Date: 22nd May 2007. Venue: Hammersmith Apollo. In Attendance: Tes & Myself. Occasion: Nas.
Since I last saw Nas perform he appears to have found a lot of peace and tranquillity in his life both public and private, I was hopeful that the peace and unity would extend to this evening with no repeat of the gun play that shortened the show last time out.
With doors scheduled to open at 7 it is with a little anxiety that we approach the Apollo around 9, no need to worry, tonight is strictly hip-hop time. With the queue stretching round the corner and down the street it is obvious that things haven’t kicked off yet, word is Nas will be on at 9:30 but the queue is making good progress.
It is a warm, short sleeves kind of night in the capital and the police are dressed for the weather – they’ve got bare arms! If troubled history repeats itself tonight the police will be ready to bust back with their terror-fying arsenal…this does not make me feel safer. At least security are doing their job, it is a swift but thorough once over before entry.
Run up on stage and wreck the DJ…
Once inside we are packed in with Black, Latino and Anglo-Saxons whilst the DJ spins the waxes. All is well as we listen to classics made over a decade ago; the spirit of ’94 is running strong. Somehow the DJ screws things up by playing Jay-Z (some fans haven’t got the make up memo yet and start booing) and completely ruins the vibe by dropping some 50 “motherfucking, bitch-ass” Cent. What is more perplexing is that neither DJ nor hype man realise why everybody is now booing and pelting them with flyers and plastic cups! The show wasn’t a sell out and we reckon that they are holding out, trying to sell the last few tickets as time ticks on.
Never on schedule, but always on time…
“Hip-Hop is Dead, welcome to the funeral” with these words the smiling, Jordan sportin’, fat gold rope with chunky pharaoh head piece gleaming, Timbs on his feet make his cipher complete, N the A to the Nasty Nas kick starts the show.
A quick ‘Money Over Bullshit’ gets the raps rolling before we see what the crowd is made of early on with a boisterous rendition of ‘Hip-Hop Is Dead’. Then we are straight into Ether, except with love for Jay. Don’t get it twisted, it is still “fuck a bum wack rapper making his career out of dissing” – sharp words for 50, followed by ‘Black Republican’. Somehow this, definitely one of the biggest songs in recent history, seems to lack a bit of impact without its other star and performed early on in the show.
There is nothing more Illmatic than a full medley of Nas’ debut album, kicked stood up on a speaker high above the sea of waving hands.
The Lost Tapes might actually be my favourite Nas album so I am excited to hear ‘No Ideas Original’ start a string of underground hits mixed in with a cappella raps including ‘2nd Childhood’ and other Stillmatic joints and ‘I Gave You Power’ – “guns up. Not to hurt a brother but to protect each other”.
One of the classic sections of the show is the medley of ‘It Was Written’, ‘Street Dreams’ and ‘If I Ruled The World’ backed with wonderful singing by the crowd.
“If I ruled the world I would give everyone in here 40 billion pounds!”
Nas, you are not the Chancellor of the Exchequer! Still, it’s a nice sentiment, as is the idea of being handed “George Bush’s head on a fucking platter”. The next song is one of my favourites, I don’t even know the name of it but when the hook starts there is no mistaking it:
“I wanna talk to the May-or, to the Governor, to the motherfucking Congressmen!”
I want to talk to the mayor: Yo Ken, what’s up with the £2 bus fare these days?! People are getting taxed hard into signing up for the all seeing Oy’!
When I spit, you lose consciousness…
Firm favourites next with the Mob side of the MOB outlook complete with those flows so spookily reminiscent of Lex cooking ‘caine in the kitchen. Escobar season has returned, if you want to hate Nas now is a good time as he rolls out the still terrible ‘Owe You For Ice’.
‘I Can’ soon forgive God’s Son his sins when he gets down with ‘Get Down’ and I think I must be ‘Still Dreaming’ when the awesome ‘Nas Is Like…’ is rapped out in full.
With LES backing him on the decks this show really has been about one man and ‘One Mic’, from a seated Buddha position Nas performs this song until he jumps up with the crescendo of the verses and it is the crowning moment of the show.
“They shooting! Uh, made you look”…we’ve been treated to the gems from his rhyme book and on that bombshell, the show is over.
A great celebration of the life, the whole body of work was laid out in an open casket and even though he didn’t actually perform my current favourite there is no doubt that Nas Carried On Tradition. And hey, nobody came through to shoot up the funeral.