Years before the Nas vs. Jay-Z beef would come to a boiling point, the Queensbridge’s partner-in-rhyme, AZ, would be one of the rappers to feature in Hov’s “Dead Presidents” video.
Even though there were some tensions brewing between the two camps, namely because Nas declined to re-rap the track’s chorus, this didn’t stop AZ, a fellow Brooklynite to join The Notorious B.I.G., Lil’ Cease, Damon Dash, Kareem “Biggs” Burke, and Tyran “Ty Ty” Smith in the video.
“I knew Jay. We were all from Brooklyn,” AZ later explained in an interview with Passion of the Weiss. “When I was working on Doe or Die he would come to the sessions. We actually went to high school together. He had me beat a couple of grades, but when I arrived he was the man in there. So we were cool. He invited me to come through, so I did. It was a good look.”
Produced by Ski, and featuring samples from Lonnie Liston Smith’s “A Garden of Peace,” A Tribe Called Quest’s “Oh My God (remix)” and Nas’ “The World Is Yours (Tip Mix),” the track would be the first single released from Jay-Z’s debut album, Reasonable Doubt.
The subject of Nas’ vocals on “Dead Presidents” would come up several times as points of contention during the feud between the two legendary rappers. On his “Stillmatic Freestyle,” Nas would claim:
You show off, I count dough off when you sample my voice. Nas - "Stillmatic (Freestyle)" // 2001
But Hov clapped back on “Takeover,” saying that:
So yeah, I sampled your voice, you was using it wrong You made it a hot line, I made it a hot song And you ain't get a coin, homie, you was getting plugged then I know who I paid, God, Serchlite Publishing Jay-Z - "Takeover" // September 11, 2001