, do you see what's going on right now? It's happening again.' He was excited."

Cole, 28, brought a younger perspective, pointing to his "Let Nas Down" track as proof of the new school's respect for its predecessors. "The fact that you're still relevant, your pen is still crazy and you still making great music that didn't happen before. The legends are carrying over. Jay is still relevant. Nas not just relevant, but ya'll n----s is still on top."

Despite Cole's praise, the Queensbridge MC has his doubts about escaping a rap massacre. "I’m sure there were enough times I wasn’t the shiniest n---. It happens. I don’t [feel] every record I do with somebody is a battle. I just do my best. So if you outshine me and it’s a great record because of it, we win." 

"You always know that’s gonna be a conversation," added Cole about competitiveness in rap. "But you don’t always necessarily give a f---. Jay Z did his 'Mr. Nice Watch' verse after mine — I didn’t even know he was gonna get on the song. My competitive side was like, 'Yo, I wanna change my f---ing verse ’cause this n---- just got on here and went crazy.' Timing-wise, I had to turn in my album. [But] he made my song better by going that hard, so it’s cool. I’ll take that one."

But what would happen if Cole and Nas got on a track together? A lyrical fight to the finish. "If me and Cole are on a track, they gonna talk about whose verse is the ill-est. Our boys are gon’ be like, 'Yo, you gotta smoke him on that.' That’s what rap is all about. That’s how it should always be."

  

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