If you saw the 'Time Is Illmatic' documentary, you might think you know everything there is to know about Nas. The studio stories, the family history, the early days of Kid Wave. These things paint a more vivid picture of what Nas was seeing when he wrote his timeless debut, and give us a more immersive feeling of what the atmosphere was like when the album was being created.
But there's more to him than 'Illmatic,' you know. A classic second album, a series of missteps and beefs, love, pain, triumph, and now deification. He is one of the last standing God MCs who are still consistent today, and there are many details of his career we'll never find out. (Did Nas really get his hat knocked off by an RSO member in Boston circa '94-95? Did Pete Rock really have an affair with Nas's first baby mama, Carmen? Did Nas really get his chain jacked on the West Coast, only to have it returned to him by JT The Bigga Figga?)
We don't deal in rumors, but we do deal in facts, so if you fancy yourself a hip-hop historian, read up on these 25 Facts You Probably Don't Know About Nas.
Nas once dissed 2Pac on a DJ Clue mixtape.
Listen closely to the opening bars. It was on the intro of 'Clueminatti Pt. 2' from 1997. You can hear it below.
In 1996, 2Pac and Nas confronted each other at the MTV VMAs.
They ran into each other in Bryant Park and, according to Snoop, when Nas reached out his hand and showed love, 'Pac told him he was coming out with a song naming a bunch of East Coast rappers and he'd better not respond. Nas was about "100 deep."
Versions of this story differ, but Nas tells a very similar, albeit vague version in his VH1 'Behind The Music.'
Stretch Armstrong introduced Nas to MC Serch.
Joe Fatal, the rapper featured on 'Live At The Barbeque,' introduced Large Professor to Nas.
Mark Pitts brokered the reconciliation between Nas and Jay-Z.
Pitts, who was once Biggie's manager, was handling Nas around 2005 and approached Jay with the idea. A different account of the story is told in Nas's 'Behind The Music,' where the Queens rapper credited L.A. Reid for the peace treaty. Jay has confirmed it was Pitts multiple times.
According to MC Serch, Nas recorded exactly 11 songs for 'Illmatic.'
Serch says only 10 made the album. The 11th song was called 'I'm A Villain.'
There is an alternate version of ‘Live At The BBQ’ with all different verses.
This, according to Joe Fatal's interview with Unkut.
The cover of ‘Illmatic’ was originally supposed to be Nas holding Jesus Christ in a headlock.
It was meant to reflect the religious imagery he was known for from 'Live At The BBQ.'
When Nas said, “You're telephone blown” on ‘Memory Lane,’ he meant cutting you in the face.
"Here's my basis, my razor embraces many faces / You're telephone blown, black stitches or fat shoelaces." Miss Info told NPR how many people misinterpreted the slang term. It was called a telephone cut because it went from your ear to your mouth.
Nas used to go record shopping with Large Professor.
He says he wasn't a producer, but he did pick up some tips on crate digging from Large Pro.
Nas was born in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
It's well known that he moved to Queensbridge at an early age.
When Nas was 19, his best friend Ill Will was shot and killed in the middle of Queensbridge Projects.
Nas’s brother Jungle caught some non-lethal bullets in the same shooting.
Roxanne Shante told a young Nas and Jungle to get their rap act together.
They ran into Shante in the project hallway and after they spit for her, she said they’d better tighten their act up, or she’d be pissed the next time she saw them. It inspired the two to take the craft seriously.
Nas freestyled 'Nastradamus.'
He told Rolling Stone he “didn’t want to do anything but freestyle that single and put it out” following the platinum sales of ‘I Am…’
HBO gave Nas permission to sample the theme song from ‘The Sopranos.’
He also told Rolling Stone, "I wanted to be the first one to use that sample because at that point, everybody was watching 'The Sopranos.'"
Nas dissed N.O.R.E. in 2002.
He said he liked the Queens MC, but doesn’t think he was “taking the game serious enough.”
Nas threw shots at Jay-Z in 1996.
Jay had TVs in the Lex for the 'Dead Presidents' video, and Nas references them here. He eventually admitted to the diss.
He also dissed the late Notorious B.I.G. on the same song.
In fact, he told KING the entire direction of ‘The Message’ was going at Biggie. Chris would of course respond with “Your reign on the top was short like leprechauns."
Two months after the release of ‘Illmatic,’ Nas had his first child – Destiny.
He was 20, and when he got the news, he pushed a shopping cart through the hood giving out bottles of champagne.
The beef between Jay-Z and Nas can be traced back to one song from 1999.
Lots of other songs would escalate the rivalry, but on 'We Will Survive,’ Nas addressed the late B.I.G.: "It used to be fun, makin’ records to see your response / But now competition is none, now that you’re gone / And these n—gas is wrong, using your name in vain / And they claim to be New York’s king? / It ain’t about that.”
Jay-z fired barely subliminal shots back on the Memphis Bleek song right here, and it was on from there.
Big Pun pushed Nas to say ‘I’m the best’ on ‘John Blaze.’
Nas didn't feel like saying it. Big Pun urged him to.
Nas confirmed that he was talking about Jay-Z on their collaboration, ‘Success,’ in 2010.
At first he skirted the question, but eventually he admitted to the not-so-subliminal.
When Biggie had beef with ‘Pac, he called Nas to team up against the West Coast rapper.
Their schedules were too busy with Nas releasing 'It Was Written' and Biggie recording 'Life After Death' in Miami, so it never happened.
He once saw Cuba Gooding Jr. do a “head spin or some s—t” on an awards show and said it was “very coonish.”
He said the same thing about Tiger Woods: “Tiger Woods standing up for this white lady who said something about him being lynched is a coon move to me.”
Nas originally wanted Large Professor to produce his second album.
It didn’t end up working out because they lived too far apart. Steve Stoute must have been ecstatic.
In 1996, Nas became a member of the short-lived Group Therapy.
The other members were KRS-One, B-Real and RBX, and the only song they ever released was ‘East Coast/West Coast Killas’ from Dr. Dre’s ‘Presents…The Aftermath’ compilation.