The Woman At The Center Of The Jay Z & Nas Beef Speaks Up & Tells Truths (Video)
Carmen Bryan is not a household name. However, she was strongly referenced in one of the most famous feuds in music history. In 2001, Jay Z launched “The Takeover” as part of his Blueprint campaign. The opening song to the acclaimed album put a reportedly longstanding tension with Nas out in the open. Without naming names, Jay Z also rapped “Because you know who did you know what with you know who, but just keep that between me and you.” While referencing a recent Ja Rule chorus, Jay alluded that he had been romantic with a key woman in Nas’ life.
That woman is now known to be Carmen Bryan. The mother of Nas’ daughter Destiny and now an author, Carmen tells Vlad TV that she was in the kitchen with Nas and The Bravehearts when Funkmaster Flex played “Ether,” the response to “Takeover.” In a revealing interview with Vlad, Carmen speaks about an issue that called her reputation into question.
“I didn’t hear [‘Ether’] before it dropped. I heard it on the radio like everyone else; Nas and I heard it in the kitchen together on the radio,” she says, adding that while the couple had broken up, they remained active as a unit in their daughter’s life in 2001. “I feel like he needed me to be there, in lieu of this battle…in lieu of this beef. It was like, ‘Well I still got the girl, and she’s over here with me. I’m about to drop this song and dead everything.’ That was the plan, and it worked,” Carmen recalls, of Nas’ position. At that time, the beef between the two multi-platinum New York City MCs appeared to mirror Tupac Shakur’s claim that he had sex with Faith Evans, the estranged wife of rival Biggie Smalls. Bryan also contends that “Ether” was a revealing showcase of Nas’ personality that is often misread by his deadpan expressions. While Nas did not address his onetime romantic partner in his response to Jay, he accused his rival of a sexual relationship with Foxy Brown, who had previously been a band-mate of Nas’ in The Firm.
Jay Z would respond to “Ether” with “Super Ugly.” In that song, Jay’s accusations were not so subliminal. Snatching Nas’ “Got Urself A…” instrumental, he rapped, “Me and the boy A.I. got more in common than just balling and rhyming / Get it? More in Carmen / I came in your Bentley backseat / Skeeted in your Jeep / Left condoms on your baby seat.”
Almost 16 years later, Carmen reacts. “That was such an emotional reaction. Number two, [my daughter] Destiny [Jones] was like eight, nine years old when ‘Super Ugly’ came out, so what car seat is she sitting in at nine, 10 years old? Jay Z’s never been in any of our vehicles. That was him just grasping at things and just trying to make an instant comeback. But even the next day, when he got on the radio station, HOT 97, he was disheveled; he sounded like he was about to cry. He wasn’t sure where he was going with the story. His mother called and made him apologize. ‘Super Ugly’ was not a well thought out plan. And I believe, in hindsight, that he regretted ever dropping that. In fact I know for a fact that he regretted dropping it! Because we have a mutual friend who told me that he said [that].” She further deduces, “It was an emotion reaction to an ass-whoopin’.”
In 2017, Carmen Bryan urges a more matured Jay Z to look at history with empathy. “And you know what’s crazy about that? Now [Jay Z] has a daughter, and social media is a beast. Back then when he made these disparaging remarks and comments about my daughter and created this disgusting visual, there were so many people around him that stayed quiet. They said absolutely nothing. Sometimes when you don’t pick a side, you pick a side. I’m a totally different person. Had Nas said something like that about their child, all hell would’ve broke loose. I would not, as a woman, have stood by any man who disrespects children and drags them into adult affairs.” Carmen calls Jay’s a la carte song a “sucker move.”
Vlad asks Carmen about the reference to then Philadelphia 76ers star Guard Allen Iverson, who was lumped into the same chunk of bars. “And then they gonna drag Allen [Iverson] in.” Carmen shakes her head in responding. “Poor Allen. As if he didn’t have enough going on in his own life and situations.” Bryan admits that she and Iverson were friends who also romantically dated. That relationship was tossed into the high-profile early 2000s Rap beef. “It had absolutely nothing to do with the beef between Jay Z and Nas; I don’t even know why [Jay Z] pulled that in there. But I do know for a fact that when Jay Z went to Philadelphia shortly after that song dropped, and Allen saw him in the club, I do know that Allen stepped to him about that. That was a problem for Allen. That wasn’t [a laughing matter], that was like, ‘Ni**a! Don’t be pullin’ my name in your bullshit. Why would you drop my name? Keep my name outta that.'”
As far as history goes, Carmen Bryan and Vlad agree that Nas’ “Ether” made the highly flammable liquid a verb in the modern vernacular. Remy Ma used the same track as inspiration in this year’s attack on Nicki Minaj.
In 2007, Carmen Bryan published a memoir, It’s No Secret: From Nas to Jay-Z, from Seduction to Scandal–a Hip-Hop Helen of Troy Tells Allthrough Gallery Books.
#BonusBeat: A small excerpt rip of Jay Z appearing on Angie Martinez’ HOT 97 show after “Super Ugly” released:
This is believed to be from 2001.