Last night the wait for a new Nas album finally came to an end. Nasir, executively produced by Kanye West has been well received by fans and critics alike. It is a testament to his greatness that after being in the game for close to 30 years he can deliver a project that many are saying is one of his best ever. He has had countless great moments and such an influence on the hip hop culture. Wanted to look back at a time where Nas’s career was at a crossroad and the relevancy of forging a relationship with Dr. Dre. The impact it would ultimately have.
In 1996 the East Coast and West Coast rivalry was at a fever pitch. At the forefront was the clashing of Death Row Records and Bad Boy Records. Dr. Dre had walked away from Death Row Records to form Aftermath Entertainment. He wanted the opportunity to focus on producing for other artists while in a healthy environment. Dr. Dre had befriended Nas at a concert, sharing his admiration and respect for him. He ultimately wanted to get in the studio with Nas and put out some music.
Nas was very receptive to the proposition. His manager Steve Stoute saw it as a great opportunity as well. Nas’s debut album, Illmatic was highly critically acclaimed. Steve Stoute’s concern was if Nas’s formula for his sophomore album It Was Written remained the same then his career would stall. Steve Stoute had already lined up Nas with the Trackmasters production team of Poke and Tone. They had helped LL Cool J resurrect his career the prior year with their involvement with the Mr. Smith project. Adding Dr. Dre at the time into the mix was a no-brainer. It would give Nas a new sound and a broader appeal.
It Was Written till this day is Nas’s best-selling album. Dr. Dre contributed the track “Nas Is Coming”. On the track Nas and Dr. Dre share the sentiment that the East coast West coast rivalry was nonsense. How people need to move beyond it, work together and get paid. It was a teaser for what was to come between Nas and Dr. Dre. The next step would ultimately be an album put out by The Firm on Dr Dre’s label. The Firm was a group consisting of Nas, AZ, Foxy Brown, and Cormega. Dr. Dre would split production duties with the Trackmasters. The Firm made its debut on It Was Written as well on the track “Affirmative Action”.
Nas feat. Dr. Dre – Nas is Coming
Nas feat. AZ, Foxy Brown, & Cormega (The Firm) – Affirmative Action
Before the Firm’s album came out Dr. Dre dropped the compilation Dr. Dre Presents the Aftermath. The lead single was “East Coast/West Coast Killas”. RBX, KRS-One, B-Real, and Nas laid down the vocals for the track. Collectively they were called Group Therapy. The song’s message just like “Nas Is Coming” was to end the bicoastal war that plagued hip hop at the time. The following year The Firm’s project titled The Album was released. Cormega had been replaced by Nature. The album fell short of expectations selling just under a million records. The standout track was “Phone Tap”.
Group Therapy (RBX, KRS One, B-Real, Nas, & Dr. Dre)– East Coast/West Coast Killas
The Firm feat. Dr. Dre – Phone Tap
In addition there were a couple unreleased gems made during the album’s recording sessions that would eventually see the light of day. This included “Time” and “Everyday Thing”. Beyond that Dr. Dre would produce the track “Hustlers” off of Nas’s 2006 album Hip Hop Is Dead which featured The Game. The last song they have been known to work together is “Topless” which initially leaked in 2009. It is a track that many speculate was meant for Dr. Dre’s Detox album that has been in the works since 2002 but is yet to come out. Several versions have leaked with vocals of Nas, Dr.Dre, T.I., and Eminem.
The Firm – Time
Nas feat. Nature and Dr. Dre -Everyday Thing
Nas feat. The Game – Hustlers (prod. by Dr. Dre)
Dr. Dre feat. Eminem, Nas, & T.I.
The relationship between Nas and Dr. Dre is a significant one. It promoted unity between prominent hip hop figures from the east and the west right in the middle of a bicoastal war during the 90’s. Also from a fan’s perspective some great memorable material came out of the union. Hopefully more material will come out between the two hip hop greats at some point whether it is from the vaults or new recordings. After all these years fans will still gravitate towards it regardless.