Nas’s recently released album King’s Disease marked his fourteenth project to debut in the top ten. A testament to his longevity and greatness with a career that has nearly spanned thirty years since his debut on Main Source’s 1992 “Live at the Barbeque”. Production wise King’s Disease was spearheaded by Hit-Boy, who in his outright has had an illustrious career. The most talked about track on the album was “Full Circle” which reunited the original lineup of The Firm since “Affirmative Action” from Nas’s 1996 album It Was Written.
Main Source – Live at the Barbeque feat. Nas
Nas – Full Circle feat. AZ, Cormega & Foxy Brown
The track showcased that Nas along with AZ, Cormega, and Foxy Brown together can put out music held in a high regarding. Making people wonder if the original lineup of The Firm had been intact what that project would of looked like. The song itself and the way it came about is remarkable. Nas during his promo run touched on his relationships with the members of the group and the 1997 self-titled album falling short of expectations.
Nas – King’s Disease Interview
Nas had become friends with Cormega at an early age, growing up in Queensbridge. Cormega started building a name for himself appearing on tracks with fellow Queensbridge artists such as Blaq Poet and Hot Day back in 1991. He was being groomed for a record deal first but was then incarcerated. Nas’s track “One Love” which served as letters to his incarcerated friends, shouted out Cormega. “What up with Cormega? Did you see him? Are y’all together”. The song was from Nas’s 1994 debut Illmatic and kept Cormega’s name out in the streets.
Hot Day – Going Straight Up feat. Arkim, Blaq Poet & Cormega
Nas – One Love
The other future member of the firm that was associated with Nas’s Illmatic album was AZ. He appeared on the intro named “The Genesis” and the track “Life’s a B*tch”. He had initially went to show support for Nas but organically ended up on the album. Based off his appearance on what many helm one of the best hip-hip albums of all-time AZ landed his own record deal. He put out Doe or Die which became a classic in its own right with Nas featured on “Mo Money, Mo Murder”.
Nas – The Genesis feat. AZ
Nas – Life’s a B*tch feat. AZ
AZ – Mo Money, Mo Murder feat. Nas
Although Nas was being heralded as the next Rakim he was hurting financially. His album had initially reached gold status and eventually platinum. He befriended Steve Stoute who managed Trackmasters, a production duo known for a commercial polished sound at the Source Awards in 1995. Steve Stoute could see that Nas had the makings of being a star and by managing and putting him together with the Trackmasters could make that a reality. If Nas stayed at the same path he would be critically acclaimed but his career would stall out.
At that point in time the Trackmasters had been producing for several years with underground legends like Chubb Rock and Kool G Rap. Now they were beginning to achieve mainstream success working with the likes of Mary J. Blige. Soul For Real, Heavy D, and The Notorious B.I.G. They were on the cusp on becoming the most sought after production duo.
Chubb Rock – Lost In The Storm (prod. by Trackmasters)
Kool G Rap – Ill Street Blues (prod. by Trackmasters)
Mary J Blige – Be Happy (prod. by Trackmasters)
The Notorious B.I.G. – Juicy (prod. by Poke from Trackmasters)
At the end of 1995 LL Cool J’s Mr Smith dropped. The Trackmasters helmed the production on about half the project which ended up going double platinum. It showcased their ability to make radio hits like “Hey Lover” featuring Boyz II Men and underground smashes like the “I Shot Ya (Remix)”. This was the very formula Steve Stoute had in mind for Nas’s next project. “I Shot Ya (Remix)” was also the world’s introduction to Foxy Brown. In her debut appearance she more than held her own against the likes of LL Cool J, Keith Murray, Fat Joe, and Prodigy.
LL Cool J – Hey Lover feat. Boyz II Men (prod. by Trackmasters)
LL Cool J – I Shot Ya (remix) feat. Keith Murray, Prodigy, Fat Joe & Foxy Brown (prod. by Trackmasters)
Az introduced Foxy Brown to Nas. Initially Nas was interested in working with Lil Kim but eventually warmed out to collaborating with Foxy Brown. As fate would have it in 1996 Nas crossed paths with Dr. Dre. They shared a mutual interest of getting into the studio together. Steve Stoute was all for bringing Dr. Dre in the fold, broadening Nas’s audience.
This resulted in “Nas Is Coming” which appeared on Nas’s sophomore album It Was Written. On the track Nas and Dr. Dre share the sentiment that the East coast West coast rivalry that was going at the time was nonsense. People needed to move beyond it, work together and get paid. It served as a teaser fpr 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 Aftermath/Interscope.
Nas – Nas Is Coming feat. Dr. Dre
The members of The Firm appeared together on “Affirmative Action” and the remix. Both tracks were produced by the Trackmasters. Foxy Brown would also appear with Nas on “Watch Dem”. The album It Was Written still until this day remains Nas’s best-selling album of his career. There was a heavy buzz and huge expectations for The Firm Project.
Nas – Affirmative Action feat. AZ, Cormega & Foxy Brown (prod. by Trackmasters)
Nas – Affirmative Action (Remix) feat. Foxy Brown, AZ & Cormega (prod. by Trackmasters)