October 31, 2007 @ 05:43 AM

Post: 457

Join Date: Dec 2006

Location: L.A.

Do you know realzie that they were both throwing subliminal jabs at each other...thats what makes that song so perfect...they are both saying cryptic shit that the audience will probably never get.

The consensus is in... The song is a classic. The long awaited collaboration has had a couple weeks to simmer in the streets... it still bangs...I won't rehash what everyone's said; who had the better verse, etc... Because really, they're both telling their own version of events, so any sort of comparison is irrelevant... but a song of this magnitude warrants a close examination... and yea, there's some deep shit here...

First the beat. LES provides a banger no doubt. As you all know it samples the score from "The Godfather II".The scene in particular is when young Vito (Robert DeNiro) assassinates the mob boss Falconi, in essence taking his crown as Don. The scene was an apt choice for LES to sample from, since it connects to what Nas and Jay spit...

With BIG's death in 97, Nas was basically King of New York. Arguments can be made for Puff, Rae and Jay. But c'mon... Nas was hot off IWW (to the tune of 2X plat)... Rae was Gold, Jay was Gold, and Puff had no respect... Jay, like young Vito, made a bid for that crown with Vol 1. Eventually (with Vol 2) Jay claimed that crown; removing the old king, Nas (Falconi). To be less technical, there was a definite power struggle and a changing of the guard in both the realities of Nas and Jay and in the sampled scene from Godfather 2.

If you look at Godfather 2 more broadly, there's another connection. Michael (Al Pacino) is betrayed by his brother Fredo, and thus kills him. Nas and Jay have often referred to eachother (and been referred to) as brothers (Twin Towers Mixtape, "you my brother - you traded your soul for riches", "we was brothers then"). Jay betrayed Nas when he slept with his fiance. Many say Nas killed Jay's character on wax with "Ether" (the kiss of death)...

So before any verses are spit, or even any ad libs, the beat alone speaks volumes... This is cinematic... this is a motion picture on wax... get your popcorn...

Jay comes in first.
"I know you can feel the magic baby."

There's definitely magic in the air. This also denotes there's more to the song than meets the ear. This not the mundane trading of 16 bars... this is significant.

"Turn the muthafuckin lights down"
Again... this is cinematic... what happens before a movie? The lights go down...

"Esco what up?"
The period is set. This isn't about 2006. This is back when Nas was Nas Escobar. This is about 1998-2001.

"What up homie"
Nas acknowledges this.

"I mean, it's what you expected ain't it?"
On the surface it seems like Jay's being sarcastic. Like, "Oh wow, a Nas and Jay colab, big surprise". But he's also calling into the question the content of the song. Taunting the listener not to take what they're about to hear at face value.

More ad libs... reminding you, this is hip-hop, this is music. Builds anticipation. Opening credits... Jay continues to taunt the listener. Pay attention.

"I feel like a Black Republican - Money I got it coming in"
Jay defines his perspective. Rich, corporate executive. Political allegiances towards protecting business, keeping government small, less restrictions on building capital. Jay is cool siding with the establishment, as long as it makes him rich. He may say he's pimping the system, but in the process he begins to identify with it.

"Huddling over the oven we was like brothers then".
Prologue. Nas and Jay were both (supposedly) crack dealers before they were rappers. A parallel between the two is set up. (Huddling over the oven implies cooking crack). Also Jay defines them as brothers.

"Though you was nothin other than the son of my mother's friend".
Not brothers in a biological sense, but brothers nonetheless. The distinction made is clear. This is not a verse about Jay's real brother, this is a verse about his figurative brother, who else but Nas.

"We had governing - who would've thought the love would end"
Jay may be referring to a number of different things here. Governing may be their mutual friendship with BIG, and how he kept them both in line (in terms of lyrical competition). Also may mean that they were both well mannered.

"Never thought we'd sing the same song that all hoods sing"
The same song that all hoods sing = inevitable beef. Jay never thought he would end up beefing with Nas.

"Thought it was all wood grain - all good brain"
First, all good brain, refers to Jay and Carmen. Jay is basically saying, he thought it wouldn't be a problem that he was getting head from Carmen (Nas' fianc
October 31, 2007 @ 05:53 AM

Post: 457

Join Date: Dec 2006

Location: L.A.

Now for the best part. Nas' verse. This shit is so dense, dudes are gonna be decoding for years. But I'll scratch the surface.

"I feel like a black militant taking over the government"
First of all, Nas clearly differentiates himself from Jay's black Republican aesthetic. A militant is the ultimate revolutionary, willing to do whatever it takes to make change. Since Republicans are generally concerned with protecting the status quo, Nas' stance as a militant bringing change is decidedly opposed to Jay's conservatism.

