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 "There's always been a respect thing [with Nas]." ...

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 "I wasn't stuntin' it like, 'I got a problem with Cam.' " ...

Jay-Z Calls Cam's Dis Track 'Trash' And A Cry For Attention

Cam'ron Attacks Jay-Z With Dis Track 'You Got It'

Nas And Jay-Z: Grade-A Beef

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Jay-Z may go to work every day as the president and CEO of Def Jam Records, but he's still an MC at heart and occasionally in practice. So you can imagine what it's like for him to hear all the whispers in the wake of Cam'ron's recent dis record, "You Got It," where he levels a number of accusations at Jigga and even mentions Jay's girlfriend, Beyoncé.

Half the people in the streets are saying that Hov is too big to respond, that he's a CEO now, that he has nothing left to prove on the mic. After all, we've seen how he can slay opponents in battles. But the other half of the street talk says that Hov absolutely has to come back — Killa was just too disrespectful for Jay to let it ride.

It's a different story when it comes to the former rival Jay recently signed to Def Jam, Nas. The two are in business together and very possibly will be making music together — in fact, Hov says to bet on it. In an MTV News exclusive, Jigga tells Shaheem Reid about his current adversary's challenge, how his truce with Nas came about, and his reaction to Cam'ron's allegations about Jay's former business partner, Dame Dash.

MTV: We haven't even gotten through the first month of the year, and it's already starting — everybody is talking about you and Cam, you and Nas.

Jay-Z: Let's start off with the Nas sh--. I think that's more historical. I think this is Cam sh-- is gonna blow over once his album drops.

Jay-Z and Nas, Madison Square Garden, New York, October 2005
MTV: OK. When you and Nas appeared onstage together in October, I was expecting a deal to be announced soon after. But it's taken awhile.

Jay-Z: It took more to work out because he has another album left with Sony, so we just wanted to work with Sony. [The unusual deal finds the two labels collaborating on Nas' next two albums, the first of which is expected to be released in the fall.] We didn't want to make them look bad or nothing like that. It was a delicate deal. He's one of their most important artists.

MTV: Where is Nas at with you, personally and artistically?

Jay and Nas, before the beef

It's a classic: Jay-Z and Nas chillin' together in a photo. Now that they're both on the same team, there should be plenty more to come. But for nearly a decade, this flick, taken by lensman Johnny Nunez, was just about the only widely circulated shot of Nas and Jay together. The picture has been bootlegged and sold on T-shirts, used as artwork for mixtapes and floated all over the Net. Here, Nunez tells the story behind it.

"It was shot at the Flamingo Club in Manhattan, in 1997 or 1998. It wasn't too long after Biggie died — everyone was still in shock. I think the party was because Snoop Dogg was in town. A lot of people were there — I remember Nore was there. Nas and Jay seemed to be friends. Jay was arriving and he began to sit near Nas — I patiently waited for that moment, I asked them for that shot and: pop, pop, pop!

"It's crazy how things turned out. Jay was still new at the time. Nas was definitely the King. Now, Jay can't even move without 100 people surrounding him, but then I think he was there with like two of his friends — no security. What's crazy is that Jay came up with the line saying, "Who's the best? Biggie, Jay-Z or Nas?" And when I got the picture developed, I noticed Jay had the Biggie shirt. So they're all there: the trilogy.

"I'm honored the picture has been around this long — I'm honored and I'm suing people. I walk down the street and see people selling the picture on shirts for $20. I have another picture of them, though, that's never been seen before: Jay and Nas having a gut-busting laugh. This is another event from years ago. It was Steve Stoute's birthday party and Jay and Nas were just in a corner, just talking and cracking up. It's hilarious."

Jay-Z: There's a respect there. With respect anything is possible. But you can't just sit down with somebody and be like, "We're best friends!" That's high school. But we're building with that. We kick it and everything, everything is cool. As far as where he's at artistically, I think he's ready to make the album of his life. He feels like he's in a position right now where he can do it. He can go all the way.

MTV: Obviously you guys had been talking before the concert — people even saw you two laughing and joking at Baseline Studios. What was the icebreaker that brought you together?

Jay-Z: That was Mark Pitts, who used to manage Biggie and now manages Nas. He arranged that meeting. He's a friend of mine and he came to me and said, "Will you sit down with Nas?" I said, "Yeah, no problem, of course," because like I said, there's always been a respect thing. I'm sure he probably went to Nas and said, "Would you sit down with Jay?" He probably Don King'd the whole thing. I didn't even ask him that. [He laughs.]

MTV: We talked to Memphis Bleek recently, and he said the concert in October was the first time he'd ever seen Nas in person. He also said that if he'd had the opportunity to sit and talk with Nas before the battle, there might not have been a battle. Do you feel the same way?

Jay-Z: Absolutely.

MTV: Is there a collaboration between you and Nas coming?

Jay-Z: We gonna be in the studio working, so we'll see what happens. I just don't want to do nothing forced. I been through that before with Best of Both Worlds [his two collaboration albums with R. Kelly]. I just don't want to do nothing just [to do it]. But I'm telling you, we're gonna be in the studio and I'm sure the vibe is going to be right. If I had to place some money on it — and I'm a betting man — I would bet on it.

MTV: Who would produce that? You have so much talent on your team: Just Blaze, Kanye.

Jay-Z: I'm going to my team first: I'm going to Kanye, Just. Then I'm reaching out: Timbaland, Dr. Dre, DJ Premier. I'mma give everybody a shot, new producers. I'm accustomed to working with new dudes who got that sound. Hopefully we'll find a new Kanye, a new Just. But I'm going to Just and Kanye first.

MTV: The question was about just one song, but it sounds like you two could do a whole album together.

Jay-Z: Nah, it ain't a [Jay and Nas] album.

MTV: What about a Jay album? It would make sense for you to come back out this year. It's been 10 years since your debut, Reasonable Doubt. [Jay's debut LP] dropped. All your collaborations last year were killer, and you said the retirement would be for two years — we have it on tape, you said "two years." Well, it's been two years — nobody can say you're not a man of your word.

Jay-Z: [He laughs.] We're [Def Jam] coming up with so much good sh-- at the start of the year — I ain't gonna lie, I don't want to miss it. We got so much going on, I'm focused on the team and making sure everybody is focused. I'm not even thinking about [putting out an album] right now. But for a second I was like "Damn, I can't let all this good sh-- pass me by. I want some."

NEXT: 'I wasn't stuntin' it like, 'I got a problem with
Cam.' ' ...
Photo: Getty

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