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Jay Z vs. Nas: The Story Behind the Beef

The Jay Z vs. Nas beef was a gladiatorial battle between two rap titans. For almost a decade, two of rap"s most decorated emcees went at each other"s throat. They started off with subliminal jabs and moved up to body shots. Fans cheered on. Crews got in the mix. Digs got so personal that parents had to step in. Thankfully, the battle didn"t end in tragedy like Biggie vs. 2Pac. It ended in triumph. And friendship. Jay Z and Nas would later shake hands and join forces.

Let"s backtrack to an earlier time when Jay Z and Nas vied for New York supremacy in one of the greatest hip-hop battles of all time.

"Lex with TV sets the minimum"

The year is 1996. Nas is one of the hottest MCs in the country, thanks to his debut, Illmatic, released a couple years earlier. Word on the street is that Nas was supposed to appear on Reasonable Doubt, but he never showed up to record his verse for "Bring It On." In the absence of the real deal himself, producer Ski Beatz samples a Nas line from "The World is Yours" (Pete Rock remix) on another Jay Z song, "Dead Presidents II." Arguably Jay Z"s best song, "Dead Presidents II" prominently features the line "I"m out for presidents to represent me." Reasonable Doubt hit shelves in June "96.

Nas" second album, It Was Written, arrived a month later. The album opener "The Message" includes the first of many perceived subliminal shots at Jay Z: "Lex with TV sets the minimum." What does this line have to do with the Brooklyn rapper? Well, Jay Z"s first album sports several references to Lexus. Recall that Jay likened his mind to a Lexus on "Can I Live" ("My mind is infested, with sick thoughts that circle like a Lexus"). Plus, his "Dead Presidents II" video shows off a sweet Lexus GS.

Nas later confirmed that Jay Z inspired that line, telling Complex:

"I saw Jay Z driving a Lexus with the TVs in them. I got rid of my Lexus at that point and I was looking for the next best thing. It wasn’t a shot at Jay but it was just saying that’s the minimum you gotta have. It’s not a shot at him but he