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All Eyes On: Jay-Z & Nas
Behind The Scenes
Still don't believe the hatchet has been buried? Feast your eyes on this uncut interview with the rap immortals.

Jay-Z Takes Over

Nas: Major Figure

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Nas is feeling a bit unsure.

The Queens MC is not only stepping into his former enemy's territory, he's heading straight into his power base: Baseline Studio in Midtown Manhattan, the same studio where Jay-Z masterfullycrafted classic albums like The Blueprint and The Black Album. There isn't a more intimate setting for Hov: This is his inner sanctum, the place where he collects and conveys his innermost thoughts to the world, a spot where some of his closest friends and musical collaborators — Memphis Bleek, Pharrell Williams, Bun B, Scarface, Beanie Sigel, Just Blaze and Kanye West — have all worked and chilled.

Tonight, Nas is the guest of honor.

Five years ago, the idea of Nas and Jay-Z sitting down together — to discuss not just their personal truce but their long-term business relationship — was unthinkable.

But old wounds can heal with time. And although the blatant disrespect the two volleyed back and forth during their years-long, monumental battle — in interviews and songs like "Super Ugly," "Ether" and "Takeover" — has not been forgotten, it has been forgiven.

The two have agreed to sit down with MTV News for their first joint interview. You might expect the atmosphere in the room to be thick with tension, but it's almost the opposite. Nas enters a back room where Jay-Z is sitting, and before either one can say a word, they both burst out laughing. The two, after all, were friends years ago. But still, they can't believe how far they've come.

"It's funny," a grinning Jay said later. "It was one those things that, at the time, you would never think would happen."

"Like, 'Look where we at right here,' " Nas added with a small chuckle.

Nas is laughing all the way to the bank these days. He's signed a recording contract and a deal for his label with Jay's Def Jam that will see him rake in millions of dollars — and furthermore, give him something he said he was missing: a team to give him advice while making his albums. Nas says he's so inspired that he's ready to make the album of his life.

Meanwhile, Def Jam President and CEO Jay-Z says he has Nas' back. The two have partied together, performed together and are ready to make history together — but this time, they'll do it side by side instead of head-to-head.

On paper, the pairing of Nas and Jay-Z — arguably the two most skillful MCs in the game today, and two of the greatest ever — seems unstoppable. But whether this renewed bond will hold remains to be seen.

The two made hip-hop history by appearing onstage together at Madison Square Garden in October, and on this winter night, they are making history again, talking with MTV News' Sway about their friendship, their beef, their issues with Cam'ron and 50 Cent, and the respect for each other that withstood the heat of battle.

  Jay-Z & Nas: Photos from the interview
Sway: Hey, I'm going to interview you two like a fan today. It's a historical moment in music, the two of you coming together like this. It's not just important for music; in my opinion it's important for the streets. At one point, in the midst of your beef, I had the chance to speak with both of you individually. And I asked if there was ever the possibility that you would work with the man sitting next to you — and you both said no. Why here and why now?

Jay Z: You hear sayings when you're younger, like "Never say never" and things like that, but you think they're just sayings, you're too young to really comprehend. But even in the midst of everything that we was going through as far as battle, there was a deep respect there. To go at someone like that, you have to have respect for them. [Otherwise] you wouldn't care, you'd just brush it off like it ain't about nothing. At the time I was like "never," but you grow and then realize: Never say never. It's bigger than both of us, like you said. It's more about the culture and about showing people another way, because what we staged was something that stopped the world for a second. So now — [to Nas] if I'm talking too much just tell me! — everyone emulates the final result.

Nas: Great answer. I basically feel the same — in the midst of a battle you never know how it's going to turn out because everything is at stake. It can go either way and you know that you have to fight to the finish. But it was always respect — it wasn't a point where he wanted to gun me down or I wanted to gun him down. It was never that. That's not how I think real bosses move or how real men move. At this point of the game, this was inevitable, I feel. What direction is out there for us to follow? At the end of the day, it's bigger than both of us in this rap thing. I'm a fan of rap and I don't have to front like a lot of artists today want to front, like they want to go from zero to 60. As soon as they start their career, they come out slandering people, acting crazy. And this is another way for it to go.

Sway: There are pictures of you guys dating back to 1997, sitting together as friends. But during your beef, [Jay] even challenged Nas to a boxing match. So even though you respected each other as MCs, you didn't like each other?

Jay: Of course not. That would be —

Nas: Not to cut you off don't get me wrong, we weren't savages about [the battle]. But around that time it was intense.

Jay: Boxing was a clean way. I wasn't on the radio saying, "I'm going to see him and whatever whatever," you know, just being ridiculous with it. But when you in it, you in it. You know what I'm saying? In the midst of battle, you trying to come out of it. All is fair in love and war.

Sway: You felt the same way?

Nas: Absolutely. There was no liking about it. I couldn't hear the song in the club — and how you not going to hear his songs in the club? I thought it was personal. So it was like it was on.

NEXT: 'I got a lot of love for 50.' ...
Photo: MTV News

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