As the fifth and final single of Illmatic, “One Love” won the hearts of hip hop fans all over with its unique storytelling-through-a-letter structure
Combining Nas’ vivid imagery and sincere lyrics to his incarcerated homie with Q-Tip’s out-of-the-world production, which sampled “Smilin’ Billy Suite Pt. II” by The Heath Brothers, “One Love” was a highlight track on an record full of highlight tracks.
“Q-Tip used to come and hang out with me in my projects from time to time,” Nas recalled in a Rolling Stone interview. “I remember him coming out there and hanging out, and I remember him letting me hang out at his session when he was working on Midnight Marauders.
“I thought he was just the most incredible, so to have him producing my album, for him to even do the chorus for me is a blessing. The song just came from life, it’s a song about letters to prison inmates, friends of mine, shout-outs to childhood friends and their uncles and people who were like family to me.”
In an interview with HipHopDX, celebrating the 20th anniversary of his seminal debut, Nas revealed that when Q-Tip gave him the beat for “One Love”, the Tribe frontman already an idea for the track called “My Summer Vacation.”
Nas: When Q-Tip first gave me the beat, he had this idea, it was called “My Summer Vacation.” It was funny he said that, because it was like a student who’s off for the summer and comes back and tells the class what he did. I had “One Love”—at least the first two verses—already written, and I couldn’t wait to show him the different kind of letter I had. It wasn’t summer vacation, but it was about something else that Q-Tip could relate to. When he heard it, he was like, “Wow. That’s it.”Memory Lane: 5 Lesser-Known Stories From The Creation Of Nas’ “Illmatic” | HipHopDX