Album: Zebrahead Soundtrack
Producer: Large Professor
Large Professor: “That’s funny, because when I made that beat, Busta Rhymes wanted that beat, right after I made it. My house after a while became like a little hangout for dudes. Busta Rhymes, coming from Long Island, he would always pass through Queens and come to the crib. And that beat right there, he was writing to it and everything. But he was in between deals though—this was after the Leaders [of the New School] shit, and before his Elektra deal.
This was finally [Nas'] own session. So he had his weed ready, he had the crew coming through, his books [of rhymes], the fresh gear, sittin’ back with a freshly rolled, and another one being rolled, like, ‘Yo, play the beat... Nah yo, play the other beat.’
“But Nas was right there, ready to go with [MC] Serch and Ruffhouse. It was always a toss up, kind of like Jamaican reggae style, where I would play it for everybody, and whoever gets ill on it can get busy. And Nas was like, ‘Yeah, I can get busy on that.’ And he was like, ‘I’m gonna say this rhyme with that [and put it down].
“That was a nice session, because we had been in so [many of] Eric B.’s sessions and other people’s sessions, and this was finally his own session. So he had his weed ready, he had the crew coming through, his books [of rhymes], the fresh gear, sittin’ back and shit with a freshly rolled, and another one being rolled, like, ‘Yo, play the beat. Nah yo, play the other beat.’ [Laughs.] Now Nas was control. That was nice, man. That was really nice. [Laughs.]
“But he already had the work ethic from the Eric B. sessions. He knew, like, ‘Yo, we’re in here to get this done.’ But you could see where he was really trying to feel the amenities a little bit more, like, ‘Yo, turn that up a little bit more for me?’ [Laughs.] Whereas before, he would just be like, ‘Aiight.’ Now he was starting to spread his wings.
“We had an original version of ‘It Ain’t Hard To Tell,’ but ‘Halftime’ was the first song [we finished for Illmatic] and the first to hit the airwaves.”