Brolic with Knowledge
With 1st Class now on record shelves, while fans should have rejoiced over Large Professor finally having an official product on the market, after years and years of toiling in the ranks of the unreleased, it wasn't as if everything had played out to some perfect ending. The LP was still absent, and what ended up in stores, in its place, hardly proved to be any consolation. In the cruel way the industry can be at times, the masterpiece had been kept in the vaults, while the too-little-too-late effort was the project that actually got a fair deal. Moreover, those spots where 1st Class did hold its own were as Large Professor let another MC hold the mic, e.g. Nas on Stay Chisel.
The version of Stay Chisel appearing on 1st Class features the Queens duo delivering one verse each over a medium-paced beat. It's a concept track, playing to the idea of "knowledge is power", where, accordingly, Nas defines true strength less by physical prowess and more so by one's own intelligence:
Mental calisthenics got my mind stretching, then I release itThen Large Pro comes in and gets out quickly, leaving the song's length at just over two-and-a-half-minutes, good but not remarkable. Fortunately, another Stay Chisel exists, with Nas on a solo mission, three verses long, unreleased, and entirely more notable.
Have my whole frame bulging under diamond pieces
Take the weight of the world on my shoulders, I hold it
So I consume most the pain for my niggas I roll with
With these two additional verses at his disposal, Nas is able to flush out the metaphor: now a loyal crew is akin to a trusty workout partner, and a balanced diet is used to demonstrate the need for a balanced lyrical approach, "reduce fat rap, no calories in my mentality." Elsewhere, he espouses mental focus ("keep your chest up / eyes straight to the center") and even preaches the wonders of wheat bread. But the most interesting portion here may be the names Nas checks. Typically, rap songs will scroll though a list of fashion labels, big time moguls, movie stars bad asses, and the like. Yet, while Nas does mention Lou Ferrigno and Arnold Schwarzenegger to explain a kind of muscular clout, he also acknowledges such African-American pioneers, intellectuals, and leaders as James Baldwin, John Hope Franklin, W.E.B. Du Bois, John Chavis, Angela Davis, and Assata Shakur. However, the most fitting individual referenced is Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, the once-middleweight contender who was wrongly convicted of murder and had to rely on inner toughness to outlast an erroneous prison sentence.
Nas: Stay Chisel