Nas & JAY-Z Are Still Competing But For Much Higher Stakes (Video)

JAY-Z and Nas have been competing for more than 20 years. At the turn of the century, the two had razor sharp bars for one another on songs like Jay’s “Takeover” and Nas’ “Ether.” The beef would become one of Hip-Hop’s most high profile and well-documented feuds, amongst two of its biggest titans, but it subsided by 2005 when Jay invited Nas to join him onstage during his “I Declare War” tour stop at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, NJ. The two officially declared their war to be over and performed “Dead Presidents” and “The World Is Yours,” the song which yielded the hook for “Dead Presidents,” together. Since then, the two have recorded multiple collaborations together, including Nas’ “Black Republicans,” JAY-Z’s “Success,” and Ludacris’ “I Do It For Hip-Hop.”

While their beef has been over for more than 15 years, the competition, both overt and covert, between Nas and JAY-Z has never subsided. There has been an uncanny number of times when the two have released projects within extremely close proximity to one another. Nas released Stillmatic on December 18, 2001, with JAY-Z releasing his MTV Unplugged album on the same day. On November 30, 2004, JAY-Z released Collision Course, his joint album with Linkin Park, and Nas released Street’s Disciple. On November 6, 2007, Nas released his Greatest Hits and Jay released American Gangster. Eleven years later, Nas released NASIR, his Kanye West-produced album, on June 15, 2018, and on the very next day JAY-Z and Beyoncé released their joint album, Everything Is Love. Then, on July 19, 2019, Nas released his The Lost Tapes 2 project. On the same day, Beyoncé released The Lion King: The Gift, an album which featured…JAY-Z. Finally, on August 21, 2020, Nas released his Grammy-winning King’s Disease album. Three days later, Pharrell released his song, “Entrepreneur, featuring JAY-Z.

For those counting, that makes 6 different occasions when the two MCs released projects within three days of one another, with 3 of those instances occurring AFTER they ended their feud. Many speculate that this has been more competition than coincidence.

Today (April 30), Nasir and Hov coincide once again, but this time there’s no debate that it’s intentional, as the two appear on DJ Khaled’s song “SORRY NOT SORRY,” from his newly released album, Khaled Khaled. In addition to the two MCs, the song also features vocals from James Fauntleroy and Beyoncé, aka “The Hive.”

Although the song is a collaboration by design, make no mistake. The two men are very much competing. On one level, Nas and Jay are jousting with their bars. Two MCs of this caliber do not mail in their verses on songs with this level of scrutiny, especially not two with the storied history they share. Both men have chips on their shoulders, a notion supported by the visual of Nas, Jay and Khaled sitting at a blackjack table literally with their chips on the table.

In his opening lines, Nas raps “Hear ye, hear ye, only kings stand near me / Silicon Valley money mixed with Henny, that’s a Fendi / Half a century almost, sliced the green like a lawnmower / ‘Til we all on, never fall off, hear a boss talk / You don’t hear me? That’s your loss.” For years, people have lauded JAY-Z as the business, man, while Nas has not been mentioned in the same conversations as Hov, Puff Daddy and, more recently, Dr. Dre. In subsequent lines, Nas outlines that his good fortune has nothing to do with chance. He raps “Winner in life, f*ck a coin toss / I’m coin-based, basically cryptocurrency Scarface,” a nod to the fortune he recently made as an early investor in Coinbase, the cryptocurrency trading app which was recently valued at $85.8 Billion in its initial public offering. Nas is believed to have made between $40MM and $200MM from his investment.

Not one to be outdone, JAY-Z comes in detailing his recent business moves, too. In his very first lines, he raps “Sorry, that’s another B / Haters still ain’t recover from the other B / Mm, that’s a double B / Nah that’s a triple B, can’t forget ’bout the other Bey.” Jay recently sold stakes in his companies Armand de Brignac (parent company to Ace of Spades champagne) and TIDAL, for as much as $600MM, liquidating and likely adding to his fortune of what was already reportedly north of $1B. While he might not yet be at a net worth of $2B, according to Forbes, as his verse on “U Don’t Know” showed, it would not be the first time Jay spoke his wealth into existence.

So, on their first collaboration in more than 13 years, Nas and Hov each start their verses talking about the exact same topics, with verses clearly both written within the last few weeks. Coincidence?

Looking past the big money talk, however, another potential competition among them emerges, and this one appears to be for the greater good. After each puts a shine on his respective relationship with dead presidents, they both turn to what they are doing to help bring others along for the ride. Nas raps “Miss me with the hate / helped so many people get cake,” while Jay says “Overlookin’ the City of Angels, the angel invested in things,” indicating that he too has been an angel investor, helping entrepreneurs realize their dreams. Thus, while they are competing with bars and fortunes, each man seems to have grown to look beyond himself, as well. If that type of competition continues much more than Hip-Hop will be better for it.

Listen to “SORRY NOT SORRY,” as well as new music from De La Soul, Busta Rhymes, Conway The Machine, Rapsody, Del The Funky Homosapien, Black Thought and many more on Ambrosia For Heads’ Spotify playlist, which we update weekly.