Artist: NasTitle: Hip-Hop Is Dead (Concert Review)Rating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Paine
On March 31, Nas cracked off his Hip-Hop is Dead Tour in The University of Pittsburgh’s packed Field House arena. MTV cameras combed the crowd throughout, adding more excitement to one of Nas’ most elaborate stage shows in his 15 year career. Though there were a few first-show fumbles, Nas’ improvisations and overt dedication is hard to match from any MC in the ’90s and beyond.
The show was opened by 19 year-old Pittsburgh MC Wiz Khalifa. Encouraged by a responsive crowd, Wiz’s 40 minute set included three female rumpshakers, a slow-but-lethal accapella freestyle, and a dynamic DJ who dutifully followed the rapper’s lead. The rapper used his foothold as the first nationally-known Pittsburgh rapper since Sam Sneed to premier several songs while garnering large reactions for “Damn Thing,” “Crazy Since the ’80s” and early mixtape hit “Thrown.”
As Wiz left the stage proclaiming himself the prince of his city, Nas soon entered, arguably wearing Hip-Hop’s crown of the moment. Performing “Hip-Hop is Dead” within the first three minutes, Nas got right to business. Following the charged delivery, Nas and DJ L.E.S. educated some and refreshed others on hits from Special Ed, Eric B. & Rakim, and Gang Starr. Afterwards, Nas broke into an endless medley of one and two verses from a dozen songs, covering all of his albums. This included surprising choices like “No Idea’s Original” and the criticized “Oochie Wally.” At several points, Nas forgot words to songs, and instead of apologizing to the crowd, just laughed “if you don’t like it then f**k you.” Performing nearly 20 songs in total, that’s forgivable. Moreover, the dramatic performance of “One Mic,” which dropped Nas to his knees reminded the crowd that this MC earns his fees.
At the show’s climax, Nas fielded requests from the crowd. The Pitt students demanded “Ether,” leading Nas to look at L.E.S. (behind a coffin-shaped DJ booth) and hang his head before sighing, “f**k it” and beginning. An astonished crowd screamed, but Nas cut short after repeating the chorus several times, an act he’d commit again later with “Last Real N***a Alive.” The Queensbridge MC closed his hour-long set with a song fitting for his tour: “Live at the BBQ.” The largely teenage crowd hid the fact that they were in diapers when the song dropped, and after thanking Main Source, the icon left the stage. Nasir Jones entered wearing a thick gold rope, changed to a shimmering diamond and platinum piece, and left the stage with a simple keepsake around his neck-symbolic of the direction Nas has taken with his career