Rap was built upon battling, and disses, and throughout it's history there has been countless diss tracks. Many have been more ruthless but few have been on the overall level of "Takeover" by Jay-Z.
Though it's response track, "Ether" by Nas was the undisputed winner, "Takeover" was a production masterpiece (as was the rest of the album it was featured on, The Blueprint).
2001 was arguably Jay-Z's prime, and as king of the mountain he had his fair share of competition trying to take the crown from him. Nas being the biggest and most threatening.
Prior to "Takeover" there had been diss records between the two going back and forth on NYC mixtapes (Kay Slay, Envy, Whoo Kid) and though it gets notoriety for the Jay-Z/Nas beef the first two verses of it are mostly aimed at Queens duo Mobb Deep. They were also debuted at HOT 97's Summer Jam concert and included pictures up on the video boards of Prodigy in a leotard as a kid
"you was a ballerina,
I got the pictures, I seen ya"
The genius behind the song isn't in the lyrics, but in the sampling (hence this blog).
And the genius behind the sampling and production is none other than everybody's favorite brilliant lunatic Kanye West.
Kanye had some big time balls (shocker) in going after 3 pretty iconic songs to draw from for the "Takeover" beat.
The first is The Doors classic "Five To One"
While also using elements from KRS-One’s “Sound of Da Police".
and the one and only David Bowie's "Fame".
Of course, having Jay-Z in your corner when getting these all cleared made the impossible possible.
He also lifted a part of "The Watcher" from Dr. Dre.
Which was probably a favor returned by Dre after the newly disclosed story from Snoop Dogg about Jay-Z writing "Still D.R.E." for Dre in less than hour. (Crazy)
The first line in this song is taken from Jay Z's verse in "Celebration" off of the Streets Is Watching soundtrack.
The song was mixed by Jay-Z's now right-hand man Young Guru. (It was the first track of Jay-Z's that Guru ever mixed down.)
The song received critical acclaim and really took the feud to a new level. Mobb Deep responded with "Crawlin" but nobody really noticed. Again, even though the first two verses of "Takeover" were intended for Mobb Deep, the main focus was on the third and final verse (which was 32 bars as opposed to the 16 that the first two each were). Most notably because Jay-Z referenced Nas' famous song from Illmatic, "The World Is Yours". Jay Z had famously sampled some of Nas' lines from the song for the chorus of his record "Dead Presidents II", and claimed in "Takeover" that he sampled it because "Nas was using it wrong"
"So yeah I sampled your voice,
you was usin' it wrong,
You made it a hot line,
I made it a hot song"
Whats crazy is Jay-Z might outdue Pres in grudges because this all stemmed from Nas no-showing to a recording session for Jay-Z’s track ”Bring It On” from his debut record Reasonable Doubt. Nas was originally supposed to be featured on the track, stood Jay-Z and his team up, so they sampled his verse instead, and Jay-Z never forgave him.
Then Jay-Z protege (and big time underrated rapper) Memphis Bleek hits the scene and takes some indirect potshots at Nas and Nas fires back hard on Stillmatic-
“Rip the Freeway,
shoot through Memphis with Money Bags
Stop in Philly, order cheesesteaks and eat Beans fast,
Is he H to the Izzo, M to the Izzo?”
Then came "Takeover" on The Blueprint…
I remember when this track dropped that the buzz was insane. People legitimately thought that it was a career-ender for Nas and he might never recover.
On the contrary, it actually rejuvenated it for Nas and he came back with a vengeance on "Ether", which again, took things to the next level.
Jay-Z responded with mixtape diss "Supa Ugly" and went too far by getting extra personal (Pusha T style).
He also used the title track of The Blueprint 2 to continue the grudge.
In an interview with HOT 97's Angie Martinez (who had helped pour gas on the fire by debuting Supa Ugly on radio, and routinely played it and Ether back to back round the clock) Jay-Z regretted everything in hindsight -
HipHopDX - “Mom put in a call and said, ‘That went too far.’ And she’s never, ever called me about music. So I was like ‘Okay, okay, okay. I’ll go shut it down,'”
“Once again, I apologize,” he said. “I felt like I didn’t think about women’s feelings or [Nas’ former girlfriend’s] feelings, or even my mom. It was really like, ‘Let me meet your level of disrespect with this level of disrespect.'”
“Freestyles usually go away in two weeks,” he said. “I didn’t know it was gonna be the official battle of the beats, seven-hour marathon. It was an answer to disrespect. I didn’t go in the studio to make a song. I made a two-minute freestyle.”
“For me it was like a sport. ‘Takeover’ was like a sport,” Jay said. “I respected dude lyrically. I feel like I’m on top of my game. I don’t feel you can compare his career to my career, but that’s just my opinion. It just pushes everybody to sharpen their skills. That’s what rap is about. It’s a competitive sport.”
So a no-show and hurt feelings started the whole thing and Jay-Z's mom ended it. Too good.