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Friday, June 03, 2011

African American Music Appreciation Month 2011

I could not celebrate and highlight the great things about African American music without paying homage to two of the greatest rappers of all time. If you ask me (and I know you didn't but I'm telling you my opinion anyway) these two produced some of their best verses when they bumped heads in early 2000. Their battle emerged in the aftermath of the great East Coast vs. West Coast rap war that led to the premature and untimely death of rappers Notorious B.I.G & Tupac Shakur. The two used their quick-witted verses and thought-provoking schematics to take verbal shots at each other in what turned out to be a battle between lyrical giants. 

Rap historians say the beef between Jay-Z and Nas boiled under the surface for years with both rappers choosing to avoid an actual conflict. The avoidance came to a halt when Jay-Z fired the first lyrical shots against Nas during Hot 97's Summer Jam hip hop festival in 2001. Reciting the opening verse to the first single for his album The Blueprint, Takeover, a diss to Nas and Mobb Deep, which ended with the line, "Ask Nas, he don't want it with Hov. No!" 

Nas responded with an attack on Jay-Z during a radio freestyle over Eric B. & Rakim's "Paid in Full" beat, dissing most of the R.O.C. members — specifically Jay-Z, Freeway, Memphis Bleek, and Beanie Sigel. Initially, the freestyle was untitled but was it was later called "Stillmatic" (which also became the title of Nas' next album) or "H To The Omo" (a direct reference to Jay-Z's song "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)")...and the rap beef was born. 

Nas fired the hardest round of shots when he released Ether! Yea, I said it! 

 In 2005, Jay-Z headlined the Power 105.1 "Powerhouse 2005: Operation Takeover" show at the Continental Airlines Arena in New Jersey, dubbing his portion of the gig "I Declare War." But instead of blasting his rival as expected — and as he did four years earlier at a Hot 97 concert that kicked off his beef with Nas — Jigga announced, "All that beef sh-- is done, we had our fun... let's get this money," and called Nas onstage to perform with him.

The feud was put to a formal end in 2006, when Nas signed with Def Jam, of which Jay-Z was still President at the time. Nas and Jay-Z toured, recorded and appeared on television and radio together throughout 2006; the artists collaborated on Nas' Def Jam debut, Hip Hop is Dead, on the song "Black Republican"; Nas returned the favor by appearing on Jay-Z's 2007 album, American Gangster on the song "Success." They also collaborated on "I Do it For Hip-Hop," a song from Def Jam artist Ludacris' album Theater of the Mind.

No disrespect to Biggie vs Pac, LL Cool J vs. Canibus or 50 Cent vs. Ja Rule and you can disagree if you want but the Jay-Z/Nas beef is the greatest rap beef ever. Why? Because although the two threatened violent retaliation, it turned out to be more like a rap verion of the Cold War. Before anyone was seriously injured, the two came to their senses and squashed the beef but not before they both made hip hop history. Why do rappers beef? I'm not sure but I'm glad these two did!

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