This is with reference to William Rhoden’s 2006 book, “Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete”.
Nas introduces the listener to capitalism and its unequal creation and distribution of wealth.
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The imagery of respiration takes on a politico-economic concern when one seeks to address the existential angst of living in the ghetto.
As an MC, Nas is conveying not only the necessary breath control needed for rapping but also the breath control needed to surmount his local limit-situations.
Labeling weed as “buddha” is meant to indicate illumination (bodhi) from smoking it.
Nas recognizes the truth of the Sanskrit statement, Tat Tvam Asi, meaning, Thou art That.
Nas affirms the goddess as supportive of all life, including man’s.
Nas affirms the life emergent in death theme that is indicative of lunar consciousness
The appropriation of the Delfonics hook is meant to convey an eschatological mood, where Nas' walk to the “sun” could also be interpreted as a walk to the “son”, a reference to the second coming of Jesus Christ in Christianity that is indicative of the end of the world.
This is also reminiscent of the cover illustration of “The People can Fly” book by Virginia Hamilton where African-Americans- old, young, men, women- are seen ascending in the sky to an unrevealed destination.
Nas uses the Attica Correctional Facility in Attica, NY to address prison conditions and prisoner rights, echoing George Jackson’s call for prison reform. This may also be a reference to the Attica Prison Riots in 1971.
Sending the prisoners to Africa is meant to be a corrective to institutional racism embedded in the prisons and a call for repatriation. Nas is aligning himself with Black leaders who see Africa as the final destination of all Black people- Malik Shabazz, W.E.B. BuBois, and Marcus Garvey
Nas demonstrates here a theological strain from the Nation of Islam, vis a vis, the Five Percent Nation of Gods and Earths.
The appropriation of Curtis Blow’s chorus strikingly mirrors Point #8 of The Black Panther Party’s Ten-Point Program- “We Want Freedom For All Black Men
Held In Federal, State, County And City Prisons And Jails.”
The simile of the “old owl” could also be a reference to Athena, the Greek goddess of Wisdom and War. As the owl is a nocturnal bird, Nas intends to convey a knowledge that surpasses the illusions of solar consciousness to an affirmation of transcendent knowledge.