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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: You two have come together, but you still have a lot of people that want to get at you on the mic. They're gonna make fun of your union: "Look at them now — they friendly, they cool, they hugged up."

Jay-Z And Nas Put Beef To Sleep In Onstage Show Of Unity
Nas: But you know what? That movement, it happened. And it's too late for what we already did. Now they're gonna hear music. We showed the world something for ourselves, and for the fans. We did this for them. So now it's time for music. They saw that move, they can talk about it all they want. Bring the poster up — I'll sign it for you, but that's done now and we moving on.

Sway: Jay, I know you're itching for somebody to throw some verbal torpedoes at the two of you. If G-Unit makes a record dissing Nas, if Dipset makes a record dissing Jay — you're not gonna respond?

Jay: We are grown men. Be strong. I don't feel like he needs any help in any area. I don't feel like I need any help in any area.

Sway: It's been rumored that you've been working with Dr. Dre on his Detox album. Is it true that you've been ghostwriting for him?

Jay: Well, I don't know if I can answer that question. I mean, I spoke to Dre a couple of times. I don't know if he's gonna go all the way through with Detox. I worked with him on Chronic 2001, so there is absolutely a possibility. If he's gonna do Detox and go through with it, I would love to be involved in it. Dre is another legend and a leader in our field. I would love to be involved in it — that is, if he's gonna go through with it.

Sway: So you two haven't been working in the studio at all.

Jay: No. We haven't been in the studio, no.

Sway: And would you solicit Dre to work with Nas?

Jay: I mean, that goes without saying.

Nas: [Like he's being overlooked.] I got a relationship with Dre! I know Dre. We got a platinum album together on the Firm [the 1997 LP Nas, Foxy Brown, AZ and Nature Present the Firm: The Album, to which Dre contributed]. I actually already started working with Dre, quiet as kept. But it was really a small thing.

Sway: Jay, you've collaborated with big-name artists in the past, mainly R. Kelly, and it didn't go too well. Do you have concerns about working with Nas?

"It's not our album; it's his album. It's his artistic direction and expression." - Jay-Z
Jay: That's different. We made an album together, me and R. Kelly. This is Nas' album. It's his artistic vision of wherever he wants to go. I can help, Mark Pitts, anybody else who can offer advice. But at the end of the day that's his decision. So you can't be in a fallout over something that's his. It's not our album; it's his album. It's his artistic direction and expression, and where he sees himself going. [To Nas] I'm talking like you not here!

Nas: Like, when the 50s [artists like 50 Cent] do albums, it's like there's 20 artists in the studio — when you see Dre do an album, it's a whole team. I never really ... I went and chose my own dudes to work with. I put my boys on: I put one of my homies, LES, on the album, my man Salaam is crazy, put him on the album. Mark Pitts a great dude who knows this music thing, [I want him] to be around while I make this project. I finally got brothers around me that's here with me, that can relate to music. [Jay's] talking about John Lennon — I don't hear rappers talking about people like him because they don't know why they should. He does, so we have an understanding of music, we mix our bond better, we talking about creating and we talking about art. I can play a song by Marvin [Gaye] and get his feedback. He can play me a song by whoever and I give my feedback on it. We take that in, and that's what the process is like.

Sway: Are you disappointed with the present state of rap?

Jay: I never want to sound like the guy, you know, who's been doing it and criticizes it. But I love it, so I can criticize it in some way. I think now, in what we do — I'm going include myself in the equation — what we do as artists is emulate the final result. But the artists that we loved added something to the game. It was Biggie's wit, charisma and charm. Pac's fire and hot head — and passion and Black Panther background — really made those songs. So people look at the songs, and you take [Biggie's] "Hypnotize," for example, and they say [he] had to make a club song, instead of saying what all led up to that club song, or led up to [2Pac's] "Dear Mama" — his mom was in jail when she had him. We emulate the final result [instead of what went into it]. Of course you're not gonna get those results, you're not gonna be in love with [today's] artists, because they are emulating the final result. There are a lot of good records out there and a lot of good albums. Not as many as before, so I'm disappointed in a way.

Nas: I look at the state of the game. I'll always love rap, no matter what's going on. You look at it, and you say all of us are not putting our best foot forward. Not just the rappers, you look at the DJs and the stuff they playing — it's not necessarily that stuff that made you want to rap. It's a system now. Back in the day, Rap Attack, Mr. Magic, Marley Marl, Red Alert, Chuck Chillout — what Biggie was talking about in "Juicy" — that's missing. When DJs were playing something like when I first heard UTFO — it wasn't because it was a hit. Those were joints; DJs was letting us hear the jams on the radio. It was like, "Damn, I want to write today!" So it ain't just the rappers when I say I ain't feeling the game. I'm talking about all of us. Let's make it pop again.

Sway: I don't want to keep going back to the battle, but when it was going down, was there anything that made you go, "Oohhh, he hit me hard with that."

Jay: Nah, 'cuz I was in it. I wasn't viewing from a statistical point of view. I felt like there was things that were over the line that made me say things that were over the line. So it was just stuff like that.

Sway: Nas, when you heard verses from "Takeover," didn't it make you go, "Damn, Jay ain't playing — he's serious."

"There was a moment when Jay was on the radio and you know, Moms said, 'Chill.' "
Nas: Yeah, I mean, the seriousness of the record alone. The way the track was going, the way it was put together. It was well thought-out and it wasn't something I can say ... In all honesty, at first I was like, whatever. But the streets wasn't letting me go like that. So I had to really pay attention, and I realized it was really on.

Sway: Jay, how did you feel when he came back with "Ether"?

Jay: Right away, I gained a whole level of respect [for Nas]. Not many people come back after ["Takeover"]. That was like a figure-four leg-lock — I mean, you can't get out of that. You can't escape that one. It was like, OK — that whole level of respect.

Nas: Then I just lit a bomb!

Sway: That's good y'all can joke around about that now. Jay, is there anything Nas said that was hurtful to you?

Jay: Yeah, absolutely. We both are from a certain ... there are unsaid things, where we grew up. And once you say certain things, you know, you cross the line. When you say something to another man like, you own mine, you know what you saying to that man.

Sway: You did say a lot of that, too. Everybody knew Jay had the gloves off in "Takeover," if I can paraphrase what he says, "I did you-know-what with you-know-who, but we gonna leave that between me and you." And it turned out that it was alluding to [Nas'] child's mother. How did you feel about that?

Nas: I feel like that was tactful coming from him, how he lined that line up. Once you got a line like that, that's like the famous 2Pac "How you gonna call yourself a playa?" even though I wasn't married or nothing like that back then. That's tactfulness and it was kind of like, how do you respond to that? Because no matter what you say, that's a line — that's a hard line. I was like, you supposed to go to the next level and maybe say things that were a little crazy. That's just responding. In a war, just responding to words, you gonna pull out your heavy artillery. But that's what that was then. My child's involved, children are involved, so we left it at that.

Sway: So because of your child you don't even speak on ...

Nas: I mean, there was even a moment when Jay was on the radio and you know, Moms said, "Chill." His mom, my mom — bless her — was listening and I was like, "Wow, my moms was listening." And the fact that he said it on the radio [when] his mom was listening, that's when I knew we both went too far.

Sway: Well, there you have it. Good luck — and thanks for sitting down.

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Photo: Johnny Nunez

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