Why don't you let the late, great veteran live
There was a lot of jockeying for BIG’s legacy after his death, reflected in this line. Before Biggie’s deification as one of the greatest rappers of all time after his untimely demise in March 1997, Nas had been one of his fiercest rivals, taking shots at him on 1996’s The Message, while Biggie had replied in kind with Kick in the Door. Jay enjoyed a friendlier relationship with Biggie, though their friendship always carried a competitive edge.
After Biggie’s death, Jay constantly trumpeted their friendship and sought to claim his legacy as the king of New York rap. In “The City is Mine” he claims he’s the new king. In “Hard Knock Life” he says he raps to keep Big’s name alive. “So Ghetto” he tells everyone to represent for B.I.G. There are numerous other name drops and references to BIG (including sampling lines and music) on other Jay-Z tracks.
To let someone live is common idiom for, leave them alone so he´s saying to not mention him/don´t bother Biggie and to let his legacy live on AKA rest in peace. Note the irony to let Biggie live when he is in fact dead. Clever word play by Nas.
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