Thursday, February 09, 2006

God's Son

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 fire
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
Nas: Amongst Kings

*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


Blogger Fletch said...

Okay, so in a post over yonder on okayplayer, a possible discrepancy about the links has come up.

You've seen my interpretation already. But then an okp asks if it does not say:

"Far past the stars, far past the Orion"

While that could be possible, my contention is that Nas namedropping a constellation is odd, even for him. Plus, the "Father O'Ryan" reading links up the with immediately-following line where Nas is in talks with what I think is implied a clergyman.


February 09, 2006 12:28 PM  
Blogger Fletch said...

That should read "a possible discrepancy about the lyrics", but of course you knew that.

February 09, 2006 12:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Actually it makes sense that he would say past the Orion (that's what it sounds like to me) and then "I ask that you forgive, father" because father= God and then the next line "many thrones in the light, but only one's truly shining" is explicit in talking about God's throne.

February 09, 2006 1:28 PM  
Blogger Fletch said...

Listening again, I can really honestly hear it both ways.

The Father O'Ryan argument:
--Nas has used the word "pastor" more often that he has invoked references to specific constellations over his career, e.g. Nas Will Prevail, Gangsta Tears.

--Although one can interpret the word "father" to refer to God, if we read it as "Pastor O'Ryan", then it is that "father" to whom Nas is asking for absolution before he reaches his final judgment, which would then bring about a meeting with God.

The Orion argument:
--Who is Father O'Ryan? Why would Nas mention an unknown or fictitious figure like this? Orion is a heavenly presence people know about.

--The connection between Orion and the stars is clear, with father then signifying asking for absolution from God himself. Nas has seen God's light.

Here's an interesting debate on a more general father/pastor issue:

February 09, 2006 3:11 PM  
Blogger cinsere said...

I think the orion as in the stars would be a better rhyme but it could go either of these ways, I like the site.

February 09, 2006 3:24 PM  
Blogger Fletch said...

The lyrics have been changed to reflect the more-popular Orion interpretation.

February 09, 2006 6:12 PM  

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