The Hidden Message Behind Nas' Album Covers (Very fu*kin interesting....Come Peep)

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 14 years ago '05        #1
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The Hidden Message Behind Nas' Album Covers (Very fu*kin interesting....Come Peep)

i don't beleive most of it but how a person can get all this from an album cover is interesting ...

We all know the "boy" to "man" to "king" to "prophet" progression that mirrors Illmatic to It Was Written to I Am to Nastradamus... we all know the "Since Illmatic, it was written I am Nastradamus" title riddle... the first four covers were basic... Nas is growing, as a man and as an artist... he started as a young dude on the corners of QB observing, dreaming and writing poetry. Then he became the man, living a Scarface/Pablo Escobar type life of excess... then the king, the seasoned lyricist, the post-BIG king of NYC... and finally we had the prophet as a harbinger of what would be to come...

"what was once ghetto prophecy is now ghetto scripture" - Nas

The cover of Nastradamus sets up the cover of Stillmatic in an interesting way. It's Nas' fourth album and he's still prophesizing... he's not saying, this is the end result, this the top... he's saying there's more to come... the turbulent future lies ahead... Stillmatic would be an album immersed in conflict, political on the level of its post 9/11 commentary, political in the world of hip-hop with the Jay-Z, Cormega, Nature, Prodigy beef, and personal with the split from Carmen... (during the time of Nastradamus, Nas knew the feud with Jay-Z would one day become public. He also saw where QB was heading and knew he’d have to destroy and rebuild. And Carmen leaving, well that was a forgone conclusion)… so the last line of Nastradamus... "despite the damage to destiny you can't take the best of me - In God we still trust" sets off the "damage to destiny" that occurs in Stillmatic... and "In God we still trust" sets up the heavy religious references Nas finds solace in on "God's Son"...

"on my next few albums - there'll be a difficult test inside the cover for the mind's optics" - Nas (Stillmatic Freestyle, 2001)

The cover of Stillmatic represents the downfall of man... the downfall that had occured in Nas' career and his personal life and the downfall of man in the greater world... 9/11, hyper urbanization, crime, racism, poverty, drugs, death and the rap game Nas plans to destroy and rebuild...

Nas said in an interview that he wore every piece of ice he owned for the cover... we can see his QB piece, a host of platinum necklaces, some diamond rings and an iced out watch... this represents the folly of Nas (his Escobar flossing days), the excesses of the rap game (late 90s to early 2000s was the height of the bling bling era) and more metaphorically the excesses of a capitalistic American society (think the late nineties' bulging and inflated stock market)... also the garish orange jump suit Nas wears is intentionally loud... it's not that he has poor style, it’s garishness is conscious in the spirit of irony...

The dark, lightning scorched skies above the NYC skyline behind Nas represent the apocalyptic world prophesized on Nastradamus... the omission of the twin towers in the skyline is a subtle reference to 9/11... the water is very important, I’ll get to that in a minute...

Many people ask about Nas' fingers and whether they’re significance... they are... On the left, Nas has four fingers extended... these fingers represent his first four albums... notice the ring on the first finger (the pinkie) representing Illmatic, his finest achievement... (to which Stillmatic pays homage)... depicting the first four albums is significant because it reminds us what has come before... an homage to the past (as much of Stillmatic is)...

The other hand represents the future... Stillmatic is the index, the middle is Lost Tapes (it's shortened length representing the album’s brevity and lesser importance as a compilation of unreleased songs), the ring finger is God's Son...and finally we have the pinky as Streets Disciple... now a lot of you will say I'm reaching (if you already haven't) but hear me out... Nas clearly planned out his first four albums ("from 92 to 99" - Nas, Represent 1994... "Since Illmatic it was written I am Nastradamus" - Nas, Freestyle 2001) so it's safe to say he planned out the next four and exemplified them on the cover... now I'm not saying anything foolish like Nas is actually a prophet or can see the future... but according to interviews around 2001/02 and later songs Nas said he knew he'd get married in the next year or so... ("to who I knew not - thought of snatching Hallie up from the dreadlock" -Nas, Getting Married 2004)... so the ring on the ring finger represents his desire to get married (and move on from Carmen)... ironically that desire would be fulfilled during the "God's Son" era that the ring finger represents ("gave the keys to Kelis, because she the wife and they the freaks" - Nas, Mastermind 2002)

Finally we have the pigeon, the ghetto dove... this is where it gets Biblical (and sets up a parable connecting through to the “Streets Disciple” cover)... what the entire album cover is, taken as a whole, is an allusion to the Old Testament story of Noah... y'all know it... in ancient times mankind became very wicked… murder and r*pe abounded… immorality was everywhere… so God punished the wicked world with a flood... (the link to Judeo-Christian religion is established with the silver cross that hangs conspicuously below the rest of Nas' jewelery...) The Stillmatic cover is the moment before the flood... Nas is at once Noah and God, poised for what's ahead and ready to bring it... the album Stillmatic is Nas' arc... as Noah brought two of every animal to repopulate the world, Nas brings his favorite rappers (AZ, Bravehearts, Nashawn and Blitz) to repopulate the rap world after it’s destroyed...

Let's get back to the pigeon... in the Bible, Noah sent out a dove everyday during the flood... the dove would constantly return with an empty beak, representing that there was no land and that God's punishment was still in effect... the pigeon, is Nas' dove ready to be sent out pending the coming storm.... (notice those rain clouds overhead are holding a lot of water, the lightning is holding promise of a storm)...

Moving on… next we have the tranquil cover of "God Son", in contrast to the busy tumultuous Stillmatic cover... Nas is surrounded by water... the sky and water are dark blue hinting at a departing storm... the world has been flooded... the storm hit during Stillmatic...the water that loomed in the background of the Stillmatic cover has risen up and engulfed the buildings, the wall and Nas himself... Destroy and Rebuild was a typhoon, What Goes Around was a hurricane, Ether was a tsunami...the wrath of God, Noah's flood, the wrath of God's Son...

Nas stands, arms folded, head down... humble... in reverence... in mourning for the loss the storm has brought, and for the loss of his mother... he is also in prayer to God... as Stillmatic was the arc, God's Son is Nas' meditation on himself and his communication with God...

He is unclothed... the storm has swept away almost all of his jewelry, save for a Jesus piece (hidden by his arms) and a golden bracelet. The gold is less expensive than the platinum of Stillmatic but more noble... a throwback to an older generation, to the Old School of hip-hop (which much of the album is based in ie Apache sample in Made You Look "we bringin '88 back")... it is also a throw back to Biblical times when gold symbolized nobility...

On a deeper level, Nas is bare because he is now nekkid of sin...on the surface no more orange jump suit, no more platinum... musically his style of rap is no longer based in materialistic flossing or violence ("I live a clean life - I don't even steal cable"), he has transcended the mundane and risen to another level... he is no longer the kingpin, the king, the prophet or the hell raiser... he is a spiritual disciple of the streets... a survivor of his own storm...

On the back cover we see Nas' arms outstretched, and he's holding two doves... their beaks are empty, the pigeon still hasn’t found land... in the story of Noah the dove brought back an olive branch as a sign of vegetation (and thus land)... in the saga of Nasir the pigeon has become a dove and returned empty beaked but with another dove... in a sense Nas and the pigeon are one...

Nas' style has transcended from the gritty street aesthetic of Stillmatic to the spiritual purity of God's Son... he has transformed from pigeon to dove... the second dove can be seen as representing balance... with his arms outstretched, the second dove balances the first... in the aftermath of the Stillmatic's storm equilibrium has been reached, everything is balanced... the second dove also represents Kelis, Nas' new companion for bringing balance…


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