Fans were prepared for a fight when Jay-Z took the stage at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, NJ on Oct. 27, 2005. As the headliner for Power 105.1's Power House concert, Hov had announced his set on the air with three words: "I declare war."
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The meaning was clear: Jay was going to re-open and address his list of hip-hop beefs, which came into clearest focus in the opening to 2001's The Blueprint. On the track "Takeover," Jay aired out a host of emcees, saving his sharpest lyrical knives for fellow New York rapper Nas. The 32-bar takedown was seen as a burial...until the release of Stillmatic later that year and the scorched-earth retaliation "Ether," which to this day is considered shorthand for definitive disses.
Jay-Z retaliated with some freestyles and other references shortly thereafter, but even some of his associates admitted that Nas had one up on him. "I ain’t going to lie, I admitted to myself and had to tell the big homey he got us, he got one up on us," Jay's friend Memphis Bleek later said in 2007. "That shit was cooked crack cocaine right there."
But the response at the Power House set was unlike anything anyone could have predicted. On a set decked out to look like the Oval Office, Jay performed hit after hit, bringing out surprise guest after surprise guest: T.I., Young Jeezy, Akon, Bleek, Beanie Siegel, The LOX, Jadakiss. Jay-Z and Kanye West made unexpected appearances performing their songs. Then, just when things seemed like they couldn't get any more surreal - out stepped Nas to perform "Dead Presidents" alongside Jay, then several of his own songs, and a formal declaration of peace between the former warriors.
"All that beef shit is done, we had our fun," Jay told the crowd, explaining his desire to unify the game instead of tear it down. And in doing so, hip-hop history was made.