Into the third year of his tenure, Nebraska football coach Mike Riley has slowly shown his personality to a fan base that has been somewhat myopic to him. With a living situation upgraded from a Holiday Inn motel and a football roster designed to his style, Riley has finally made this campus and this state home. This offseason showcased the variety of interests that Riley has that previous coaches have lacked, one of them being rap music, as he attended Chance the Rapper and took the entire Husker team to the Kendrick Lamar show.
After two selfies with the aforementioned MCs, Riley has endured himself to fans outside the field. Three weeks into the season, Riley decided to change up his usual Wednesday press conference. Instead of talking about the upcoming game against Rutgers, Riley used the time to express an opinion about an issue that been on his mind for a long time – the notorious Jay-Z Vs. Nas feud of the early 2000s.
During the nearly hour long conference, Riley expressed profound and astute commentary on the issue, perplexing every reporter in the room that did not know this side of the Nebraska coach.
Riley spent the first few minutes explaining that it’s easy now to just proclaim Jay-Z the winner, but that it does not justify what was happening between these two icons.
“15 years later, it’s easy to say Jay-Z won the feud. He’s had the better career, made more iconic albums, became a successful businessman and agent, and owned an NBA team. He’s lived the American Dream,” pontificated Riley. “Nas made his best album in ’94 and never could live up to it. In the long game, Jay-Z won, but that’s not the question we’re asking. None of this reflects on the early 2000s songs, mixtapes and lyrics that attacked each other’s character during that time.”
Riley then went into Jay-Z’s intentions with the rivalry and why getting himself into a feud with Nas was a no-win situation.
“New York was looking for a new king of rap after Biggie’s death, and Jay-Z wanted that title. He technically deserves it, but you gain that title by making classic albums and being the MC that everyone idolizes. You don’t do it by belittling a rapper who couldn’t get out of the shadow of his debut album,” Riley explained. “If you’re kicking a man when he’s down, that’s only going to inspire Nas. ‘Takeover’ is a great diss track, but you can only call someone a fake hustler and question his masculinity and career for so long before he’s motivated to respond.”
After that, Riley used the time to clarify Nas’ status in the game to reporters and how this feud gave Nas the inspiration he needed.
“Illmatic is one of the greatest albums of all time. No doubt. But for the rest of the 90’s, Nas could not create anything that could measure up to it. This feud, however, was the creative fire that motivated his comeback,” said Riley, in the 40th minute of his soliloquy. “Stillmatic was a resounding retaliation against anything Jay-Z said about Nas’ career, and ‘Ether’ stands as the pinnacle of diss songs, firing myriads of insults at Jay-Z while also questioning his devotion to Biggie and Brooklyn in the line ‘Biggie’s your man, then you got the nerve to say that you’re better than Big,’ Nas knows that Jay-Z wants to represent New York rap, so Nas spins his desire to say he’s better than Biggie as an attack on Brooklyn. Genius.”
Riley wrapped up his preamble by giving this winning piece of advice for everyone in the room.
“Jay-Z may have won career wise, but he ultimately surrendered when he signed Nas to Def Jam. When a man owns you so hard that he regained popularity in the rap scene to the point where you have to sign him to your own label, you’ve lost,” Riley said. “Regardless of who you think won or lost, I wanted to bring this up because this story inspires me to do my best every day. Two titans of hip-hop trading blows, one-upping each other and ultimately becoming friends, that’s all someone can hope for in my career and in yours too. Thank you.”
Riley was met with a standing ovation for 10 solid minutes.