Here's Nas speaking on the subject from XXL Jan/Feb 2003 - the whole interview is one of the nicest but i'll just type up a little excerpt for the sake of my carpel tunnel
Nas - I was going through a lot and i felt like the whole world had to pay. My mom had passed in April- so i felt like it was the beginning of a spree. My plan was after i finished my tour- i said this on one of the stations- when i get back to New York, it's on. My plan was to come back to New York and end rap music. Period. I was gonnna get at all these dudes i'm talkin' about on the records off wax
and it's gonna be finished.
XXL - What do you mean by "get at"?
Nas - Get at dudes.
I felt like when my mom left, my whole world had ended. But one of the last things she was telling me was, "Keep going. Keep going to work. I know you're busy. Go ahead." The tour kept me busy. If i would have been sitting down with nothing to do but think, i wouldn't be here talking today- i'd be gone. Something fucked up would have happened. During all of this, i was able to hold my head, and be ready to do the Summer Jam. But when that didn't happen, it was like, Yo, now it's time to make muthafuckas pay. I was getting ready to start a rampage on all the rappers in the game. Not all of them, just the ones i felt had indirectly [dissed me] or somehow was phony or some shit. I felt like just taking it to another level, and me going out in a blaze, because i had nothing to live for.
XXL - Going out in a blaze verbally?
Nas - Nah. Going out in a war. Going out in a war against my own people in hip-hop and destroying the game- where nothing would have existed anymore. Taking niggas out on some Taliban shit, straight up, i'm not gonna get specific, i'm just saying, if i say, "take 'em out," that means take 'em out. That's what i felt. I just felt like ridding the world of these demons and moving on to the next level.
But then i said, What does that prove? And my pop told me, "It's easy to be crazy." He said, "A coward kills himself." Do something else. Go to the next level with it. Your mission is bigger.