Nas stood in front of the microphone with his hands clasped calmly behind his back as he delivered lines from “One Mic,” a fierce, tongue-twisting ode to the power of rapping. The emcee barreled through triple-time verses before returning to the single’s defiant comforting refrain: “All I need is one mic.” White, seated behind Nas at the piano, played emphatic, ringing chords. The two stars were also accompanied by a stand-up bass player and a drummer.
“One Mic” appeared on Nas’ 2001 Stillmatic album. The conceit of The American Epic Sessions is to tackle songs like this with recording technology from the 1920s – a single microphone (perhaps this played into the decision to take on “One Mic”) along with a “recording device timed by a weight-driven system of clockwork gears” that presses the results of the session to vinyl as soon as it comes to a close. Jack White recruited stars from a variety of genres, including Willie Nelson, the Alabama Shakes and Elton John, to join him in the studio for this historically faithful exercise.