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N.y State of Mind, a Song by Nas: a Look at The Use and History of Literary Devices

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N.y State of Mind, a Song by Nas: a Look at The Use and History of Literary Devices essay

Nas (Nasir Jones) is a typical model among all the educational singers. Nas is a rapper whose music and public discourse can help white adolescents disrupt America’s dominant ideology of race. Nas has specifically used his music as a platform to challenge color-blindness and America‟s racial politics. Even though it was released in 1994 Nas’ Illmatic is still considered one of the best and most influential hip hop albums of all time. The opening track off his debut album, NY State of Mind, is one of the most intricate songs ever recorded, every single word was chosen for a reason. I admire Nas because he came up from a child growing up in the ghettos of New York, to becoming a hip hop legend. I enjoy many of Nas’ songs, as I like his views and his flow, but I chose to analyze NY State of Mind because of the history behind it, the legacy that it has left on hip hop, and the complex lyrics that it contains. NY State of Mind is one of the deepest songs that I listen to consistently.

In NY State of Mind, Nas uses his imagery skills to paint a picture of his city. Using this imagery, he shows us the struggles of living in an urban area, struck by violence and poverty, in this case, Queensbridge. Nas highlights the increasingly dangerous streets he lives in, saying that anybody “without guns are goners”. After Nas gives his firsthand account of living in Queens, we can begin understand the deeper meaning to this song. In NY State of Mind, Nas represents a critical view of New York. Nas does not agree with the ‘thug lifestyle’ that has become so popular in his hometown. As Nas states, New York “ain’t the same” and he must have a ‘New York state of mind’ or one to be extremely aware and cautious of the impending danger that exists all around him.

Many literary devices are used in NY State of Mind. Nas repeats several times throughout the song “I never sleep, because sleep is the cousin of death”. This is a metaphor. Nas does not mean that he literally never sleeps, but rather that he is always alert so that he will not be an easy target for being robbed or killed. Another literary device Nas uses in NY State of Mind is symbolism. When Nas rap “bullet holes left in my peepholes”, he is using the bullet holes as a symbol for the constant danger, even for innocent bystanders in his neighborhood. Nas uses personification to better explain his city when he says “this city never sleeps”. He gives the city of New York the human characteristic of sleeping. Nas uses a simile in the second verse when he says that they are” held like hostages”. He compares him and his friends being arrested by the police to hostages. The last literary device Nas used comes towards the ending of the song when he alludes to Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal in the line “the smooth criminal on beat breaks”.

NY State of Mind is a very deep song with a lot of history, and a lot of literary devices. It is no wonder why it has become an anthem for people living in the ghettos of New York, as well as the benchmark for other hip hop songs.

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N.Y State of Mind, a Song by Nas: A look at the Use and History of Literary Devices. (2021, December 16). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 4, 2022, from
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