When most people think about what "lyrical" means, this is what they envision: Nas packing bars into notebooks, words unwinding with boxy precision, deeply serious tales of Nas' dalliances with the streets and Ross' kingpin fantasies. It wasn't Nas' deftest stanza; as he's developed as a writer, the his lines have taken on a less naturalistic flow, thus Yoda-esque quips like "mentally sex-crazed, dysfunctional, they describe us." Nas has always been more of a writer interested in the technical aspects of his work than a naturalistic conversationalist. So dense syllables and twisting wordplay have long-defined the rapper's style.

"Triple Beam Dreams" was well known subject matter for anyone familiar with Nas' work or hip-hop more broadly; it's a tribute to the artfulness of his rococo lyrical stylings that the rapper is able to express the ideas in a new way. It was especially powerful, though, because, rather than writing about the dreams themselves, Nas wrote from a detached perspective about the truth: How he becomes infatuated with those dreams, and the huge gulf between Scarface fantasies and his own modest, unsuccessful drug dealing reality. —David Drake