“One Love” was the final single released from Illmatic. Fellow Queens native Q-Tip provided the vibes from the Heath Brothers' “Smilin' Billy Suite Part II” as the backdrop for Nas' song which finds him reading letters he wrote to his incarcerated friends about what was happening in the neighborhood.

Producer Large Professor provided some background information on how this track came together:

[Nas] was like, ‘Yo, you think Q-Tip would give me a beat?’ That’s really when I was gettin' up with Tip a lot, so I was like, ‘Yo, of course. Just roll through with me out to Jamaica [Queens] one time, and we’ll just sit down.’ And we did. We rolled out there, back when Tip had all the stuff in Phife’s grandmother’s basement. And we sat down, and Tip was like, ‘Oh word? I don’t really have no beats done right now. But I'ma show you the record I'ma use for you.’ And he played this record [The Heath Brothers' ‘Smilin’ Billy Suite Part II'], and it was just like, ‘Oh shit! That shit is crazy!’ He hooked it up and did his thing, and it was on.

The third verse of this song was the basis of a scene in the movie Belly, starring Nas and DMX

This shifting of perspective in his verses is one of Nas’s iconic techniques, as Adam Bradley notes:

Nas is perhaps contemporary rap’s greatest innovator in storytelling. His catalog includes songs narrated before birth (‘Fetus’) and after death (‘Amongst Kings’), biographies (‘UBR [Unauthorized Biography of Rakim]’) and autobiographies (‘Doo Rags’), allegorical tales (‘Money Is My Bitch’) and epistolary ones (‘One Love’), he’s rapped in the voice of a woman (‘Sekou Story’) and even of a gun (‘I Gave You Power’).

Nas' storytelling abilities stem from none other than Slick Rick. The last verse is almost reminiscent of Slick Rick’s ‘'Children’s Story’‘ as Nas tells a young child about the life of crime.

Watch video: Nas – The story behind One Love