In essence, Nas is sayin, I'm different. This is what Jay represents. And this is what I represent. We cool. But we still different.

Back to the line. "I'm like black militant - overthrowing the government".
Nas, the independent of all independents, Nas who stands alone (Bravehearts don't count), has joined Def Jam. Def Jam (while once representative of fresh new music) has in recent years become the emblem for big business hip-hop. They sell shit loads of albums (Jay, Kanye, LL, Beastie Boys, Red and Meth, Ludacris, Ne-Yo, whateverthefuck, DMX's early shit). They are in essense the government of hip hop (arguments can be made for Interscope and Atlantic, but c'mon, Def Jam is Def Jam). And here's Nas, suddenly on Def Jam, the self proclaimed black militant, taking over the government. Taking the behemoth that is Def Jam and crafting it in his own image. Daring to call an album "Hip-Hop is Dead" on the most fabled hip hop label. Dissing half the artists on the roster (Def Jam South).

"I'm back in the hood they like 'Hey Nas' - blowin on purp - reflecting on they lives"
Superficially, Nas establishes himself as the street artist. Still relevent in the hood. Still tight with the ones strugglin. Smokin weed, thinking about their lives, as Nas reminisces on his. A parallel is made between Nas and the common man.

Looking deeper, Nas is beginning his story. He's transporting the listener back to his hood days. "I'm back in the hood". The setting is now 1994. The movie has just flashed back. "They like hey Nas"... QB is still cool with Nas, this is before the beef with various QB rappers. "Blowin on purp reflectin on they lives". Nas is tellin you he's one of them now, and in this song he's reflecting on his life. He's reflecting on the ups and downs, the success, the failures. The love, the hate. Specifically Carmen.

"Couple of fat cats - couple of A.I.s - dreamin of fly shit instead of them grey skies"
Nas (the film's director) cuts now to various locations that are parallel with this time setting (1994). Marcy, Brooklyn. A young "fat cat" Jay-Z dreams of "fly shit". Harlem, NY. Another fat cat, Sean Combs is starting Bad Boy. Cut to Georgetown University. "A.I" or Allen "The Answer" Iverson, is playin college ball dreaming of the NBA. What do these "Fat Cats" and "A.I.s" have in common? Well its what they have in Carmen. They all slept with her. And thus they are all relevant to the beef story Nas and Jay are spittin about on this song.

This line is dope because it establishes a parallel between all the players in this film. Nas, Jay, Puff, and AI were all started out in roughly the same place. Street kids dreamin of "fly shit" instead of the depression and "grey skies" of ghetto life.

If you listen to the background you'll hear faintly the sounds of someone moaning (it may be Jay's ad libs) but it also serves to underline the connection between the Fat Cats and A.I.s. They all fucked Carmen.

"Grey 5s - hate us - wishin our reign dies"
Nas flashes forward to the current haters against the aforementioned. In him and Jay's case it's Dip Set and Camron. Also 50, and various QB affiliates. For Puff it's basically the entire hip-hop underground. For Allen Iverson it's David Stern with his "NBA fashion issues" (see Hip Hop is Dead track) (Iverson is notorious for bringing the thug aesthetic onto the basketball court. Something league commissioner David Stern and his conservative friends are trying to change (not because they're necessarily racist, which they may be, but because they want to expand the NBA to more country audiences).

"Pitch sling pies, and *****s they sing why - guess they ain't strong enough to handle they jail time"

Direct reference to Cormega and Lake. Ex jail heads (and slingers) who have beef with Nas. Brutal line "guess they ain't strong enough to handle they jail time". Nas is taunting them, saying prison made them soft and now they expect Nas to hold their hands.

"Weak minds keep tryin - follow the street signs".
This expands the diss to all weak rappers currently goin at Nas. Jim Jones, Cam, Nore, Uno Dos. :Follow the street signs" references the underground nature of these beefs. These are out of the public eye and known only to hip-hop heads.

"I'm standing on the roof of my building - I'm feelin the whirl wind of beef - I inhale it"
Presented here are two different eras of Nas. One is Nasty "Kid Wave" Nas standing on top of the QB Housing Projects, Building 15. He's dealin with hood shit. Dealin with the dudes that merked Ill Will. Dealing with his fallout with Cormega.

The other is Nasir "God's Son" Jones. He's standin on top of his mansion in Long Island. He's beefing too. First with Jay-Z and The Roc, now with Dip Set, G-Unit and QB.

"The whirl wind of beef". It's a force that Nas can't control, a whirlwind, a entity of nature. It exists outside of him. It's tangible, he can feel it. It's chaotic, disorienting. And what does Nas do? He inhales it. He internalizes it. He makes it his. Like inhaling weed smoke, he is changed by its chemical nature. He is energized.

