CONCERT REVIEW: Nas, Trey Songz Headline BMI ATL Showcase

Last week, U.S. performing rights organization BMI (Broadcast Music, Incorporated) returned to Atlanta for their 12th Urban Music Showcase. Annually, the organization mixes up and coming artists with established stars. The 2008 event featured headliners Lil Wayne, Sean Garrett, and Teyana Taylor. This year, BMI brought together a unique combination of Nas, Trey Songz, and newcomer Novel.After a climate of disarray that colored last year’s showcase at Luckie Lounge show, organizers gambled with moving the show to Club Esso’s, notable for recently hosting the coming home party for Gucci Mane. The decision proved to be a double edged sword, as club and BMI officials clashed over the venue’s high security requirements. Even rain poured down, security was slow in letting waiting fans through and allowing artists to work the red carpet.Thankfully things improved once everyone was inside the venue. With Miami’s DJ Khaled handling hosting duties, the event brought together an eclectic mix of urban music’s past and present. In just mingling through the crowd, one could run into Diamond D, A+, Jimmy “Henchmen” Rosemond, Lil Jon, Gravy, and Byron Michael Cox.Songwriter turned solo artist Novel kicked off the headline show with a short, albeit effective 3-song set. While many were unfamiliar with the young star, he was able to win people over with the feel-good vibe of the Hip-Hop self-determination anthem “I Am.” Illuminating his vocal skills, Novel went on to perform the humorous by truthful relationship track “F**k With My Mind, “ and an inspired rendition of Prince’s “Purple Rain” that had many singing in unison.Trey Songz’ brisk set had the ladies swooning, as the young R&B crooner focused on his singles catalogue, such as “I Need a Girl,” “Can’t Help But Wait,” and “Last Time.” On the later, Songz utilized an extended refrain to emphasize the song’s details on the conflicted emotions of ending an elicit affair. Despite the sound system occasionally drowning out his voice with the overabundance of bass, Songz’ voice was clear during the majority of his set and sufficiently warmed up the crowd’s energy as the concert moved past the midnight hour.Headliner Nas hit the stage flanked with a full-fledged band named Mulatto. From the first song, “Hero,” Nas ran into issues as the venue’s bass system was way too high to properly compensate a live band. The misstep pretty much drowned out all the melodies and lyrics to the song, prompting the Queens legend to abruptly cut the track and curtly ask the soundmen if they were ready to get started.Once realizing that the sound problems could only nominally be corrected, Nas showed his professionalism and continued the show. The Tri-State area contingent happily sung along to the 10-minute Illmatic sequence that featured Nas performing “NY State of Mind, “The World Is Yours,” “Life’s a Bitch,” “One Love” and “It Ain’t Hard To Tell.” While the bass issue regularly reared its ugly head throughout these classics, they’re so much a part of Hip-Hop history that fans ignored it and easily sung along word for word.Wisely ignoring maligned hits like “You Owe Me,” Nasir went through his other signatures songs such as “The Message,” “Hate Me Now,” “I Can,” and “Made You Look.” For hardcore followers of Nas’ catalogue, fans were treated to rare live renditions of the “Stillmatic Intro” and “I Want to Talk to You.”Nas closed his perfectly with “One Mic.” The heavy guitar riffs of Mulatto accentuated the song’s quick descents from low-key melodies and crashing dissonance. Nas was caught up in the intoxication of the live sounds, and could be seen zoning out during the performance as the music enveloped him.While the annual BMI Showcase is still plagued by bad time management and venue coordination, the headline artist performances made these issues worthwhile to brave through.

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