Stillmatic's You're Da Man is significant for four reasons.
1.The first verse
While Ether will always get the most attention for its diss towards Jay-Z, and Destroy & Rebuild will always be seen as the principal piece in the Cormega beef, Nas' first verse on You're Da Man, though not as vicious as either, packs a strong punch just the same. From declaring that he doesn't "kill soloists, only kills squads", to taking on the Fuck Nas Coalition ("yesterday you begged for a deal, today you tough guys"), Nas then finishes with a succinct assault on Jay-Z. By painting the rapper homie once more as "a fan, a phony, a fake, a pussy, a Stan", he calls Jay on jacking his style, co-opting his friends, and even wanting to be with his girl. So though the dramatics of Ether are more memorable, You're Da Man was a quarry size dose of salt-into-wound itself.
2.The second verse
Staying on the Jay / Nas battle for another moment, in the Brooklynite's closing shot, Blueprint 2, he echoed a common complaint leveled against Nas, "'cause you don't understand him, it don't mean that he nice. It just means you don't understand all the bullshit that he write." If any verse could evidence that attack, it might be You're Da Man's second. With its surreal quality and highly poetic allusions, Nas' lyrics are image-laden and unique, "I saw a dead bird flying through a broken sky . . . Broads play with pentagrams in they vagina." But to simply pass this of as pseudo-philosophical garbledness does a disservice not only to Nas' lyricism but levels of lyricism within general rap music. The dead bird line is very Dali-like, admittedly an idea born out of some high, the relationship between Nas' own self-destruction and effort to escape the distress. Then a woman holding that 5-pointed figure of Satanism next to herself underscores Nas' portrayal of women as deceitful or even evil. These instances are merely figurative interpretations of the concepts of salvation and trust.
3.The unreleased stanza
If people had a problem with the construction of the second verse as appearing on Stillmatic, they didn't even hear it all. That verse begins there with "but wait a sec, give me time to explain." But what exactly is Nas asking you to let him clarify? Well, perhaps because its language was too bold and apt for misunderstanding, a stanza of six lines actually was meant to precede that point, but got taken off.
At church on my hand was a preacher's bloodAs mentioned, apt for misunderstanding, overall, Nas seems to be illustrating a life of excess, the extremes gone to for self-satisfaction, and the poisons that come with this pursuit.
Swallow dirt from a graveyard in need of love
I vomit blunt residue, I want revenue, dreaming
And pump lead at you devils trying to take my freedom
It drove me crazy the day I drank my own urine, my own seamen
With a .9 to my brain, but wait a sec, give me time to explain
Large Professor's return to the world of the rapper Nas, after about a seven-year absence, stands as one of Stillmatic's highest accomplishments. His throwback beat for Rewind was the precursor to the sound Salaam Remi would experiment with on God's Son, but with You're Da Man, he hit his high point. The call of "you're the man" on the hook, and the ethereal quality of the string melody, plays in perfectly with the surreal quality of Nas' words. The hook also provides a catchiness and a great emotional moment, especially when performed live. However, sampling Sixto Rodriguez' Sugarman, a spacey folk number in its own right, it may surprise some that never on that original song does the phrase "you're the man" appear. Pay attention to Large Pro's chop, as "Sugarman . . . you're the answer" magically becomes "you're the man." It's a fitting creative touch to one of Nas' most imaginative tracks.
Nas: You're Da Man
Nas: You're Da Man (unreleased)
BONUS: Sixto Rodriguez: Sugarman
BONUS: You're Da Man sample exercise