“Nas lost.” People who look back on the beef between Jay Z and the Queens MC often utter those two words like a mantra. The popular narrative is that Nas won the battle with “Ether” but Jay won the war career-wise. But is that really true?
Today Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones turns 42, and much has changed since his tiff with Hov at the turn of the millennium. We thought it’d would be a good day to re-examine their beef and get to the bottom of who really won, starting with the obvious: their discographies.
Body of Work
When Jay said Nas had a one hot album every ten year average, his math was a little off. Stillmatic and Lost Tapes were yet to be released, and Jay’s insult came on what many argue is his best album, The Blueprint. But even though Nas’ catalog is marred with bad production choices, it’s still pound for pound better than Jay’s body of work. Illmatic is better than Reasonable Doubt and It Was Written is better than In My Lifetime, Vol. 1. What Jay did after those albums never reached the level of virtuosity that Nas achieved on the mic with his first two LPs.
“H To The Omo” Freestyle
People usually cite three songs in the Nas and Jay beef – “Takeover,” “Ether,” and “Super Ugly.” But the best rapping of the entire battle happened when Nas spit venom over the “Paid In Full” beat. No matter how many personal disses it included – Esco got the upper-hand simply by out-rapping Jay with that track.
“And that’s for certain, you cloned me, your wack clothes line / I’d rather Sean John, bore me with your fake coke rhymes”
Jay “cried” on the radio and apologized to Nas
When “Ether” dropped, Jay Z went on Hot 97 and it sounded like he was crying. Later on after he shot back with “Super Ugly,” his mother forced him to apologize to Nas, again on Hot 97. Nas never apologized to Jay nor sounded like he was crying on the radio. You be the judge.
There is no Reasonable Doubt documentary
If Nas really lost, then why did they make a documentary about Illmatic before Reasonable Doubt? Can you even imagine a movie being made about Jay’s debut album? RD simply did not have the same impact, even years later, that Illmatic did, so to say Jay won the war isn’t quite accurate.
Their standing in 2015
Jay is hailed as the über businessman, but musically, Nas has outlasted him. Who would you rather hear an album from in 2015 – Nas or Jay? People loved Life Is Good, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a recent Jay album that everyone agrees is dope, except for maybe American Gangster released back when George W. Bush was in office. Thus it stands to reason that, as of right now, it was Nas who won the war on the mic, not Jay.