I don't know how to start this shit, yo
If the rumors are true, Nas said this line before the song started, because it was his first take of his first verse on a studio album. He was just talking to himself trying to get amped up. DJ Premier could barely get everyone to start recording in time, but Nas spit arguably his best verse on the entire album in Illmatic’s first verse.
Or maybe it was just performance anxiety…
Nas watched me build the beat from scratch. And he wrote the verse in the studio. If you listen to ‘N.Y. State of Mind’ you’ll hear him going, ‘I don’t know how to start this shit,’ because he literally just wrote it. Before he started the verse, I was signaling him going, ‘One, two, three,’ and he just goes in like, ‘Rappers I monkey flip’em, in the funky rhythm.“ He did that in one take. After he did that first verse, he goes, ‘How was that? Did that sound all right?’ And we were just like, ‘Oh, my God! The streets are going to go crazy when they hear this!’
To this day Nas ironically says “I don’t know how to start this shit” when he performs the song live.
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