“Way before The Firm, like back in the day / Nas was the first New York ni**a rappin’ with Dre” – Nas was spitting facts on his 2006 cut, the Dre-produced “Hustlers.”
Back in ’96, during the height of the East Coast-West Coast beef, Nas and Dre ignored the coastal tensions and began working together.
According to Steve Stoute, who was Nas’ manager at the time, Dre was a big fan of the Queensbridge rapper and wanted to work with him. “Dre went on record saying that the best rapper he thought in the game was Nas,” recalled Stoute. “He told BET or MTV, ‘Nas, if you’re looking at this, I want to work with you, man—you’re my favorite rapper.'”
The two artists linked up multiple times: first on “Nas Is Coming” off It Was Written, then later on “East Coast/West Coast Killas”, a Dr. Dre Presents the Aftermath joint which also featured Scarface, KRS-One, B-Real and RBX. These collaborations led to Nas and Dre joining forces to form The Firm, along with AZ, Foxy Brown, Cormega (originally) and Nature.
Nas: I’m a big fan of Dr. Dre. When Illmatic came out, he came to a show I did at a club that Prince owned called Glam Slam West in L.A. It was one of the illest L.A. clubs back then. Someone would always get shot outside but important people would be there and it would always be live. I came on stage holding a cognac glass of Hennessy, with a cigar in my other hand—that was my style then. Someone told me Dre was there, and so I went to see him after my show and we kicked it.The Making of Nas’ ‘It Was Written’ | Complex