Friday, March 03, 2006

The Arms of Nicky Barnes

Silent, silent . . . muuurrdaaa . . .

As one of Nas' most unique songs, everyone should really know Silent Murder. The steel drums, the stabbing strings, the political suspect, they all should be common knowledge. But somehow Columbia Records decided it was best to sneak this It Was Written wonder through the backdoor and sentenced it to relative obscurity for tape decks and Euro ears only. So for the more than 2 million who purchased the '96 Escobar opus, missing was Live Squad's distinct sounds and Nas in the early stages of his socially polemic prose. (As a Live Squad note, according to Cedric Muhammad's account, Silent Murder was recorded in December of 1995, just shortly after Stretch's Queens-side murder.)

Playing the part of a politically anxious frontline reporter, lyrically, Nas echoes his One Love sentiments ("fuck a school lecture, the lies get me vexed") with a similarly distrusting response, "fuck what they teach in class, I'ma reach the mass." This distrust is not an invention for controversy's sake; rather, it is the end result of a long-running campaign of fear and oppression, a reaction to everything from Malcom's killer to Ricky Ross' kilos. It's the politics, it's the pressures, and it's the urgency to strike against it all. Silent Murder isn't a sermon or a confessional, it's a pulse.

In addition, with references scattered throughout, the script of Silent Murder is at times a puzzle of proper nouns. So, in part because these strings of connection can provide a bit of new knowledge, and because RZA did it so well in the Wu-Tang Manual, here are a couple brief explanations of the song's points of interest. If anything, you may learn more about drugs and boxing than you did before--and that's always good.

  • "It's sort of like the conclusion to Color Purple"
    1982 novel by Alice Walker / 1985 film by Steven Spielberg about the often ugly obstacles facing African-American women.

  • "I hit blunts hard like Ray Mercer"
    Nicknamed Merciless, former WBO heavyweight champion and Olympic Gold Medalist.

  • "The violent words of a prince in a palace of Persia"
    Prince of Persia: popular video and computer game of the 80s and 90s.
    Biblical reference made in the book of the prophet Daniel.

  • "A story of wars with Cyprus"
    Island nation that Persia ruled after the Greco-Persian Wars.

  • "They say the arms of Nicky Barnes would be enough to blast"
    Feared New York drug kingpin who partly inspired the fictional character of Nino Brown.

  • "Was it the mind of CIA that bumped off Malik Shabazz?"
    The adopted religious name of Malcolm X, whose death is still mired in much controversy.

  • "To smoke a nigga like a Hughes Brothers motion picture"
    Twin brother directors responsible for the seminal Menace II Society (1993) and Dead Presidents (1995).
This is the Who's Who of a particular New York mindstate, a catalog of names and places, the frame of Nas.

What's the flavor when your neighbors do jake favors?
Lock the real niggas down and letting fake players
Roam around the projects, it's lyrical logic
I dilute, then we can inject the right composite
Nas: Silent Murder


Blogger thugspoet said...

yo those steel drums happen to have a name : PAN. It was invent and is the national intrument of Trinidad & Tobago.One time for the mind one time

March 04, 2006 10:46 AM  
Blogger Fletch said...


there's plenty of stuff i don't know, so i'm glad you could open a door for me.

here's a helpful link i just found:

March 04, 2006 12:00 PM  

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