Stepping onto the stage, hip hop godfather Nas was greeted by the enthusiastic, sweltering crowd packed into the HMV Picture House. Wrapped in a jumper promoting his unreleased album Life Is Good, the rapper opened with a raucous rendition of ‘Hip Hop Is Dead’, the track brought to life by the live band accompanying the MC in an attention grabbing opening gambit.
“Lets go back to where it all started,” he then proclaimed, launching into a medley of tracks from classic debut album Illmatic and tipping the crowd into a frenzy. ‘N.Y. State Of Mind’, ‘Life’s a Bitch’ and ‘It ‘Aint Hard To Tell’ were all given an airing. Nas is admired for his complex lyricism over a multitude of projects, so it was perhaps inevitable that the MC would fluff his lines at some point. A slippage occurred during ‘The World Is Yours’, the rapper briefly forgetting his words in a delivery that was otherwise technically flawless.
The song selection ranged widely over Nas’ decorated career. Popular singles ‘Hate Me Now’, ‘Get Down’ and ‘If I Ruled the World’ were brought to life with gusto, tracks linking seamlessly in a breathless performance. Guitar and rapper were merged to strong effect on Fox News baiting ‘Sly Fox’, while the tempo was mercifully slowed by the bluesy ‘Bridging the Gap’, a collaboration with his father Olu Dara.
The aforementioned forthcoming Life Is Good featured heavily on the set list. The reflective ‘Daughters’ was contrasted with the freewheeling ‘Nasty’, in which the rapper demonstrated exactly why he is considered one of the most talented MC’s to ever pic up the mic. New single ‘The Don’ rose the atmosphere to a crescendo, a rousing way to end the show.
75 minutes after he first appeared, the Queensbridge native left the stage. Though there was no encore, the crowd were left satisfied by a breathless, honest performance from a true hip hop legend.
With 6 million dollars worth of backdated taxes to pay, it’s fair to say Nas will be doing many more tours and adding to the discography that already stretches into double figures (including collaborative projects, upcoming LP Life Is Good will be his 12th official release) for some time to come. On this evidence, he will always be welcome back.