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 "Look where we at right here." ...

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 "I got a lot of love for 50." ...

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 "At some point, I feel like swinging back." ...

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 "Where we grew up, once you say certain things, you cross a line." ...

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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Sway: How many times have you both said it's a competitive game? This is what you do, this is what's in your heart. There's not a [response] record sitting on your shelf?

"At some point, I feel like swinging back. Like De Niro [in 'Taxi Driver'], cleaning that garbage up."
Jay: I didn't say that. I move by what I feel. So at some point, I feel like swinging back. Like De Niro [in "Taxi Driver"], cleaning that garbage up, I might do that. I mean, there is nothing that deserves my immediate attention ...

Sway: I know [there's a Jay-Z song dissing Cam'ron] in your heart.

Jay: If you want the record, just ask for it. Just say, "Jay, give me the record." [He smiles.]

Sway: I want to know that you made it.

Jay:: No, I didn't make it. Not yet.

Sway: But there's always a possibility.

Jay: Never say never! That's how I started this whole thing off, right?

Sway: So where does that leave you? You guys are all aligned. If someone comes after Jay or comes after Nas, you're a team now: Does Jay come to Nas' defense? Does Nas come to Jay's defense?

Nas: Honestly, I don't really see no competition [that would need] me to come to his defense. I don't think he sees any competition coming my way. We haven't had one conversation, [to Jay] I haven't talked to you, really, about that. Maybe once or twice about little small things, but that's all it is. I haven't seen any real threats. I've only seen how this has threatened them. Actually, when we met we talked about who was going to jump out the window and go crazy. And now I'm watching them really go crazy. It's entertainment.

Sway: Who's "them"? Who was on the list?

Jay: We'll give it to you after we leave!

Sway: Right now, I must admit your energy seems extremely positive. I'm trying to understand the dynamic of what's going to happen between you in the studio, because both of you guys are alpha MCs! You [Jay] have to wear the hat of CEO; your [Nas] last two albums, people might argue that they weren't commercial enough. That's not necessarily good business for you.

Jay: But don't turn me into the guy with the suit — nasty, straight-up "I think we should double the chorus" type of guy. Don't turn me into that. I'm a creative guy. Same way John Lennon said, the album with "Imagine" on it [Imagine], he said he made the same album again, he just made it easy for everyone to understand and more powerful. "This album was a success; this album was a failure." That's all uptight.

Nas: Let's not forget, art can sell. You ain't gotta front all the time on your records. [Jay's] proven that, I've proven that. I think that the art is going to get really blown up a lot better, and really focused on a lot more.

Sway: Let me ask you this: There's a lot of speculation that you [Jay] are going to come back with an S. Carter album.

Jay: What's that? 'Cuz it's not a Jay-Z album, that makes me a different person?

Sway: Hey man, you a tricky guy! Is that in the works?

Jay: I don't know. That was just too deep, too profound. Who knows? Maybe work on [Nas' forthcoming] album [will be] the reason I'm inspired to do it. I didn't want to make albums to make them because it was the fourth quarter, or it was time to make them. I was making albums every year, an album and a half every year. '96, '97, '98 — I never missed a year. And then one day I look up and I'm like, what am I doing? What, I'm going to make an album this year because it's November? Or to say "eight summers," "nine summers" at some point?

Sway: The moment you guys met onstage at the "I Declare War" concert in October: I know you planned on it, but when the crowd actually got to see that for the first time — describe that feeling.

Jay: Unreal, surreal. There was a second of, like, "Are we seeing that?" And then it was pandemonium. If there was any reservation still at that point, it was all gone — like, "Yeah, we are doing the right thing."

"I went up to the radio station like, 'I declare war.' But as the days went by, I was like, 'What am I doing?' "
Nas: It was crazy. It was chilling. I thought about how I got into this business because of watching Run-DMC and all of them. Those guys made history and I felt like, "Wow, this is that moment." There may have been other times when I was like, "I sold a lot of records on that album, I made history right here." But that moment? I never saw it coming. It's hard to explain.

Sway: Why did you call it the "I Declare War" concert? Cam'ron said you did it because you are going to wage war on him and the Diplomats, that you was digging up old materials to expose onstage that day. But none of that seemed to happen.

Jay: It was one of those things that snowballed. Anybody who knows me knows that I'm thinking about that like that. To put all that effort and energy into ... whatever. There was a lot of things being said, right? So I went up to the radio station like "I declare war," and I told everybody "I hear you" and put everybody on notice. But as the days went by, I was like, "What am I doing? Why am I doing that? What do I gain by doing that?" That's me reverting, being small again. Let's do something bigger than that [instead].

NEXT: 'Where we grew up, once you say certain things, you cross a line.' ...
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Photo: Johnny Nunez

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