Long considered a genius wordsmith, and the creator of arguably the best debut rap album ever, by the late 1990's Nas was in the midst a musical malaise. His LPs were unfocused, his songs didn't really hit commercially, and the most buzz he got was based off of Puffy's bludgeoning of Nas' manager Steve Stoute with a champagne bottle. No one was taking of, about, or to Nas.
In 2001, that all changed. Jay-Z released the diss record "Takeover" (which he teased at Hot 97's Summer Jam that year), which called Nas out over his sales figures, his street cred, and his flows. Jay ended Nas' career over the course of five minutes. But a funny thing happened: the jabs woke Nas up, and he returned fire with fire, penning the track, "Ether." Nas sounded like a new man, throwing vicious barbs right back at Jay, turning this into a war of words that consumed New York radio, and caused fans of both to take sides.
Nas went on to wow critics and fans alike with his follow-up albums Stillmatic and God's Son, and by the time 2006 rolled around, a more grown-up Nas and grown-up Jay had reconciled on and off-stage. The friendship evolved into a partnership too, as Jay (then president) signed Nas to the legendary Def Jam. Today, Nas is at his creative peak, having released perhaps his most celebrated album yet, full of grown man rap, Life is Good, which debuted at the top of the Billboard charts.