The then-A&R recalled how distraught he was over “Ether” being seen as superior to “Takeover.”
On September 11, 2001, Jay-Z released his sixth studio album The Blueprint, which included the controversial “Takeover” that featured lyrics dissing Nas and the late Prodigy.
The song incited a feud between Jay and Nas, with the latter responding to “Takeover” with “Ether,” where he called out Jay’s street credibility and referred to him as a sellout.
In a recently-published oral history on The Blueprint via DefJam, then-Roc-A-Fella Records A&R Lenny S. talked about the time both diss tracks were out and how Jay took his loss to Nas in stride.
Lenny recalled how Hot 97 did a poll on the radio comparing “Ether” to “Supa Ugly” — Jay’s response to the Nas diss track — and how everyone had voted for the former.
“It was like, ‘Jay’s career is over. He’s done,” Lenny said.
“‘Ether’ was f**king unstoppable, don’t get me wrong, but you can’t end somebody’s career by a song. And that was the sentiment in New York, the tri-state area, and the radio. It was like, ‘Jay’s over, Nas reigns supreme, Nas is the king, Jay’s finished,'” he continued.
From there, Lenny recalled contacting Jay on a pager, to which the rapper told him to call him.
“Jay’s on the phone with me, convincing me that this has to happen in life. We have to go through ups and downs. We have take losses in order to get greater wins. We have to fall in order to get up. He just spent 15 minutes convincing me why this was necessary and that it’s alright,” Lenny said. “This man just took a loss. A public loss to a rival rapper. And he’s convincing me, a young A&R, and obviously his friend and his brother, of like why I need to be okay with this and let it go and not take it to heart. It just taught me as a man how to be a more mature adult. And to look at the glass as half full instead of half empty. Jay took the time when he could have been selfish, or pissed off, and took the time to school me. And that’s from The Blueprint.”
Earlier this year, the two legendary rappers performed “The World is Yours” together at Webster Hall’s reopening.