People have different ways of dealing with death. Artists do it even differently still. And Nas did it how a rapper would: thoughtful, reflective, and still a little boastful.
As if there was ever reason to doubt Industry Rule 4080, Columbia Records continually made sure you didn't forget. While the label really didn't mess up It Was Written too much, they sabotaged I Am like it was a joyride in a '76 Pinto Wagon. Originally planned to be released as a double album, as confirmed by L.E.S. previously (though no official tracklisting was ever put out there--despite what bootleggers might tell you), I Am turned from showcasing Nas at his creative peak to instead sandwiching DJ Premier-laced miracles between mostly mediocrity and an abomination known only as Big Things. While many of the cut tracks would later make up The Lost Tapes, songs such as Amongst Kings still remain unreleased.
Added on to some international versions of I Am, after the staged suicide on the closing Undying Love, Amongst Kings picks up with Nas falling through the afterlife, on his way to Heaven or Hell, caught between his indiscretions and his desire to do good. As a further note, this is one of Nas' firsts raps heavily steeped in faith-based and religious allusions. For many people, that transition from Nasty Nas to God's Son was an unfortunate one, but Amongst Kings stands as one of the highlights from along the way.
It's my day of judgment, eternal peace and fireNas: Amongst Kings
Before I past the stars, far past the Orion*
I ask that you forgive, father, I was trying
Many thrones in the light, but only one's truly shining
*NOTE: After several comments on the subject, the second line has been modified from "for Pastor O'Ryan" to read "far past the Orion." Come back tomorrow to see what new set of lyrics I can mess up.--Fletch