By Ian S. Port
Photo by Danny Clinch/Sony Legacy Nas in 1994.
One rhyme in particular crystallizes the genius of Nas' 1994 classic, Illmatic. It comes in the song "One Love," which takes the form of a letter to a friend in prison: "Congratulations, you know you got a son," Nas raps. "I heard he looks like ya, why don't your lady write ya?"
Did you get that? In nineteen words, Nas swings from the perspective-upending pride of fatherhood -- a new human who is part you! -- to the heartache of separation, loneliness, disloyalty. He whispers the knife of betrayal into our gut with a simple question: "Why don't your lady write ya?" Nas paints not just a man in prison, yearning for the outside, but a whole web of relationships decaying in his absence.
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