I would like to start this by saying Illmatic is the greatest hip hop album ever created. Yes, it is my favorite, but also the best. I'm not going out on a limb by saying it's the finest assemblage of 10 tracks making for the perfect listen. Even the worst track ("One Time For Your Mind") is dope. From the train tracks on "Genesis" to "It Ain't Hard to Tell", the ride comes full circle. Nas was blessed and cursed with this album as it immediately placed him among hip hop's elite, and created a standard that Nasty and his flashy and fly doppleganger Esco could never duplicate. Maybe these are just thoughts from a jaded hip hop fan, but it seems to have proven accurate over the 15 years that Nas has been making music. If we were looking at a line chart you would see the highest returns in 1994 and a steady decline there after. A couple of spikes heading north with Godson and Hip Hop is Dead (I haven't listened to his latest release in depth to give a fair assessment), but in total a disappointment after the initial jump from the gate. It was only after the sub par releases that "It Was Written" began to grow on people. This might cause some grumblings in the crowd, but I pay them no mind.
So Nas performed last Wednesday, August 27th. A free show in which I was lucky to get some last minute access. All wasn't sweet though. Upon entering the majestic Webster Hall, what do I see on the stage? Instruments. Fucking instruments. I hate live bands at hip hop shows. UNLESS YOU ARE THE ROOTS. And I've seen them numerous times so that doesn't do it for me. Hip hop albums are studio recordings off of tracks that used samples. Rarely were live instruments used in the recordings. I know that recently this has become more prominent, but when discussing pre 2000 albums and tracks, this was more or less non-existent. I like to hear the music live the same way I hear it on speakers in my house, car, bbq, club, etc. I had about an hour to stew over this before Nas hit the stage.
Aside from my thoughts on "Illmatic", I'm not the biggest Nas fan. Or am I? Story to follow shortly. If it hadn't been for the show I saw at Hammerstein on December 26 of last year I probably wouldn't have given this show much thought. As a bday gift I got a ticket to that show, and that shit gave me power, it made me buckwild. I shouldn't have dismissed half man half amazin' that easily. He ran through his entire set in 75 minutes and killeded it. Plus the kid was open off the contact and loving life. I needed that fix again. And it came.
This was a Samsung Summer Krush show where people had to email to get free tickets, thus catering to more non fans than fans. It was a very young crowd versed more on Hip Hop is Dead and Untitled than his earlier works. I was at the bar when he hit the stage and have no clue what he opened to. Hip Hop is Dead followed that and the crowd went nuts. The band did add to the energy on that track, though I've never been a huge. He played another joint or 2 and then asked the crowd if he could reminisce a bit. My pleasure fam. And those filthy N.Y. State of Mind drums hit and we were ready. It should be noted that my PNC was the Howfresheats commenter extraordinaire Buckemdown, who at one point would punch you in your eye if you dissed Nas- pre "I Am" that is. Like 2 little kids, we went in on some I don't know how to start this shit. If you were near us you either loved us or hated us. Armpits were in your grill or we stepped on your toes. Fuck it. That's how we dooos Larry. Following NYSM he ran through the entire "Illmatic" sans Genesis, One Time For Your Mind, and MUCH to my chagrin Memory Lane. Might be my favorite joint he ever did. I guess the crowd wasn't ready. He did it at the December show though. Don't underestimate these kids.
He then proceeded to run off his more popular/fan favorite joints including The Message, Street Dreams, Get Down, Nas Is Like, If I Ruled the World, Hate Me Now, One Mic, Got Yourself a Gun and some other tracks that must not have moved me. And you would never believe who had the sole cameo for the entire evening. We were lucky to witness history. QB legendary status here. Mythic proportions. Fuck it I'll tell you. Horse on his Oochie Wally-ness. The crowd must have thought it was Biggie the way they erupted. And then he went on to tell us he liked head. Thanks Horse, but who doesn't?
And then the show ended and the greatest moment of the evening occurred. These 2 girls that were next to me and endured the wrath of How for most of the show asked to take a picture with me. Kind of wrecked I think I was a dick to them. When asked why they responded with "You are the biggest Nas fan at the show." Wow. Was I being honored or fessed? To be clear I had to ask whether they meant dick rider or aficionado of fine tunes. They responded with the latter but by that time they hated my guts and bounced. Sorry ladies. Next time.
Photos were liberally borrowed from A Day In the Life Of. Good looks. The following videos were taken by Buckshot. Sound quality isn't the greatest but we were going too nuts to worry about that.
Made You Look
Ain't Hard To Tell