‘Illmatic’ Producer MC Serch Discusses Jay-Z’s Famous Diss About Nas’s Publishing

The veteran music business executive reflects on one of Hip Hop’s greatest lyrical clashes.

The classic Jay-Z versus Nas battle from the early 2000s will likely be discussed forever by rap aficionados. The two legends are on good terms now, but back at the turn of the century, they were part of an epic bout for Hip Hop supremacy.

Jay-Z’s “Takeover” was his most damaging attack against Nas. Over just one verse, the Brooklynite dissected his Queens-raised counterpart’s perceived downfall out of the Top 10 emcees conversation. Jay even tried to flip using Nas’s Illmatic track “The World Is Yours” for his own “Dead Presidents II” into a loss for Esco.

“So yeah, I sampled your voice, you was using it wrong. You made it a hot line, I made it a hot song. And you ain’t get a coin, n####. You was getting f##### then. I know who I paid, God – Serchlite Publishing,” rapped Jay-Z on “Takeover.”

MC Search is the founder of Serchlite, and he is credited as an executive producer on Illmatic. During an interview with Drink Champs, the former 3rd Bass member spoke about Jay’s famous publishing bar directed at Nas. He broke down how the sampling of “The World Is Yours” played out from his perspective.

“[Roc-A-Fella Records co-founders] [Kareem Biggs], Dame [Dash], and Jay come to my office and said, ‘Hey, we have to clear this ‘Dead Presidents’ sample. Take care of us,'” MC Serch told Drink Champs hosts N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN. “I said, ‘Okay, no problem. Give me $2,500, but just know we’re gonna have 25% of your record on the publishing. He was like, ‘Alright, cool.’”

The native of Far Rockaway, Queens added, “[Jay-Z] gave me a check for $2,500. I delivered it to [Zomba Music Group]. But if you look at the liner notes on ‘Dead Presidents,’ Nas is one of the publishers. So that line can live as much as it lives, but Jay don’t own a piece of Nas’s catalog, but Nas owns a piece of Jay’s catalog. And that’s a fact though.”

After Jay-Z dropped “Takeover” to widespread acclaim in 2001, Nas fired back with his scathing diss track “Ether” that same year. The title of the song has since gone on to become a cultural meme Hip Hop fans and non-Hip Hop fans use when one person is seen as demolishing his or her opponent with words.

Fast forward twenty years, Jay-Z and Nas have now collaborated on songs multiple times after they settled their differences in 2005. The two music icons recently joined forces again for DJ Khaled’s “Sorry Not Sorry” single. The newest collaboration sparked speculation of a possible Hov/Esco joint project in the near future.

In the meantime, billionaire businessman Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter is preparing to be enshrined in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame as part of the Class Of 2021. Plus, Nasir “Nas” Jones recently won his first Grammy Award for 2020’s King’s Disease album, and he continues to expand his financial portfolio with news-worthy transactions conducted by his Queensbridge Venture Partners firm.