Nas thought rap was over when Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur died.
Hip-hop stars Biggie and Tupac were engaged in a feud before they both passed away, which was dubbed a coastal rap war by the press as the stars hailed from different sides of America. Tupac was shot dead aged 25 in 1996, while Biggie died the same way the following year when he was 24. Rapper Nas can vividly remember the effect it had on him.
"Those two things hit me real hard, 'cause I knew both of them. I knew Biggie more, but what they meant to the art form can never be redone, can never be replaced and when those two guys passed away I thought it was the end of rap," he told Zane Lowe as part of Relentless Ultra Presents Soundchain.
In the early 2000s Nas was involved in his own beef, with hip-hop superstar Jay Z. It saw both sides sling comments at each other in lyrics and off record, before it was resolved in 2005.
When Zane commented that many worried it would end in the same way Tupac and Biggie's animosity did, Nas tried to explain how different the music world was back then.
"Today's music industry it's really about money now and back then during that period, when you talk about me battling with Jay, it was about something else," he said in a clip posted on MTV. "It was not just about being the top guy in rap it felt like we were leaders of nations. Not that we were egotistical as, 'I'm the leader,' no, no, no, not in that sense. I mean what you felt surrounding us was... there was an importance in what we were doing more than just success. It was more than just, 'Oh my record's going to sell,' or, 'Yeah we need the records to sell to make money.' That was something we thought about, but put that aside. When Pac made Dear Mama [in 1995], and these records and then he had to switch up to get in war mode, these were chess moves. This was real... today is a whole other world."