"Like an acrobat ready to hurl myself through the hoops of fire"

But unlike weed, the beef doesn't slow him or hinder his drive. Instead it fuels him. It gives him the verbal agility that an acrobat has physically. It allows him to drop albums like "Illmatic" or "Stillmatic". It gives him courage to go through the "hoops of fire". The critics, the fickle fans, the fickle radio DJs. If he can overcome beef, he can overcome that shit too.

"Sippin 80 proof - bulletproof under my attire"

80 proof represents the hard core shit that Nas spits. The strongest of the strong. This music is pure. "Bullet proof under my attire", he's protected, from physical bullets, and verbal bullets.

"Could it be the forces of darkness against hood angels that's good that form street politics"
This is the deepest line in the whole song. I could write 10 pages about this. But I'll keep it as brief as possible. The forces of darkness here represents many things. First it's the animosity that grew between him and Jay. The discord between two men. The beef itself. The disharmony. It is also the things that caused the beef. The lust for wealth. The greed. The things that plague every hood, every man. The lust for power. The lust for women. It's the evil inherent in mankind. The remnants of original sin. Nas makes it Biblical with the angel reference. These angels may be literal angels from a Judeo Christian heaven. They are also figurative angels. Nas and Jay-Z could both be angels trying to uphold hip hop. But going beyond that, Nas is talking about the good forces in the hood, the benevolent in life. He's talking about Ann Jones trying to keep her son away from the forces of darkness. Away from the gun slingers and crack dealers. About all the mothers protecting their sons and the wives taking care of their men. The love. The caring. The basic qualities of human kind that are good.

And the oppostion between these "angels of good" and "forces of darkness" creates "street politics". The debate between right and wrong. Is it right to deal drugs to feed one's family? Is it right to kill in defense? These are examples where the good and the bad meet. These are questions of hood politics. The ethics of survival living.

"Makes a sweet honest kid turn illegal for commerce - to get his feet out of them Converse - that's my word"

Nas brings it full circle with this line. First it relates to the previous line. A sweet honest kind, who's tempted by the darkness, the greed, the wealth. He wants to feed his family, move his mom out of the hood. There's good intention. But what can he do? A 9 to 5 won't give him shit. College is not an option. So he turns illegal. Converse, the shoes of the street represent the poverty. Drug dealing gets him better shoes, better cars, more power, and perhaps the chance to help those he loves. But he hurts hundreds in the process.

Who is Nas talking about? Most generally he's talking about youth everywhere who are tempted by evil. More specifically the urban youth of the ghettos. And finally, he's talking about Jay and himself. They both started out innocent. Jay with his mom buyin him a boom box, and Nas playin his pop's trumpet. Then they experienced the evils of the hood. Nas with Will's death. Jay with crack dealin down South. They both did shady shit. Let their lust for women corrupt their relationships with women they loved. Let their lust for power and jealousy and resentment throw them into an ugly, personal and public beef. They both lived their verses. They embody what they say. And that's their word.

Roll the credits.
October 31, 2007 @ 05:56 AM

Post: 457

Join Date: Dec 2006

Location: L.A.

Good and interesting read man. smile

^ahh you fucked up.

well just disregard his post and read them together.

a very interesting read
October 31, 2007 @ 06:46 AM


Even though this is a shitload of words for early in the morning. It was a good read. However, I do think the throwing shots part is a bit over analyzed. And, thats cool. I mean people translate songs differently aand different songs and lyrics are always up for interpretations. Thats the beauty of music. But, while i think its plausable that they coulda been saying slick shit at each other it may have been more subliminal even in thier own minds if they where. I just think thier history of feuding and throwing jabs at each other makes people believe that they always will when thats not necesarily the case. If anyting...I would think they would wanna keep it as civil as possible on this track being that this is thier first track together and want to show people that theres no problems between them. Also, Im pretty sure Jay has said that his verse on that song is more adressing his situation with Dame. Either way...good read...I love stuff like this...intellectual breakdowns of hip hop music is way to far and inbetween.
October 31, 2007 @ 07:03 AM

Post: 4052

Join Date: Jun 2006

Location: NW London

although is was an entralling read, i do feel it's being read into a bit too much..
October 31, 2007 @ 08:13 AM

Post: 2640

Join Date: Feb 2007

Location: Queens, NYC

^Yeah man with jay and Nas you gotta dissect the rhymes cause they always deeper than they seem.
October 31, 2007 @ 08:13 AM

Post: 5120

Join Date: Nov 2006

Location: 5thFlo

this was a great read. i just got off work and im sleepy as fuck, i could barely keep my eyes open while reading this shit, but i had to finish it. it may be a little overanalyzed but dope nonetheless.
October 31, 2007 @ 10:06 AM

