Better Than: The "Untitled" Album (and that album is pretty amazing).
Nas has been rocking the hip-hop crowd since 1992; that's saying a lot considering the game has been changing and he's managed to stay on top. In 1998, he joined Lauryn Hill in telling us how it would be if they ruled the world. In 2006, he informed us that hip-hop was dead - but it was far from it at the Warfield Friday night. A line of men in puff jackets and Timberland boots and ladies in their snazzy weekend wear streamed out into Market Street as they waited for their chance to see the man who stands for everything that's been real and that will stay real in the hip-hop game.
The high, black tables and dim lighting just seemed to get in the way of getting a better glimpse of Nas. The crowd, as expected, went crazy as soon as he walked onstage, giddy that they were actually getting to see him perform. Nas launched into hit after hit, and it almost felt like we were hearing a Nas greatest hits album live. Oldies but goodies were granted to all in attendance as well as the newish stuff off his album. And it was a treat to see Nas lash out against Fox News in his song "Sly Fox," telling the network they suck for the media hype that resulted in his album, "Nigger," being changed to "Untitled."
Diehards were definitely in the building. If Nas were to let the crowd have the mic for an entire song, there would be more than 500 other voices spitting the lyrics out for him. Local MC J Billion stood behind me, going at it nonstop with the lyrics, so deep into the message you could feel it. My eyes moved over the crowd, and everywhere I turned, heads were bopping to what he had to say, mouthes going, each fixated on Nas.
"One Mic" came on and the lighters flared up. His live band, Mulatto, kept up and jammed the whole night away. "Yes we caaann, change the woorldd," the chorus rang as he did his ode to Obama screaming to the crowd: "We did it! And though it seems heaven-sent, it IS OUR TIME to see a Black President!"
Nas told the crowd that night that he wanted to stay "in the middle." That he didn't want to get any bigger. That he wanted to stay with the people. Then he said he hoped everyone had a good Thanksgiving. "Straight from the hood of Queens, New York. My hood to your hood," he said. Then he bowed and exited stage right.
Personal Bias: I feel positively unworthy to touch a writeup on Nas. Looking at this now, I feel like rewriting the whole thing.
Random Detail: His live band, Mulatto, is definitely worth following.
By the Way: To the guy who dared to go up on stage and yell his own message into the mic while Nas was telling us his: I am so ashamed of you. I'm glad security literally threw you off stage.