In this song, Nas addresses his friends who are in jail, including fellow rapper and childhood friend Cormega, who later became a rival of Nas. Before their beef, Cormega recorded his own song "One Love" as a testament to Nas.
Q-Tip produced this track and sang on the chorus.
This uses a sample of "Smilin' Billy Suite" by The Heath Brothers.
Early rap entrepreneur Fab Five Freddy directed the video, which shows Nas visiting a friend in jail.
Suggestion credit: Donovan Berry - El Dorado, AR, for all above
In the documentary Time Is Illmatic, Nas says of this song: "I found myself getting letters from friends who were locked up all the time. Me saying what's going on in the free world, him telling me how he's maintaining and asking questions, with us going back and forth. Just keeping this brother's head up. I'd never heard a record where someone's writing letters from a street perspective. So 'One Love' is about keeping people's heads up in locked up situations."
In a Rolling Stone interview, Nas spoke about Q-Tip producing this track: "Q-Tip used to come and hang out with me in my projects from time to time. I remember him coming out there and hanging out, and I remember him letting me hang out at his session when he was working on Midnight Marauders. I thought he was just the most incredible, so to have him producing my album, for him to even do the chorus for me is a blessing."
When he released the Illmatic album, Nas didn't think he's be performing it at the Kennedy Center 20 years later with the National Symphony Orchestra, but in 2014 he donned a tuxedo and took the stage. On "One Love," he updated the song a bit, ad-libbing, "We used to write letters to each other, now they email you from jail, right?"
Talking about the performance in a Songfacts interview, Nas said, "It was kind of surreal because it made me feel like, Wow, this is another level."