JAY-Z & Nipsey Hussle’s “What It Feels Like” Was Eight Years in the Making

The highlight of Judas and the Black Messiah is the Nipsey Hussle and JAY-Z collaboration that has been in the works for years.

The Judas and the Black Messiah soundtrack has officially been released. The soundtrack features a stacked list of artists including everyone from Black Thought and Rakim to H.E.R. and Maségo. The most notable collaboration is “What It Feels Like” a song featuring JAY-Z and the late, great Nipsey Hussle.

The song was produced by 1500 or Nothin’, Mike & Keys — who worked with Nipsey a ton — and My Guy Mars & Rance. The song starts out with a strong verse from Nipsey — who raps “Drop another mixtape, my shit boomin’ out this bitch, Young Malcolm, I’m thе leader of this movement out this bitch.”

But Jay, as he does, steals the show.

He raps an extended verse that touches on a bunch of topics, from his drug-dealing past to the riots at the Capitol that happened a couple of weeks ago. A highlight comes when he makes an edit on his iconic “Murder to Excellence” line. On that song he rapped, “I arrived on the day Fred Hampton died.”

This time he raps:

“I arrived on the day Fred Hampton got mur—, hol’ up Assassinated, just to clarify further.”

GQ Magazine recently published a great making of the song. According to the feature, the song has been years in the making. The origins of the song go back to 2013, where he first put down a verse on the beat. “When Nipsey says [on the song] ‘Drop another mixtape, my shit booming out this bitch,’ he was talking about Crenshaw,” Keys, from Mike & Keys, said. Crenshaw was the $100 mixtape Nipsey put out in 2013.

Over the years, the producers kept on adding musical components. Larrance Dopson, a member of 1500 or Nothin’, said they wanted the song to be “Show Me What You Got” 2.0, a reference to JAY-Z’s 2006 single.

Speaking of JAY-Z — he got involved with the track in 2015 when Dopson gave it to him. But he didn’t do anything with it. Then Jay asked for the beat again last year. During an early screening of Judas And The Black Messiah, Ryan Cooger, a producer on the movie, played the beat for Jay. And from there, magic happened.

JAY-Z told GQ:

“My relationship with Ryan [Cooger], who I consider my little bro, [is what] brought me to the movie… And once I saw it, I was blown away by what Shaka King brought to the table. I think I finished the song in the next day or two.”

Check out the Judas and the Black Messiah: The Inspired Album below.

This story was updated on February 12th, 2021. 

Dimas Sanfiorenzo

Dimas Sanfiorenzo is the Managing Editor for Okayplayer. He specializes in coverage centered around music, pop culture, and politics. Email:

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