Nas is a hip hop pioneer in many ways: he was one of the first rappers to sing their own hooks; he was the first New York artist to collaborate with Dr. Dre and Illmatic kicked off the trend of having an all-star producer line-up, just to name a few.
To add to that list, Nas made history as the first non-Wu Tang Clan member to feature on one of their albums, when he appeared on “Verbal Intercourse” on Chef’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… which is one of the greatest guest verses in rap history.
In an interview with Complex, the late, great Prodigy recalled introducing Raekwon and Ghostface to Nas. “We was just chilling with Rae and Ghost, smoking bud, drinking 40s, just wilding in they projects and shit,” the Mobb Deep rapper remembered. “And when we were out there chilling with them niggas, Rae was like, ‘Yo, introduce us to Nas. We want to do some music with Nas.’”
This was during the making of Mobb Deep’s The Infamous album, so they set up a studio session and invited Rae, Ghost and Nas to get them all on a song. The result was the classic joint “Eye for a Eye (Your Beef Is Mines)”, which marked the first time Nas had collaborated with Mobb Deep as well as the Wu.
“‘Eye For A Eye’ was one of the last songs on that album that we did,” Prodigy revealed. “The song happened and that’s when Rae did ‘Verbal Intercourse’ with Nas. That was probably like a week after ‘Eye For A Eye,’ they did that.”
“One of my greatest memories is bringing Nas to Shaolin, to RZA’s house for him to come do his verse for ‘Verbal Intercourse,'” Raekwon told The Boombox years later. “That was one of my moments because we were chillin’ back then. A lot of people don’t know that Nas and I we were real cool back in the ’90s. He would come to my crib or I would go to his crib.”
“Rae would come out to Queensbridge,” Nas said in an interview with XXL. “I would go to Staten Island. We’d just ride and hang out all night. We didn’t call each other to work. We called each other to hang out.”
“Somehow we wound up in the studio. RZA had a couple of beats ready. He played them for me. I got on both of them. The other one never came out. I was honored to be asked to be on the album. Raekwon was ahead of his time. I knew Rae was a classic artist and the album was going to be a music classic.”
Since then, Nas had collaborated with the Wu numerous times, including on “Let My Niggas Live” on The W and on “Rich and Black” off Rae’s Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang.
Raekwon: We got in the studio. RZA played the beat. Nas was liking it, and he was trying different rhymes to it. We would sit there, and he’d say some of his shit. But he didn’t really know which rhyme he wanted to say. And I was there, being like his little coach. And I was like, “That’s it, son.” He was like, “That’s it?” I was like, “Nigga, that’s it!” But he had already went through three or four rhymes, and he couldn’t really see which one he wanted it to be. But I heard it. Once it came out his mouth, I was like, That’s it.Raekwon, The Making of “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…” | XXL
During a clip for the 2019 Wu-Tang documentary, Of Mics And Men, Nas is featured talking about meeting the Staten Island crew for the first time. “I remember being around Wu and I’m like, ‘Damn, they just like us,’” Nas said. “It was like cousins, almost. It was like, you know, project kids. That was the language – project kids. We felt it, we smelt it off each other, and it just shows you that out of those housing projects come some brilliant people.”