Post: 1596

Join Date: Oct 2006

Location: Shaolin, NYC

This is one hell of a read ! Something I'm gonna have to read twice. Even tho you made some EXCELLCENT points I still don't believe they were taking shots at each other. I think the best track they took subliminal shots at each other were "You're Da Man" & "People Talkin'". But like Infamous stated I love this song & this thread makes me appreciate it even more. You should do the same thing for "Success" once the album is release. Maybe there's something hidden in there too
October 31, 2007 @ 10:39 AM

Post: 2067

Join Date: Oct 2007

Location: brooklyn

I think my head actually is throbbing and shit from that essay BUT it was very educational on that song.

I have to listen to it again now lol
October 31, 2007 @ 11:31 AM


Theres no way they shouldnt have made a video for this. Are you kidding me? Re enactment of a Godfather 2 scene. Instant classic shit.
October 31, 2007 @ 11:33 AM

Post: 1569

Join Date: Feb 2006

Location: Montreal, Quebec

damn that was a good ass read never knew there was more to it than this.
October 31, 2007 @ 11:40 AM

Post: 1915

Join Date: Nov 2006

Location: los - man - yyz

really good read. i think it might have been over analyzing things just alittle bit. But I love when lyrics are dissected to see the deeper meanings. Good job though
October 31, 2007 @ 11:49 AM

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Join Date: Sep 2007

Location: the place where know...

good read...but i think its just a little much
October 31, 2007 @ 12:11 PM
Quick Draw

Post: 684

Join Date: Mar 2007

Location: Pennsylvania

just like everyone said. great read. but it seems realyl really far fetched. but yeah. a video would have been sick.
October 31, 2007 @ 12:25 PM


i really dont think this song deserved this much analysis purely on speculation, the whole black republican angle/militant angle should be obvious to any discerning listener

there also arent enough bars here to really be sure of their meaning
October 31, 2007 @ 12:55 PM

Post: 1065

Join Date: Apr 2007

Location: Chicago

Man you're reaching with this yo razz

I don't think Jay's verse has anything to do with he and Nas's relationship. He's obviously talking about his own childhood friends. He's always making references to his personal ife in his music. People take it as he's talking about another artist when in actuality he's talking about some shit that only him a few others know about. If anything I'd say his verse pretains more to the Roc break up than his battle with Nas.
October 31, 2007 @ 02:41 PM


Like I said. The beauty of music is the different interpretations that people take away from it. A listener can take away a meaning that the writer may not have even thought of. It doesnt mean its incorrect its just interpretation. The positive thing is that it has enough depth that someone can do this.

If it was just one way...and if everyone creid "reaching" everytime some one analyzed a song deeply. No one would still be talking about the Beatles.
October 31, 2007 @ 03:20 PM

Post: 4052

Join Date: Jun 2006

Location: NW London

i think an analysis of crank dat superman is in order
October 31, 2007 @ 04:44 PM

Post: 457

Join Date: Dec 2006

Location: L.A.

Yeah, i personally think that they werent throwing "jabs" at each other, but yet telling a stroy that was relevant to their lives and their relationship with each other.

maybe a bit "over analyized", but as Sub said, the fact that someone would even take these lyrics that far makes a big statement about the song and the artists behind it.

which is why they're legends.
October 31, 2007 @ 06:01 PM

Post: 1005

Join Date: Nov 2006

Location: MPLS

^^Agreed, I think they were refrencing one another in this song, but not jabs, just how they felt about the whole ordeal.
October 31, 2007 @ 07:18 PM


for you godfather fans out there....the mob boss young vito assassinates is DON MASSIMO FANUCCI when they play "marcia religioso". lol. no idea where falconi came from. sounds ridiculous reading that name over and over.
November 1, 2007 @ 03:48 PM

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Join Date: Dec 2006

I dare you to analyze Might Healthy!
November 2, 2007 @ 11:22 PM

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Join Date: Jan 2007

This is a very good thought-provoking analysis. It should definitely be posted on a blog.
November 6, 2007 @ 07:38 PM

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Join Date: Sep 2006

i didn't even realize how much of a work of art this track was
a REALLY good read
November 7, 2007 @ 11:55 AM

Post: 1596

Join Date: Oct 2006

Location: Shaolin, NYC

I dare you to analyze Mighty Healthy!

MANNNNNN not even Ghostface (or Superb depends who you ask lol) can analyze that song !
December 17, 2008 @ 12:25 PM

Post: 261

Join Date: Feb 2008

Location: Long Branch

Are you serious this shit was over-analyzed and none of it made since except for like 2 senteces out of 20.

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