You cocked back
You thought you had it planned, you thought you had your man
He saw you coming, he ran when you tried to blast that man
You missed him by inches, he sprinted
Some of his boys on the corner was who your bullets entered
Two of em pull through
But one didn't, son's finished
The guy pulled his gun when he saw the guy he wanted to kill. In his mind, it was all gonna play out perfectly. But when his target saw him, he ran off, causing the guy to start shooting to try and get him before he gets too far.
But he missed the target and instead hit some nearby civilians. Two of the people the bullets hit survive, but one of them died.
Nas really sells the song’s concept here with language— we get an avalanche of ‘you’s,’ ‘your’s,’ ‘he’s,’ and ‘him’s’, confusing listeners trying to attach real people to these floating pronouns— a kind of parallel to a shooter trying to ‘pick out’ one man from a crowd to shoot at.
but what’s really cool is the slick, imagistic pun at the end of this little sequence… let’s do some poetic analysis:
the line that sets it up:
“some of his boys on the corner was who your bullets entered”
notice the cluttered syntax—‘the boys was who the bullets entered’ instead of the much clearer ‘the bullets entered the boys.’ this twist isn’t just a trick to fit into a rhyme scheme (nas has plenty of internal rhyming here to spare, plus ‘sprinted’/‘entered’ isn’t even a great fit). looking at the next lines:
“two of ‘em pulled through, but one didn’t/ son’s finished”
it’s clear this was intentional, because now it’s unclear what “two” and “one” are referring to:
“pulled through” seems to imply “survived,” ie, two boys survived, and “one” was “finished,” ie, “one boy died.” so we put together that there were three boys, all of whom got shot, and one of whom died. BUT:
“pulled through” could have a literal meaning, ie, “two bullets pulled through [a body], and one bullet didn’t [pull through].” this interpretation is helped by the fact that “two of ‘em” refers more readily to the last noun in the previous sentence (“bullets”) rather than the noun at the front of it (“boys”).
the full picture for the second meaning plays off the first one— we’re focusing on the one boy who didn’t make it when two bullets passed cleanly through him and one didn’t.
Nas takes punning even further here by having the images themselves be visual puns as in a movie— we get a very cinematic sense of the chaos and moral ambiguity of street violence.
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