Nas is the best rapper (living or dead) and I got the surveillance tapes to prove it. But I must concede, Jay-Z is in his own lane and I've had hate in my heart for far too long. This is not meant to be an exercise in the differences between Nas and Jigga or anything of the like- think of it as more of an apology.
I didn't dislike Jay-Z because I like Nas and I've always recognized Jay as a decent emcee. I just don't like a guy that knows better and doesn't do better and I somehow missed some of the best raps ever said. Some of his earlier raps were less than stellar drug cliche' riddled messes, but he always threw an "oh shit" line or two in there for the rap nerds (like me) to ruminate on. And don't act like the super fast fu-schnicken flow didn't happen- because it did.
Plus, Jay is no better than Rick Ross with his fugazi crime life. It's entertainment blah blah, but this guy was pawning these tales off as his life. Nas often makes it clear that his gangster stories were gleamed from the action outside his project window and his own Scarface fueled street fantasies i.e. "Be havin' dreams that I'm a gangster/ Drinkin' Moet holdin' Tecs..."
Despite his foibles, I'm a recent convert to the church of Jay-Hova and I'm enjoying learning my psalms. Now everytime I listen to a cd I'm geeked like Maury just read the results and the bastard ain't mine.
I'm currently studying American Gangster and then I'm going back to Genesis aka Reasonable Doubt. I feel foolish for catching on so late. It's kinda like when I first noticed the dumps on Thelma while watching Good Times reruns as a kid. She was always ridonkulous, I just didn't get it until I got older.
After this revelation I seriously gotta rethink my whole cynical, music snob, rap nerd thing (this is coming from a guy that loves Project Pat records with lines like "...love the way that booty flap/keep a cough drop in her cap" for pete's sake, but I digress) I wish I could take back all those barbershop arguments and near fights about how Jay-Z only parrots B.I.G. and wishes he was Nas. I have a lot of ground to make up, but better late then never.
I respect Jay-Z for maximizing his profit margin and exploiting the business world's infatuation with rap music's effects on popular culture. Jay-z got paid for that "...Motorola 2 way page me" line way back on Give It To Me.
Nas could learn a lot from Hov, in that respect. Unfortunately, despite his Fila ads, Nas probably doesn't have fortune 500 companies beating down his door with endorsement deals. To his credit he did turn down a Coors endorsement, while on MTV no less, well before Jay-Z secured his Heinekin ad. It seems like Nas said "I was gonna write these raps anyway, oh you're gonna pay me, cool!", versus Jay-Z who saw an angle to get dumb paid and took full advantage.
Jay-z is a bona fide taste maker, consummate businessman, and arguably one of the best rappers ever. I have officially turned on my heart light.