Simply put, Nas and Jay-Z together are a "threat."
That's how the Queensbridge rhyme savant explains some of his peers' criticism of his signing to the Jay-Z-led Def Jam label. Since the deal was announced, MCs such as Fat Joe, Cam'ron and 50 Cent have publicly questioned how Nas could sign with a onetime foe who had an affair with the mother of his daughter and talked about it on wax (see "Jay-Z Calls Cam's Dis Track 'Trash' And A Cry For Attention").
"That would be small-minded," Nas said recently while sitting next to Jay. "That's what I want people to understand. Me coming over to Def Jam, I'm bringing something to the table. I'm equivalent to any of the artists that are there. I'm ready to go — I'm ready to kick ass.
"The movement is bigger than what someone says about Nas for the moment," he added. "I've always had someone say something about me. I'm one of the most crucified artists in the game, thank you! This is what challenges me, what makes me go on. When people have negative things to say, it's all good."
"We're thinking bigger than what was said on the record," Jay added. "We're thinking bigger than what people perceive this as. We're thinking as responsible, grown men. I know that's not popular, especially in the state of hip-hop right now, but that's what it is. We've been chosen as leaders. We have to lead. We can't follow people's perception of what this union is. I didn't sign Nas, I partnered with Nas. You can't sign an artist of Nas' stature, you can only partner with him."
As Nas' new partner, Jay definitely wants to give his input on God's Son's Def Jam debut, a project both MCs feel could be Nas' best album ever. Hov wants to surround Nas with a circle of top-ranking talent; he'd also like to see the usually reclusive Nas out at the clubs a lot more than he has been in years, just to hear what's going on and vibe.
"A lot of folks don't really know what it takes to put your heart and soul into this thing and work it out there," Nas said. "To go out there and put your face in the public eye. I personally don't like a lot of limelight. It comes with the territory."
Nas said that production on his album has already begun.
"It's starting now," he said. "I'm really excited about it. I'm listening to Hot 97, [Power] 105. I'm listening to stations in Atlanta, I'm listening to XM Radio. I'm doing the research on the whole thing, and I'm real excited about this move. Coming from my last record with 'Bridging the Gap,' the joint with my dad, I knew I went left, so I couldn't wait to come back" (see "Family Affair: Nas Gets Down With Jazz-Musician Dad In New Video").
All Eyes On: Jay-Z & Nas
"I knew whatever I did next would be a colossal movement," he added. "Now I have everything I need to push me to make the best album I ever made."
Will the new music being generated by Nas inspire Jay-Z to put out his own LP this year? Although he hasn't totally ruled it out, Jigga is still saying no — as of now. For his part, Nas says Hov should definitely put out at least one more record.
"Personally, Jay, I feel like you gotta come back out," Nas said, turning toward Jay and addressing him. "That's just me. Because if me and him don't [keep putting out music], you leave a lot of people out there that's like, 'What's going on?' "
There is no release date on the new Nas album, but he and Hov say to expect it sometime this fall.
For more on Jay-Z and Nas, check out the feature "Jay-Z and Nas: How the Peace Was Won."