Hip hop as a culture and music genre has evolved drastically over the past 20 years. While it’s always been controversial, and remains so, it’s realness and poetic nature is something that has become shaky over the years, with the desire to tell the MC’s truth overshadowed by the desire for a dollar. But thankfully, there are artists who bring stability and strength to hip hop, simultaneously taking it back while propelling it forward. One such MC is the iconic Nas, who hit Sydney’s Enmore Theatre on Thursday 22nd January as part of the Nas Performs Illmatic tour.
Nasty Nas took to the stage accompanied only by DJ Green Lantern. The sparseness of the stage was juxtaposed with the at-capacity crowd and their palpable energy, which bordered on frenetic as the Queens MC launched into his 1994 debut. As projected visuals played on the screen behind him, Nas let the audience know what hip hop was and is; a glimpse at a reality, a life and a time.
Through out the performance it became apparent to this people watcher that Nas’ story, his reality, is something many of the Sydney audience will probably never experience or know truly. But that was irrelevant as Nas’ always tight flow and expressive lyrics meant that the connection was made in person as it was on vinyl, cassette, CD or download. Nas drew you into his story, owning the stage as he painted a picture so vivid that you felt deeply what he was reflecting on, whether it was the complexities of life for a young black man in ’90s Queensbridge, New York (‘N.Y State Of Mind’) or the painful distance felt of friends incarcerated (‘One Love’).
Nas kept the show fast paced and raw, touching only briefly on stories of cassettes and Michael Jackson between tracks before coming to the conclusion of the album. It was then that he gave Sydney-siders a treat in the shape of a recap of some of his biggest hits to date. From ‘If I Ruled The World (Imagine That)’ to ‘I Can’ and ‘One Mic’, Nas sparked a fire in Sydney. He took hip hop lovers on a journey and reminded why he is a timeless, dynamic figure in hip hop, what it is to truly be a thought provoking lyricist and how an intriguing verse over the perfect beat can still inspire 20 years after it came to be.