Just Rankin’ Sh!t

Every Jay-Z and Nas Collaboration, Ranked

One of hip-hop’s greatest rivalries has yielded some yearned-for duets — most recently on DJ Khaled’s latest album. How do they all stack up?

Photo: Save As/Medium; Source: Getty Images

6. “I Do It for Hip-Hop,” Ludacris Featuring Jay-Z and Nas

Despite solid, straightforward verses, this solemn Theater of the Mind deep cut is a bit ham-fisted — like pandering too hard to the kind of dudes who refused to acknowledge Soulja Boy as #realhiphop. Loosen up a little, fellas. Sheesh.

5. “Black Republicans,” Nas Featuring Jay-Z

Years of anticipation and royal horns ripped straight from The Godfather: Part II made the perfect setup for this much-anticipated linkup between two former foes. But the hype of this 2006 Hip Hop Is Dead cut was impossible to meet — and the end result felt especially anticlimactic. (Plus, Juelz Santana and Mixtape Weezy did it better.)

4. “BBC,” Jay-Z Featuring Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Nas, and Swizz Beatz

Due to their formerly rocky history (and the sonic aesthetics they select), Hov and Esco’s duets tend to have a high-stakes feel; they’re weighty. This superfriends cut, however, is simply a fun dedication — not to the U.K. broadcast network, nor Pharrell and Nigo’s streetwear brand, but to 1980s NYC hustler swag. Grab your rope chains and Bally sneakers and hit a b-boy stance.

3. “Analyze This,” Nas Featuring Jay-Z and Lord Tariq

This Frankensteined collab gets an asterisk. Peep the history lesson: Before he was a tone-deaf sports analyst, Shaquille O’Neal was a rising NBA superstar who traded bars with some of the best 1990s rappers to ever grace the mic. One such occasion was his Lord Tariq and Jay-Z collab, “No Love Lost,” a track from Shaq’s third LP that became a treasured gem on mixtapes (and later, file-sharing programs like Napster) when it reemerged doctored-up with a new title, a vintage Nas rhyme tacked on, and Shaq Diesel’s part gone — pooflike Kazaam. The remaining three verses are all fans wished for, anyway.

2. “Sorry Not Sorry,” DJ Khaled Featuring James Fauntleroy, Jay-Z, Nas, and the Hive

Hov and Esco give listeners a detailed report on their investment portfolios and overall financial wellness, with Nas declaring himself the Tony Montana of cryptocurrency and Jay counting his billions (and Beyoncé’s) aloud. A soulful beat and smooth vocals from James Fauntleroy help make “Sorry Not Sorry” unapologetically dope.

1. “Success,” Jay-Z Featuring Nas

Spitting over a church organ courtesy of producer No I.D., Hov and Esco deliver sermons about the vapidness of their massive fortunes and fame. This song is basically an extended humblebrag; a collection of audacious flexes and bodacious bars. And it’s goddamn glorious. Jay-Z complains about urinating expensive champagne. Nas compares his old homes to monuments. Jay remarks that he’s got so many luxury watches, they go missing for months at a time and he barely notices. Both MCs knew what time it was, though, and delivered their best collaboration to date — a success by any measure.

Peter is a writer and editor from the New York area. He’s currently an editor at XXL.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store