If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)
by Nas

Album: It Was Written (1996)
Charted: 12 53

Songfacts®:

  • This track features vocals from Lauryn Hill, who was 21 years old when she recorded it. Nas told Rolling Stone magazine about their collaboration: "When Lauryn Hill came to mind, it was just right on time. It's funny, because when we released the record, people didn't know it was Lauryn Hill, because I guess we just white-labeled it at first and didn't want anybody to know - anticipation for my second album was so great, we didn't want any distractions from people to keep them from listening to me. At that point, the Fugees album had just come out and blew up, so we left her name off of it, and for about two to three weeks, by the time we let people know who was on the record, it was already taking off. So when they found out it was her, forget about it, man. Forget about it."
  • This song is a reworking of Kurtis Blow's old-school rap classic "If I Ruled The World." In the original version, Kurtis tells a story about becoming king and working to bring peace and eradicate poverty. Nas' version is angrier and more focused on living the good life in a material sense.
  • This was produced by the production duo known as The Trackmasters (also known as Poke & Tone). Among their other production credits are "Hey Lover" for LL Cool J, "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" and "Men In Black" for Will Smith and "Fiesta" for R Kelly. Nas explained to Rolling Stone magazine why he hooked up with them: "'If I Ruled the World,' that's when I teamed up with Trackmaster, and I figured I needed a change, so I teamed up with the best at the time, and they cut the track together and just needed someone to sing the chorus."
  • In addition to the Kurtis Blow track, this also contains a sample of Whodini's "Friends."
  • A big-budget music video from veteran hip-hop director Hype Williams, shot in New York City's Times Square, helped boost the song's popularity. The clip begins with a snippet of another track from the album: "The Message." Steve Stoute, Nas's manager and the album's executive producer, explained in a Complex interview:

    "The song was a step away from what you heard on Illmatic. That's why in the beginning of the 'If I Ruled The World' video, Nas does the rap from 'The Message' first, then he snaps his fingers, and the song starts.

    Even though it had Lauryn singing on it, I didn't want people thinking the only thing the album was representing was singing and topics like 'If I Ruled The World.' So, at the top of that video, we ran a pre-roll of 30 seconds of him spitting some hot s--t from 'The Message.'"

Comments: 1

  • Tanya from La Verne, CaNas version is also about social change. Whoever wrote the fact is wrong.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

The Truth Is Out There: A History of Alien Songs

The Truth Is Out There: A History of Alien SongsSong Writing

The trail runs from flying saucer songs in the '50s, through Bowie, blink-182 and Katy Perry.

Sam Phillips

Sam PhillipsSongwriter Interviews

Collaborating with T Bone Burnett, Leslie Phillips changed her name and left her Christian label behind - Robert Plant, who recorded one of her songs on Raising Sand, is a fan.

Dwight Twilley

Dwight TwilleySongwriter Interviews

Since his debut single "I'm On Fire" in 1975, Dwight has been providing Spinal-Tap moments and misadventure.

John Lee Hooker

John Lee HookerSongwriter Interviews

Into the vaults for Bruce Pollock's 1984 conversation with the esteemed bluesman. Hooker talks about transforming a Tony Bennett classic and why you don't have to be sad and lonely to write the blues.

The End Of The Rock Era

The End Of The Rock EraSong Writing

There are no more rock stars - the last one died in 1994.

Dino Cazares of Fear Factory

Dino Cazares of Fear FactorySongwriter Interviews

The guitarist/songwriter explains how he came up with his signature sound, and deconstructs some classic Fear Factory songs.