Wednesday night’s Nas concert at the Pageant was well worth the wait -- the show’s date had been pushed back twice -- as “God’s Son” himself performed before an anxious crowd. Not only did fans have a chance to get familiar with his latest album Untitled (which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts on July 15), but the rescheduled concert added Talib Kweli to the lineup.
The opening act was Jay Electronica, a newcomer from New Orleans who also produced the Untitled track “Queens Get the Money.” Hailing from the Magnolia housing projects (of Cash Money Records fame), Jay lit up the stage with his style of politically and socially relevant lyrics that are atypical of what has become the norm among rappers from the South. He performed roughly half of his set a capella, choosing to direct the focus on his lyrics rather than the music, but his backing tracks didn’t sound bad either. His set was relatively short, but it was long enough to make an impression.
Although he’s still often regarded as an "underground’ artist," Kweli had plenty of crowd favorites to perform as he brought the audience to its feet. Going back as far as 2000’s “The Blast,” Kweli played a mix of his older material (including songs he recorded with Mos Def as Black Star) and newer cuts off his most recent album Ear Drum. The Brooklyn veteran hit most of his better-known songs such as “I Try” (featuring Mary J. Blige) and “Hot Thing” (featuring Will.I.Am), and the house exploded when he closed out with his 2002 anthem “Get By.”
After a twenty-minute intermission, DJ Green Lantern stood behind the turntables and introduced Nas to the crowd. St. Louisians showed their love, as Nas proceeded to hit fans with a catalog of classics so extensive that he left no question as to why he’s revered as a living legend in the hip-hop community. Many recited every word while Nas ran through hit after hit, including “The World is Yours,” “One Mic,” and “Made You Look.” Tracks like “Hero” and “Breathe” off the new album received a warm response as well.
Even though I didn’t hear a couple of my personal favorites from The Lost Tapes, the set list left little room for complaint. I did find it interesting that none of the performers opted to use a hype man, with the exception of the Bravehearts joining Nas for “Oochie Wally.”
-- Calvin Cox
Nas, “If I ruled the World"