“I Gave You Power”
Produced by: DJ Premier
Nas: “I was around a lot of guns then. Guns were in my sleep, in my car, in my home, guns were on my person, guns were on my friends. That’s how much they were around. There was so much around me that I rapped about it. It’s crazy to think about that today, but it was my reality. It was in my head 24/7."
Steve Stoute: “My biggest job back then was trying to manage Nas and Premier to get back in the studio. They would never, ever go into the studio. It was always a headache trying to get Nas and Premier to go in the studio together because of idiosyncrasies with their scheduling or Premier would not like the sound, he’d go listen for a while, and Nas would do the same thing. It was always like trying to put a collar on a bumblebee trying to get those two in the same room."
DJ Premier: “I was on tour with Gang Starr and I was just getting back. I was going right back out to go to Japan. So I didn’t have any time to make any other beats for It Was Written. But Nas said, ‘I want to make a record as if I was a gun.’
“We started messing around, trying to figure out what he’s going to do, and we finally figured out a way, because he said, ‘Maybe I should do a skit where I drop the gun and somebody else finds it.’
“And that’s how it all built, and I said, ‘You know what? Instead of making this a hard mean shit, let me make it sound sad.’ Because he said I’m going to be the gun talking about being tired of all the stuff I’m doing to people. That’s why I put that emotion behind it.”
I always wanted to take the part off the record, where he goes, 'It’s like I’m a gun.' I didn’t want him to give the hook away. I always wanted him to take that out but we never took it out. - Tone
Steve Stoute: “When I got them in the studio to work, I didn’t go to the studio because those two guys work so well together—all anybody else in the room does is take away from it. It’s about getting them in and getting out without them leaving. I got them in and I didn’t hear anything, I came back and he played me ‘I Gave You Power’ and I couldn’t believe it.
“There was only one cassette tape and I stole the cassette to it to drive around and just listen to it. He never would have cared about stuff like that but he loves that song and he called me and was like, ‘Where the fuck is my tape?’ I drove back to Queens to give it to him.
“[In the song,] Nas stutters and he makes a mistake but they kept it anyway.”
Tone: “I always wanted to take the part off the record, where he goes, 'It’s like I’m a gun.' I didn’t want him to give the hook away. I always wanted him to take that out but we never took it out."
Nas: “I was struggling with the fact that people wouldn’t get it [that’s why I said I was a gun in the intro]. I underestimated that the audience thinking they wouldn’t get what I was talking about. They were telling me, ‘They gonna get it.’ And I’m like, ‘No, they’re not going to know.’ So I kept it there.”
Tone: “Sometimes Nas gets in this mode where he doesn’t want you to change anything. We were so far along in the album that he was feeling so good about the album, that he was like, 'Yo just keep everything the way it is.' The album was special, at that point, because that was one of the last records. So he was like, 'Nah, we’re leaving everything the way it is.'”