The word "beef" has special meaning to Nas. Before he and Jay Z were the main event of one of hip-hop's most infamous rivalries, the now 40-year-old MC took lyrical hits from two of hip hop's most revered figures, Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac.
Nas reflected on the feuds during an interview with HuffPo Live Tuesday (April 15). The Queens native stopped by the show to commemorate the upcoming 20th anniversary of Illmatic and discussed his career over the last two decades.
Looking back on his relationship with B.I.G. and the verbal slights they sent at each other, Nas said the competition was never personal. "He made the playing field change," he said of Biggie. "It was competitiveness. On the second album [It Was Written] I had to kind of like respond a little to certain lines [from Biggie about me] … just to keep each other on our toes. But that was the great thing about Big. Big wasn't the guy who was bitter, he pushed you, he challenged you. He made you feel like you had to rise up or get out. He wouldn't sit back around and be talking about you and be mad at you or jealous. If he had an envy in him, it's because he always had to have that top spot, and that is what being the best is all about. I miss him today because he was a class act with that."
Tupac was a little different. Pac was very vocal about his issues with Nas, but was willing to remove a diss from his Makaveli release after the two talked out their differences. The 25-year-old MC died before he had the chance to speak with Nas again. "He passed the day before my birthday," recalled Nas. "I was gon' meet him in Vegas and it rained in Vegas when he passed. It was a trip."
The Jay beef was just a force of nature, Nas said. They were essentially forced into the ring by hip hop. In hindsight, he's not even sure who actually threw the first blow. "See people forget how amazing and powerful rap music [is]," he noted. "If hip hop pushed you into the ring with each other, you either swing or go down."
Nas and Jay ended the rift close to a decade ago, and have been friends ever since. The two performed together at Coachella over the weekend.
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