Nas' longtime legacy is basically synonymous with the city of New York and his lovefest for his stomping grounds couldn't have been more apparent during his intimate concert on Thursday night (July 26). Courtesy of iHeartRadio LIVE and Verizon, the MC took over the PlayStation Theater for a triumphant 45-minute set in the heart of Manhattan and it was clear the audience was just as happy to see the rapper as he was to see them.
In a white jersey, shorts, and shades to match, the Queens native kicked off the show with a warm welcome from Power 105.1's Angie Martinez. But setting up for an energetic crowd with minimal production and an accompanying DJ and drummer backup on a Thursday evening left no time to waste for Nasty Nas, who hit the stage just minutes after Martinez. For his opening number, the hip-hop veteran selected "Not For Radio," a gritty political-charged track that opens his new album, NASIR, and highlights his social and financial battles against the industry. It might sound like bold song selection, particularly for a night like this, but with almost three decades in the game, we should already know of Nas' agenda to share powerful opinions.
Attendees were reminded of that very legacy as the show continued on with hits like "The World Is Yours," "N.Y. State of Mind" and "If I Ruled The World." Lauryn Hill was not at the show to carry her part of the hook, but his homecoming had the crowd finishing speedy bars, chanting hooks and roaring for the lyricist, and he deserved every second of the city's embrace. After all, we can't forget this is the man who once went head-to-head with JAY-Z for the title of King of New York — and won. Among that loyalty in the crowd included a special appearance from fellow rapper Dave East, a signee to Nas' label Mass Appeal Records. Elsewhere in the set, the rapper brought the show up to speed with tracks like "Adam and Eve" and "Cops Shot The World," both of which appear on his new Kanye West-produced LP.
"This is a once and a lifetime kind of thing," the 44-year-old hip-hop vet explained to the crowd of working limit-free with West on his new album. "For years, we been talking about doing it. This has been a conversation for a couple of years."
For his finale, Nas slowed down the pace and turned his attention to "One Mic," his 2002 catalog classic that seemingly still rings a bell with him years down the line. "All I need is one life, one try, one breath, I'm one man/ What I stand for speaks for itself, they don't understand, don't wanna see me on top, too egotistical," he spit on the third verse of the cut. He might be a different man with different prioritize, but the lessons in Nas 101 still remain the same: strong messages, even stronger delivery. And 24 years since the release of his monumental debut, Illmatic, he remains just as grateful (and almost stunned) at all he's accomplished. "Certain times [I'm], like, 'How did I not hit that wall?' 'How did I not do this?'" he told Martinez in reference to his belief in fate. "Someone was there."
Photo: Rachel Kaplan for iHeartRadio