My mic check is life or death, breathing a sniper's breath
A sniper has one shot to kill — missing can mean death. For an emcee, Nas suggests, breath control on the mic is equally important. This also likens his lyrics to bullets in the damage they can do.
If you take the metaphor further, snipers need good breath control when they are shooting to steady their aim; breath control is essential for a rapper as well. Then, like a snipper who sets up at a location before the target arrives – A mic check can be done at the sound check before the show — that he will perform at latter — Killing other MC’s
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