What’s Really Real?

“You love to hear the stories, again and again, about that dope song with the ill piano blend…”

Not to just randomly shit on Nas, but this whole scenario could be seen as an example of why a lot of dudes have fallen out with the little guy over the years. First, he records a track with Kamakazee and Cormega at Marley’s, but when it’s time to release it he decides he wants some big bucks so they take him off that shit, get Havoc to replace him and get a new verse from Mega so that it can be used on the Screwball album. That’s pretty ficked-up to begin with, but it could just be the handiwork of Steve Stoute for all anyone knows. The thing that’s really messed-up is that Mr. Kelis then decided to remake the song for the Illmatic 10th Anniversary release, using his original verse and adding two new ones, effectively bogarting the entire song. What a douchebag. It’s pretty much saying to Solo, KL and Cormega “You guys sucked and didn’t deserve to share a beat with me, but the beat was so awesome I’m gonna claim this for myself!”

Here’s a few comments on this song from the Unkut Dot Com archives:

K-Def: I was on the radio one day, ‘cos I used to do the radio with Marley on pirate, I played that break for the first time and Marley had recorded that radio show and looped it up and then put Nas’ vocals on it, and then claimed the fame for that track. I’m not here talking dirty about it, I’m just saying that’s what really happened, so if you ever interview Marley Marl and you ask him about that, he should confer to that and say “Yeah, that did happen”.

Blaq Poet: That was some shit that Marley did with KL and SoloKamakazee. That’s the other two parts of Screwball. Kamakazee and Screwball are the same shit, it’s just two of ’em. With that “On The Real” shit, Marley had the DAT at his crib and Nas came up there one day and laid down shit first, to the beat. Then KL and Solo went up there and Marley was like “Yo, I got some shit with Nas. Y’all cool with Nas, right?” “Oh yeah, yeah. Nas is our man.” They jumped on the track, then Marley played it and motherfuckers was loving it. So when it was time to put the shit out, Nas was acting funny like he didn’t wanna put it out, so we was like “Fuck it. He don’t wanna get on it, he don’t gotta get on it.” We grabbed up Cormega and Havoc from Mobb Deep, got them niggas to get on it. They flipped it up – Nas is off of it and Havoc and Cormega’s on it.

Jerry Famolari: They had done that with Marley before that, because that originally had Nas and there was a little bit of a situation where Nas wanted a certain amount of money, so they took him off and they put Havoc and Mega on there.

Kamakazee feat, Nas & Cormega – “On The Real” (bootleg version)

Screwball feat. Havoc & Cormega- “On The Real” (album version)

Nas – “On The Real” (2004 version)

Which version of 'On The Real' is the realest?

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29 Comments so far
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I like them all.

Comment by bedouin 01.21.08 @

Although the story certainly makes Nas look like a douche, his version on the solo tip is still the best of the bunch.

Arrogance is only arrogance when it’s misplaced… dude kills it and he knows it.



Comment by Dan Love 01.21.08 @

the Nas solo one was wack! it didnt help that he’s going ‘this song is 10 years old’ or something in the background.

the original – which bangs hardest on Stretch’s ‘Bad Boy Vol 3’ mixtape – is one the hardest beats Nas has ever rhymed on. The dodgy quality of the bootleg vinyl only adds to the appeal!

Comment by step one 01.21.08 @

love that tune

Comment by MERCILESZ 01.21.08 @

Wow this is interesting. I lost my bonus disc to the Illmatic re-release years ago so I haven’t heard the 2004 one in a long time. I got the Screwball album recently and thought On The Real sounded like a classic Marley beat (and somewhat out of place/time) and really dug it. My favorite cut on the album. I think I like it better than the original because Havoc’s verse is super gully.

Comment by Finally 01.22.08 @

The bonus disc for the ‘illmatic’ 10 Anniversary was waste, aside from ‘On The Real’ & ‘Star Wars’…

I was mad dissapointed with the remixes they threw on there – why not pick any of the great remixes from the original 12’s???

Anyways, on the topic, after hearing the original version on the radio ages ago, I always hoped it’d get a 12″ release… The other versions are cool, but I prefer the original – thanks for posting it up…

All the best,

Mark 563

Comment by Mark 563 01.22.08 @

Nas murks these herbs goin’ for dolo…

Comment by sooch 01.22.08 @

Gotta be the Nas solo on this one, really real, with Screwball coming a close second…
Big ups Robbie!

Comment by Disorda 01.23.08 @

Show (D.I.T.C.), sipping again?

Comment by richdirection 01.23.08 @

the original bootleg is the realest and first one played. i remember when kdef played that sample on wnwk. marley likes to steal peoples shit and say he did it so its no surprise. i remember when marley first played it on futureflavas and said he did it.

