I witnessed hip hop greatness last night. The Shredded Beats event was originally planned to bring Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) to Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom, but with a last minute cancellation, none other than the Don was immediately set to replace him. Both making and representing history as this hip hop legend was gracing the stage but also performing in an intimate venue, which is unheard of for Nas these days.
The entire evening celebrated the arts with the incredible Justin Bua live painting based on inspiration from the many stellar acts of the evening. Besides Nas, The Reminders gave an outstanding performance. For those who aren't familiar with this rapping married couple, they spread love, family, and friendship through their hip hop music. Aja Black raps and sings while her husband Big Samir spits in both English and French incorporating his Belgium roots. Aja had an unbelievable stage presence and performed hype dance moves while never missing a beat in her flow. Big Samir, slightly in the background, supported his wife every step of the way. Their music was positive and authentic and they were the perfect openers for the man who is the true essence of hip hop.
Nas took the stage just before 1am and I teared up immediately. Standing five feet away from me, rapping the very lines that made me first fall in love with hip hop, I could barely keep my composure. He started off with the many classic songs from his debut Illmatic. Beginning first with "N.Y. State of Mind" then into "Represent Represent," "Life's A Bitch" and my personal favorite "The World is Yours." Standing at forty years old, the fact that his records that he made at sixteen are still relevant only solidifies that he is the greatest there is. Nas spit knowledge between each track, explaining his gratitude for still being able to to perform and make quality music. Nas came up when the game was untouchable, but because of death, lack of inspiration or simply falling off, he is one of the only emcees still standing, still untouchable.
His set, filled with classics from every album he ever put out, showcased his true versatility as a lyricist and arguably raps greatest poet. The crowd was inspired and passionate about hip hop, holding up books of rhymes, old Nas cassette tapes and of course belting out every word to every song. The concert was surreal and even though this was my fourth time seeing Nasty Nas live, being so close, feeling his every word was an experience that can't be matched.
There are some artists you can see over and over again and experience something new every time. Their music is timeless. Nas holds that crown, back then and still today.