Monday, February 20, 2006

Knowledge, Wisdom, Understanding

"I'm out for dead presidents to represent me."

The Q-Tip remix of The World Is Yours is significant for several reasons. First, sampled by Ski on Dead Presidents I & II, Nas was, at one time, reportedly requested to respit the hook especially for Jay-Z. However, refusing, this is when the more-than-decade-long curious relationship between the two rappers began to begin. And yes, it's Q-Tip's, not the Pete Rock original, that's sampled: check the slower cadence, the response of "get money", and the censoring of "fuckin'", as would appear on the remix.

Furthering its significance, in the midst of a comparison between the two tracks, even against the classic OG version, the Abstract managed to turn out arguably the better beat. Taking nothing away from Soul Brother #1, Tip's distinct drums, bugged-out horns, and moody keys fit Nas' blunted flow to perfection. It's atmospheric and hype all at once. But this song is still notable for more than its Serchlite Publishing or battle of bpm's. Lyrically, while the first and third verses appear relatively similar to how they graced Illmatic, the second verse introduces new rhymes with a cryptic meaning.

The subject of speculation, a particular stanza in that second verse has curiously produced different readings. Now, in part an analytical exercise and because it seems to be what Nas is most getting at, an interpretation grounded in the philosophy of the Nation of Gods and Earths aka Five Percenters will be examined:
My insight enlights vision
Words of wisdom
Niggas pay me intuition to listen
The murder paragraphs of mysticism
Man plant seeds that brings forth multiple breeds
So many cultures in one planet but one culture's freed
Interpreted so, Nas is saying he has the ability to observe a reality of his own that has been hidden from him, to "know the ledge" and not fall off and victim to the devil's trick. This observation, this Knowledge, this insight is, as the light of the sun, that which enhances all that is meant to be seen and known, all that is inside of him. But, as the Supreme Mathematics instructs, once you know, knowing is not enough, you must act and reflect upon it. That reflection of Knowledge manifests as Wisdom, just as the reflection of the light of the sun manifests as the moon's light. Having known and acted upon the mind's truth, Nas' vision is clear, he's reached Understanding. That Understanding is the enlightened perception of all that lays inside. So his initial Knowledge (120), graced with Wisdom (120) and then Understanding (120), completes the cipher, a 360 degrees circle in full.

Next, he writes, those who aim themselves towards intuition, an internal knowing, call on him for his own Knowledge. What they look and listen for are his raps, his insight on the ultimate reality of man, characterized as so-called murder paragraphs. It must be said that this Knowledge is not made possible by way of some scientific method; instead, it is the product of a precise consciousness of that ultimate reality, which is the process of mysticism. The mysticism of his speech is tied to the consciousness he has mastered in completing the cipher: it is from within.

Furthermore, Nas points out that living amongst us as plain as day, we see multiple breeds of man. These men introduce a number of ways of living, so many cultures in one planet. But overall, that aforementioned process of consciousness distinguishes him from these multiple breeds. Because, by completing the cipher, he has established himself within the tradition of the original man. It is the original man whose language, which is the expression of culture (wise-words), and whose tools, Knowledge, Wisdom, and Understanding, are moved through the culture of Islam ("I-Self-Lord-And-Master"). As the original, physically and mentally in tune, it this first culture that is only free.

Nas: The World Is Yours (Q-Tip remix)

NOTE: Though Nas' spiritual point of view has remained rather ambiguous throughout his career, and though Nas himself was never a "God" it seems, his growing up in the late 80s in New York and surrounded by Gods, seems to have influenced his early works to at least mirror or even at times espouse the Five Percenters' doctrine. Also, this interpretation is by no means the only one, nor is it meant to be an endorsement or perfect summary of NGE beliefs. Do the knowledge yourself.--Fletch


Anonymous JT said...

So many cultures in one planet but one culture's freed

I believe this is a reference to slavery, one of many Nas has made. Nice blog.

February 21, 2006 9:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Nas is talking about only crackers (white people) being free.

February 21, 2006 5:35 PM  
Anonymous Ganghadin said...

lol fletch you kinda dissecting Nas' lyrics like i did at high school for shakespeare and poems.
But its true like nas: I'm blessed with the finesse to express like Shakespeare!
Great work keep it up man and Nas is a living legend!

February 22, 2006 8:25 AM  
Blogger Fletch said...

to jt and anonymous--
i think the black/white/slavery reading would be the most immediate and popular. and while it's very possible, at the Illmatic point in his career, i just see Nas' "blackness" represented less in the general context of American history and more in the direct realtionship to the 5% faith that dominated New York and rap music throughout his growing up.

"Nas is like Afrocentric Asian."

plus, if you read it as black/white/slavery, the precedding 4 lines move from being poetic and multi-dimensional to being poetic and just brags, which is fine and all, but there's more it seeems. the first two lines establishing insight/Knowledge, wisdom/Wisdom, vision/Understanding follows the Supreme Mathematics too much for me to think it's a coicidence.

and to ganghadin--
how about:

I opened up Shakespeare’s tomb, stole his remains
Grinded his bones, smoked it, and then got in the game

February 22, 2006 1:30 PM  
Anonymous Colin said...

Oooh, the first track I didn't already have. Even though I have most of these it's great seeing what you have to say about them. Keep it coming.

February 22, 2006 5:08 PM  
Blogger Hummingbyrd said...

Oh. I love that Keep the La in the Air.

La la la, la la la, la la la la la. <-----Spent hella time typing la's.

March 21, 2006 11:15 AM  
Anonymous ckalokoh said...

"So many cultures in one planet but one culture's freed"

I agree with JT in that he´s talking about white people.I love this blog, keep it up

July 31, 2006 10:07 AM  

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