Nas, 02 Leeds Academy 06 July 2017
The King of Queens was back in the UK on tour, I headed up to Leeds to check out his show at the 02 Academy. Whilst waiting in queue there was ample opportunity to talk to other Nas fans, it was nice to see people had travelled from all over the UK — Liverpool, Huddersfield, Manchester, Birmingham and London to name a few, many of whom had come by themselves. All different races and ages, our love for hip hop had bought us together and it was a beautiful thing. I’m always amazed to meet fans who are under the age of 20 years old, I’ve been fortunate enough to have grow up listening to Nas and it’s nice to hear the new generation of listeners can also connect as deeply to his music as I do, it just shows how timeless his tracks really are. It makes me happy knowing younger listener s are researching and not missing out on the classics. We engaged in conversation about his discography and the current state of hip hop, the hours passed very quickly as we discussed our different interpretations of his rhymes. We all agreed on eagerly waiting his new album and wondered if would perform any new tracks tonight. Nethertheless, I knew those who were going to see Nas perform live for the first time were in for a treat!
Daniel Hills was the warm up DJ, and he was incredible scratching up tracks from the early 90’s, a lot of Lauryn Hill, Wu tang, Snoop and Dr Dre intertwined with current tracks from J Cole and Kendrick Lamar with a touch of UK Kano and Klashnekoff, this reflected the musical demography of the crowd perfectly. Then it was time for Nas to grace the stage, DJ Green Lantern stepped up to the decks and Nas came straight out to, ‘Get Down’ the crowd went wild. Nas needs no hypeman, he is always able to hold it down on his own, but a nice touch was Margis Miles on live drums but also melodic vocals, it was the perfect accompaniment. Sweet Dreams by the Eurythmics merged into ‘Street Dreams’ which was Nas’ take on it. It flowed perfectly.
I’ve been to several Nas shows but for me this one was special, Nas was feeling the energy of the crowd and really enjoying himself, smiling and dancing around the stage. He pointed at me and said he liked my shirt as I was rocking my ‘Nas – Illmatic’ sweatshirt, he’s always very engaging with his audience. Throughout the years Nas has always remained humble, you could tell he was happy to be there and appreciated his journey, and as fans we appreciated that. As per usual his performance was filled with positive affirmations, he told us, ‘no matter what, Life is good’. At one point he even pointed at me when he said, ‘we need to start a revolution’ I smiled, those are my sentiments exactly, did he read my mind!
As per usual Nas gave several tributes to artists whom have passed away, he has always been true to his musical and personal influences and gives respect where respect is due. These included, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse and Bob Marley. Following the recent death of Prodigy from Mobb Deep it was only natural for Nas to give tribute to his fellow fallen soldier from Queens, it was an emotional experience. Nas performed ‘Shook ones’ with images of Prodigy on the big screen behind him. The crowd were quick to recite the verses alongside and Nas let it ride out, he kept stating, ‘Prodigy’s incredible’ the respect and deep love for P was apparent in his voice, it was a heartfelt moment.
The lights dimmed and Nas took a seat in the spotlight on the stage, we knew what was coming next, ‘One Mic’ always an emotional experience, Nas never gives a monotonic performance as the tempo of the track speeds up with police sirens, he also gets up and puts more energy into it. The crowd hypes up!
Nas’ discography is so varied, he performs, ‘The Don’ asking us to jump up and down with him, we comply. My favorite part of the show was his performance of his verse from, ‘Affirmative Action’ I had never heard this live before, he took me right back to the days of The Firm. This was for all his oldskool fans. With live drums when the beat dropped it gave me straight chills.
We knew the end of the show was near once, he slowed things down with ‘Stay’. Not a track I would instantly go to listen to, but as he was performing it live, I was there in the moment with him to actually listen to how reflective it actually is, ‘some seek fame cos they need validation, some say hatred is confused admiration’, isn’t that the truth. He even pointed to my friend to finish off the second verse for him! Then he thanked us and left the stage, we wish he could have stayed. I left feeling hyped but also inspired.