Super Ugly: The Complete Evolution Of The Jay Z & Nas Beef From 1996 – 2001 (Video)
2016 has been a year of unexpected and multi-layered beefs, many of which have centered around the MC many love to hate: Drake. Over the Summer, Joe Budden and the Toronto MC mixed it up with Budden sending 4 diss records Drake’s way in response to two records, “4pm In Calabassas” and “No Shopping,” that contained what Budden believed to be words directed at him. In September, Kid Cudi joined the fray with a tweet that read “Everyone thinks they’re soooo great. Talkin top 5 and be having 30 people write songs for them,” a reference to Meek Mill’s 2015 allegations that Drake used ghostwriters on his songs. Earlier this month, Pusha T went on the attack, with “H.G.T.V.,” in which he questioned Drake’s authenticity. Just this past week, Drake released “Two Birds, One Stone,” in which he responded to both Pusha and Kid Cudi. Drake’s lines about Cudi, which read “You were the man on the moon, now you go through your phases,” were perceived to be references to Cudi’s recent admitted struggles with depression, and immediately drew sharp criticism as going too far.
As untoward as some of the exchanges may have been, as pointed out in a new video by HipHopDX, they still pale in comparison to the shade thrown in the epic battle between Nas and Jay Z, what many consider to be Hip-Hop’s most high profile beef, next to that of Tupac and Biggie. That series of disses culminated with Jay Z apologizing after the 2001 release of his song “Super Ugly,” a song on which he publicly said he had gone too far.
While many believe the genesis of Nas and Jay’s beef was in 2001, a video by Rapstorian outlines the entire evolution of events that caused their conflict, and it says the seeds were planted in 1996 and continued for 5 years.
Through meticulous research, the video lays out the trajectory, commencing with a couple of gestures of respect on the part of Jay Z which went unreciprocated by Nas. According to Rapstorian, one of the first instances of perceived disrespect was Nas’ decision not to participate in the 1996 video for “Dead Presidents.” Nas was reportedly invited to attend, since Jay Z had sampled his voice for the hook, but Nas declined. On a few occasions after that, Jay spoke on wax about Nas, along with Biggie and himself, being the best in Hip-Hop, but Nas never responded.
After the death of The Notorious B.I.G., Jay Z claimed he sat on the throne as the King of New York, and, naturally, Nas took exception, responding that the claims were disrespectful on 1999’s “We Will Survive,” where he rapped “And these niggas is wrong, using your name in vain. And they claim to be New York’s king? It ain’t about that.”
As the video points out, that line was the true beginning of the public war of words between Jay and Nas. From there, each MC would throw several darts at the other in freestyles, guest appearances and other settings, but it would not be until Jay’s “Takeover” in 2001, where they would not only specifically name each other on wax, but also devote entire records to trying to destroy one another. At the time, Jay’s infamous line of “Because you know who did you know what with you know who. But, just keep that between me and you for now,” was a veiled reference about him having relations with the mother of Nas’ child, but it would become extremely explicit on “Super Ugly.”
In between the two Jay Z diss records, Nas released what many consider to be the hardest diss record of all-time, with “Ether.” Nas savagely went after Jay’s physical appearance, his rhyme style, his perceived adulation of Nas, his sexuality and more. The response was so lethal, the title has become a verb in Hip-Hop circles, meaning “to end someone.”
Since that time, both men have long buried the hatchet and have grown to be friends and colleagues. Though it took several years, they were able to get past their differences and come together as men, for art and business. Perhaps, that ending will provide a blueprint for Drake, Meek Mill, The Game, Pusha T and others as they navigate their differences with one another.