I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death

from Nas – N.Y. State of Mind Lyrics on Rap Genius


A truly classic rap line evoking ghetto drug dealers' “one eye open” sense of paranoia; perhaps inspired by the Talmud (which tells us sleep is 1/60th of death) or the Iliad (where Hypnos and Thanatos — i.e., “sleep” and “death” — are described as brothers)

This line’s 1st degree meaning is evident: sleep is a deathlike, inert state of consciousness

At the 2nd degree, “sleeping” is slang for being inattentive or negligent; a drug dealer who is robbed for lack of vigilance is said to be “caught sleeping”

Nas never “sleeps” — i.e., he’s never “caught sleeping” — because being an easy target could lead him to getting shot to death

The line also inspired this t-shirt:


Note this line’s resonance with the New York cliche, “The city that never sleeps.”

VERIFIED: Nas says this is an Old African saying, oft-repeated in his house when he was growing up..

However, the line may also have European origins: it is believed to be originally stated by Charles Sackville: “Heavy Sleep, the Cousin of Death.”

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