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How KRS-One and MC Shan's bridge wars influenced Nas' 'Illmatic'

Ralph Bristout

 // Apr 19, 2017

Rob Hansen // REVOLT

The year was 1985, when Queens native MC Shan released his 12" single "The Bridge."

The record, a well-executed ode to his Queensbridge barrio, featured a famous opening verse, that would later be referenced and sampled by a series of emcees years later:

"You love to hear the story, again and again of how it all got started way back when / The monument is right in your face, sit and listen for a while to the name of the place, The Bridge..."

MC Shan - The Bridge
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The classic record earned plenty of fanfare, except from a certain Bronx Bomber and his crew Boogie Down Productions.

Clapping back at Shan, KRS-One released "South Bronx" and drew mixed responses from New Yorkers. While some deemed it as incredible like "The Bridge," while others saw it as a shot at Shan. Plus, specific lines like, "So you think that hip-hop had its start out in Queensbridge / If you popped that junk up in the Bronx you might not live…," didn't help dispel those claims either.

Shan would quickly return with "Kill That Noise," a record intended on clearing up the speculation. "Shoulda stayed in school, learned comprehension / Trying to state facts that facts that I did not mention," MC Shan would rap, before throwing in a few jabs ("So you sucker MC's better kill that noise"). What transpired after would not only change the course of hip-hop as a whole, but would result in one of the greatest moments the genre ever experienced: "The Bridge Is Over."

BDP - The Bridge Is Over
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The ensuing battle gave birth to the Bridge Wars, one of the greatest events to take place during hip-hop's golden era. While several other records were released after KRS-One's classic diss track, "The Bridge Is Over" remained a benchmark. Nearly ten years after the fact, an MC by the name of Nas would pick up the pieces and ultimately rebuild The Bridge with a little album called Illmatic.

Nas talks Queensbridge history

"It's crazy cause KRS-One is one of the greatest ever, right? And the music wars between BDP and MC Shan was so serious and it was like, KRS-One kind of like helped give birth to me in a lot ways," Nas admitted to REVOLT back in 2014. The comment comes as today (April 19) marks the 23rd anniversary of his pivotal album. "Not just MC Shan and Marley Marl, but KRS-One [as well] because he silenced everything, that was it. So it was like I had to come out and kind of like represent my hood, 'cause other than that, we was done forever," he added.

Just like the Bridge Wars, Illmatic changed everything. In 2014, Esco celebrated two decades of the album anniversary, inspiring a generation of emcees just like KRS-One and MC Shan's war of words did for his era.

20 Years of Nas' Illmatic
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