Comment by illest 01.23.08 @

crazy how ill one simple piano loop can be. enough to spark a queens bridge musical chairs of sorts. my votes for the original bootleg… even though kl’s half-a-verse is boring and cormega’s short bus cadence is a little irritating, nas sounds as nice as ever… and better then he does ten years later (on the 04 version)

Comment by bodega james 01.23.08 @

I’m sure London Posse used that same break on Gangster Chronicle years before Marley/K Def flipped it

Comment by step one 01.23.08 @

^ I’d believe it, although I don’t think anyone in the Bridge was bumping Brit rap in the 90s.

Comment by Robbie 01.23.08 @

Robbie, why don’t you like Nas?

Comment by Tray 01.24.08 @

I don’t dislike Nas, but he’s done some dumb shit over the years.

Comment by Robbie 01.24.08 @

Nas is responsible for some of the most influential and classic material in hip hop, but he definitely has tarnished his rep a bit since the turn of the century. Illmatic is one of the most sampled rap records ever, with good reason. i have to cast my vote for the Screwball album version, though.

Comment by onthaStrenff 01.24.08 @

i remember the bootleg mix from a Jamaica Ave version of Testament, circa 1997.

oh, and that 10-year anniversary Illmatic double CD is decent, but my favorite joint on the remix CD is “Aint hard to tell,” that song is banaNas!!

Comment by onthaStrenff 01.24.08 @

dope, informative post… i never knew why there were so many version of this floating around.

i can’t really pick a favorite but Cormega kills it on the screwball version.

“life’s a bitch and imma run up in her raaaaw”

Comment by dead dog aids 01.25.08 @

It’s also on a Mobb Deep The Get Back 12″ (I’ll ahve to check if thats different to the one on the Screwball album), Columbia did some promo 12″s with On The Real and Star Wars inc the insts on too, saves on buying the 10th Anniversary Illmatic album

Comment by Cro 01.26.08 @

The original version is the best but they all hot,none r wack.

Whats wack though is this Robbie dude gettin tight at behind the scenes indie shit involving Nas that aint got nothin to go with him. Just enjoy the music and be a fan. You’ll write slick shit bout the nigga but would never say it to his face if u ever seen him now ould you lol

Comment by Comatoast 01.26.08 @

^ That’s where you’re wrong. When I get the chance to interview Nas, I’ll be asking about this whole situation. I stand behind everything I write.

Comment by Robbie 01.26.08 @

this is nas’ song… how could it not be? the hook is what made it so great. “on the real…”

Comment by jose g.r. 01.27.08 @

In my younger days Nas constantly blew my mind but over the years, looking back, I just can’t understand some of the decisions he made.

I remember Foxxxy or someone saying AZ and her called Nas King Cobra.

Thing is, people were definitely out to exploit Nas and knowing that probably led to his paranoia and fucked up decision making. However, i’m sure most people would have had difficulty in such a position, being proclaimed the new king at such a young age, even the second coming of Rakim.

The only thing I will hold against Nas is that jim and AZ should’ve released a classic at least 10 years ago. That is Nas’ fault, the way I see it.

Comment by silent minority 01.27.08 @

When you look at Nas, especially in comparison to Jay-z, you can see Jay benefited by having several things, age, a team, and a strict materialist outlook (meaning he wasn’t caught up in no mystical magical bullshit).

I havea feeling Nas has always been the smartest person in his crew, and being so young with so much responsibility and pressure, hes made alot of mistakes. I can’t be mad at him for that. I just wish he picked better beats and was able to keep a consistant team of decent mcs around him.

Comment by Kai 02.08.08 @

There’s a quote from a Kipling poem at the start of one of Nas’ videos, that poem gave me more insight into Nas’ mind than all of his albums put together.

Comment by silent minority 02.12.08 @

what year was the bootleg version released ?

Comment by QB TRUE G 04.04.08 @

Stumbled upon this a bit late i see… i was on a mission trying to find this track… One of my favorite joints!! Speaking for self,aside from the controversy, I like all versions.. and by the way there’s one version of this track missing @ Robbie, Where mega has a different verse.

Comment by RepTheQBC 09.13.10 @

It’s been another two years almost. What’s the go with the ‘other’ version?

The Real
Not On A Label
Unknown release date

A side: Havoc Cormega (?unknown?) Hostyle KL

B Side: Nas KL Solo Cormega

Unknown rapper on the A side is a female thought  it was Foxy Brown at first but dunno. Whoever it  is she holds her own without a didout.

B side: Is the original? demo version?

Cormega has alternative verses on A & B. Both so  dope I don’t think they’d make it through customs.


Comment by chubz 06.09.12 @

Funny. Complex.com broke down the making of It Was Written a couple of weeks ago and this song came up. Apparently, Nas originally wanted Marley Marl to rock IWW for dolo and they started working together. Marley gave him “On The Real”, Nas laid down his verse and according to Nas, Marley threw Kamikaze and Cormega on it without even askin’ him. We all know there’s three sides to every story but if this is true then Nas had a right to feel some sort of way about it, regardless whether or not they were all cool. Anyway, that track was/is so ill, you can’t really lose with either version although I do lean slightly more towards the OG version. Just felt a little more raw…

Comment by oskamadison 06.12.12 @

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