Large Professor Reveals Nas Mentioned Aaliyah On The Original Ether
Last year, Rap fans witnessed one of the most personal and ruthless lyrical exchanges in the mainstream. Pusha-T revived his beef with Drake on a large scale with “Infrared.” Within hours of the DAYTONA album-closer, Drake responded with “Duppy Freestyle.” That track mentioned Pusha’s then-fiancee (now his wife), Virginia Williams. That inclusion prompted Push’ to release “The Story Of Adidon,” a song that outed Drake as a “deadbeat dad,” prematurely revealed his multi-million Adidas deal, and verbally attacked his parents. As Drake would later tell Lebron James, the song crossed many lines. One of them was making light of producer Noah “40” Shebib’s life-threatening multiple sclerosis. Push’s lyrics suggested that the OVO leader may be perishing soon.
“We thrive off of competitive nature. Rap purists and people who just love confrontation love to say, ‘Man, there’s no rules in this sh*t.’ But there are f*cking rules in this sh*t,” Drake exclaimed last year as a guest on The Shop. “I study Rap [competition] for a living. Now when you mention defenseless people who are sick in the hospital that passed away, that really sent me to a place that I just believed then—and believe now that there’s just a price that you have to pay for that. It’s over. Someone’s gonna f*ckin’ punch you in the f*ckin’ face. The sh*t’s done; the event’s over. I wanted to do other things; I didn’t want to further your reputation or your career by rapping back at you and having this exchange.”
Large Professor is an artist who has avoided controversy throughout most of his 30-year-career. Apart from a few jabs at his former Main Source band-mates on A Tribe Called Quest’s “Keep It Rollin’,” the Queens, New Yorker has kept things low-profile and peaceful. However, in speaking with Vlad TV, he details the original, unreleased version of Nas’ 2001 song “Ether.” The Extra P reveals that for the final version, Nas pulled back on some bars that may have crossed some very personal and tender lines.
“I was there when Swizz [Beatz] did the original ‘Ether.’ Swizz did the original [version]. That’s the one [Nas] originally rhymed over,” Large Professor says at 1:00. “It was faster, and it was just a lot more noisier.” However, the sonic energy to the song was reportedly not a fit with Nas’ album theme. “I know Nas was trying to get a point [across]. He had a real stillness. That what’s ill is that that Stillmatic–there be deeper meanings to this sh*t. ‘Cause he was very still. You could hear, like ‘One Mic’ his rhyme is still. Then he breaks [into the crescendo]. People, they’re just thinking it’s a name [that pays homage to Illmatic]. Nas is like that, where he’ll take a word and build on that sh*t, and act on it.” Large Professor produced “You’re da Man” and “Rewind” on the platinum-certified album released at the end of 2001.
Vlad asks if the Swizz Beatz version of “Ether” featured the same lyrics Nas used on the album version. “[There were] little variations. I’m sure you heard of the ‘Dame Dash/Plane crash’ and all that sh*t with the rhymes and sh*t? [He basically said], I’m sorry Aaliyah; I’m sorry it was you in the plane crash, it should’ve been Jay and Dame Dash.” Vlad admits that he was unaware of this history. Large Professor shrugs that he’s hesitant to discuss any further, given that Nas and JAY-Z made peace in 2005. “Nah, it was a bunch of ’em—I don’t even wanna, ’cause they went through that. It was good.” DJ Vlad asks again about the carryover from the first version of the song. “He took the crux of that first one he did with Swizz and did a lil’ re-edit with the Ron Browz [produced] joint.”
“Ether” released in early December, approximately two weeks before Stillmatic. Aaliyah had died in a plane crash in the Bahamas less than four months earlier. At the time of her death, the 22-year-old singer was dating Damon “Dame” Dash, Jay’s manager who also co-founded Roc-A-Fella Records with the rapper as well as Kareem “Biggs” Burke. Nas had worked with Aaliyah on 1999’s “You Won’t See Me Tonight.”
As the discussion continues, Large Professor offers some commentary to the 2001 back-and-forth. “I didn’t like that sh*t at all, the ‘Super Ugly,’” he says of Jay’s response to “Ether.” Comparing “Ether” to Jay’s Blueprint inclusion, Extra P says that “The Takeover” is superior. Notably, he points to Hip-Hop pillar in breakin’, suggesting that Kanye West’s production is better at moving bodies than Ron Browz’ slow and dramatic beat.
The mother of one of Nas’ children, Carmen Bryan, was also involved. Jay boasted having a romantic affair with her in the disses, and leaving condoms in the baby-seat. Large Professor, who first introduced Nas and Carmen, calls that situation “messy” after Vlad plays a clip from his 2017 interview with her.
Vlad then mentions the 2005 armistice between the two rappers who had worked together alongside Shaquille O’Neal in 1996 on the mixtape version of “No Love Lost.” “I loved it, because I know the origin,” says the MC/producer/DJ. “Like, we were all on that tour [as JAY-Z rapped about on ‘Takeover’]. We were all humble at that time. Jay was on his mischievous street sh*t. That was the thing that was good: when Jay came out and he was talking that criminal mischief sh*t, I had actually seen inklings of that sh*t while we were on tour. Like him and Irv [Gotti] and them would dip off and sh*t, and then they’d come back and they’d have bags [and other luxury items]. So all that ‘What you doin’ on Pico with Frederico‘ sh*t was actually happening.” He says that it reminded him of Nas, who he had mentored since the demo record days. “To see them come through, their f*ckin’ backgrounds are so similar. It’s almost the same f*ckin’ story. Dogs, somebody gonna have to figure this sh*t out, ’cause y’all working together is better than y’all workin’ apart.”
Large Professor is currently working on music with his co-founders in Main Source, K-Cut and Sir Scratch. They have not released an album together since 1991’s Breaking Atoms. That Wild Pitch Records album includes the first appearance of Nas on wax.
#BonusBeat: Nas’ album version of “Ether”: