Chicago, IL – This past Sunday, DJBooth.net was granted an all-access pass to the Chicago House of Blues for the second to last stop on Nas’s summer-long tour, otherwise dubbed as “The Jones Experience.”
For the legendary emcee, the cross-country trek has provided an opportunity to showcase material from his latest release, Untitled. Unlike live stage performances by many of his industry brethren, which include an overabundance of hype-men, scantily-clad women surrounding the stage, and momentum-killing set changes, the Queens native is all about intimacy. According to concertgoer Rasul Bey, 38, of Maryville, Indiana, “Nas plays [a venue like] the House of Blues because he wants to speak to us. That is the difference between him and most rappers.”
Emerging from a cloud of heavy smoke thanks to a hefty blunt he enjoyed on the elevator ride from his top-floor dressing room, Nas stood high, confident and ready to go. Side-by-side with the man of the hour, I leaned toward him and said, “have a great show.” He replied with a smile, extended his right arm to give me dap, and after cocking his fitted Mets hat to the side slowly made his way onto the stage.
Immediately, the most noticeable distinction between Nas and “most rappers” was on display: the size of his musical catalog. Performing selections from all nine of his studio releases, he began the show by getting the crowd moving with newer records like "N.I.G.G.E.R. (The Slave and the Master)," the politically-motivated “Sly Fox,” and “Hip-Hop Is Dead.”
As the sold-out venue began to chant in unison, “Hip-Hop is Dead! Hip-Hop Is Dead!” the man of the hour instructed his deejay, the recently-featured Green Lantern, to cut off the record. Speaking with a balanced amount of enthusiasm and sincerity, Nas asked “Can I go back in the day?” The crowd happily obliged.
Returning to his debut album, Illmatic Nasty Nas performed partial renditions of “It Ain’t Hard to Tell,” “New York State of Mind,” “The World Is Yours,” and “Life’s A B*tch.” A Lauryn Hill-less version of “If I Ruled The World,” and “Street Dreams” (both from the album It Was Written) were amongst the most well-received.
Nas's tour, which began in Chicago on July 19 –the first show date of 2008’s Rock The Bells Tour– will come to an end this Saturday in Quincy, Washington, at the Gorge Amphitheatre. Thankfully for his many fans and the future of hip hop music, the industry veteran's fourteen-plus-year career does not have an end date in sight.
Click on any of the images below.
(L) Nas approaches the crowd, (R) Nas feels the energy
(L) Nas counts down, (R) Talib Kweli rocks the stage
(L) Talib Kweli reach out to fans, (R) Kweli rocks out in new kicks