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While Nas might not be a beat-maker in the strictest sense, he certainly has a producer mentality and an ear for music.

Before Biggie came out with his breakout single “Juicy,” Nas was planning on using the original sample of Mtume’s 1983 song, “Juicy Fruit,” for “Life’s a Bitch” a few months prior.

On “Memory Lane (Sittin’ in da Park),” the DJ Premier-laced cut off Illmatic, it was Nas who chose the Reuben Wilson “We’re In Love” sample to use for the song’s backdrop.

DJ Premier: Nas wanted to help me pick a sample for that, and he heard the Reuben Wilson sample [from “We’re In Love”], and he was like, “That’s it.” I wasn’t really into that one. But he was like, “Yo, that’s it, Preem. Cook that up.” So I just hooked it up, because he asked me to. I was in competition with the other producers on the album, so I wanted to be funkier than what they had. I had just seen Q-Tip, and he played me a cassette, and he had a rough [version of “One Love”]. He pause-mixed the record in order to let Nas hear it before he put drums and stuff to it. And when I heard the sample and the way he had it hooked up, I was like, Oh my God, everybody is coming with shit harder than mines. But Nas was like, “Man, I really wanna do this one.” And he wrote it right on the spot. Once we cut the vocals, I heard what he was saying. I wasn’t mad at it, I wasn’t against it, I just thought I could have done better.

An Oral History of Nas’ Classic Debut Album ‘Illmatic’ | XXL
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