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'Drink Champs': Steve Stoute and Tone recall the backlash from producing Nas' 'It Was Written'

Shaheem Reid

 // Nov 14, 2017

Steve Stoute and Tone from Trackmasters. The pair have been best friends for decades, made millions (and a slew of music classics) together, and have always believed in each other's ability and vision.

But a little over 21 years ago, Stoute and Tone found themselves at interesting early crossroads of their careers. Stoute, who was already guiding the careers of the Trackmasters production duo, started managing Nas as the MC was prepping his second LP. Tone had pretty much retired from his rapping career and was becoming a huge success as a producer after coming off big wins with Soul For Real, LL Cool J and Mary J. Blige. But, according to the naysayers, Tone and his production partner Poke's sound didn't mesh well with Nas' rawness.

"'Nas was the King of the 'Hood and they mad at me,'" said Drink Champs host N.O.R.E. on this week's episode, recalling a conversation between himself and Tone.

Tone reiterated, "We received backlash from the moment it was announced Trackmasters was doing It Was Written."

"It was never announced like that," Stoute interjected.

"Well, [the news] got out," Tone added. "Everyone was afraid Nas would be commercialized and we would fuck it up."

'Drink Champs' | Steve Stoute and Samuel 'Tone' Barnes (Trailer)
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But Stoute—who has gone on to become a tycoon in the advertising world by making deals with JAY-Z, Tom Brady, 50 Cent, LeBron James, Mary J. Blige and many others—told N.O.R.E. and his co-host DJ EFN that the Trackmasters sound didn't compromise anything about Nas' music.

"When we made It Was Written, how could you not make 'If I Ruled The World' with Lauryn Hill?," said Stoute, the man dubbed "The Commissioner" and mastermind behind The Firm. "It made sense. It is a hip-hop record. It didn't make a difference what anyone said. I felt like anybody who came up to me or came up to [Trackmasters] like, 'Y'all fucking Nas up,' it was every artist who didn't want that good-looking, rapping nigga to be a superstar. They wanted him to be like [Kool] G Rap. They wanted him to be the under guy who never made it. Fuck all of you guys, we getting all of the money."

Stoute's proclamation became true. On the episode, the duo also talks Nas' battle with JAY-Z, the failure of the Firm, 50 Cent's showmanship, and playing poker with Tom Brady.

'Drink Champs' airs Thursdays at 10 p.m., Saturdays at 12 a.m., and Sundays at 11 p.m. ET on REVOLT TV.

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