How about Nasty Nas just slaying faces at Coachella busting out Illmatic in its entirety to celebrate its 20th anniversary. How pumped must the crowd have been to hear that little drum intro. “Chill chill, that’s the shit dawg. chill”. A lot of epic things about this set. Noticeable was the omission of “I don’t know how to start this shit” at the beginning of “N.Y State of Mind”, probably because 20 years later, he did know how to start this shit. Do we even need to go into how great Illmatic is as an album? Can’t we just talk about the set? We can? Ok great.
Starting with “N.Y State of Mind”, Nas kicks off the set flawlessly. The crowd chimes in for “sleep is the cousin of death” and “if your shit eats tapes” among other interludes. They are obviously Nas fans and it shows. A nice little change is in the last chorus he says “an L.A state of mind”, a big step for the reigning king of Brooklyn.
Going into “Life’s a Bitch”, this is probably the part when the crowd realizes he is about to play Illmatic in its entirety. Great song, love the beat, love how they didn’t try and bring in a band to cheapen it, but rather stuck with a DJ and kept with the old school sound. Serious lack of AZ, which without his verses shortens the song to about a minute.
He continues to cycle through the rest of the album seamlessly. “The World is Yours” is up next, but wait. There’s someone else rapping with him on the line “I’m out for presidents to represent me”. And then the beat changes, and the beat to “Dead Presidents II” comes in, and BAM, Young HOV! The two rappers who formerly had intense beef have thrown it aside and are onstage together performing debatably Jay-Z’s best track from his 1996 album Reasonable Doubt.
There are some niceties, and eventually Jay-Z dips and the Illmatic show continues. Next is “Halftime”, great song. The beat was initially offered to Busta Rhymes, who apparently didn’t know what to do with it, and later expressed regret after hearing how Nas ascended it to greatness.
I rap for listeners, blunt heads, fly ladies and prisoners. “Memory Lane” comes next, which is especially relevant to Nas’s performance as the entire concert is a reminiscence. Then the heavy hitting “One Time for Your Mind”, maybe my least favourite song on the album, what does that mean? Nothing, the rest of the album is just that good. Next is “One Love”, which is based off of a series of letters Nas wrote to his friends in prison. He even pours one out before the song starts. All that’s on stage is him, his DJ, and a giant bottle of liquor. The entire set is carried by his rapping alone. Next is “Represent”, where once again the crowd interacts and adds energy to the already live performance.
Last on the album is “It Ain’t Hard to Tell”, sampled from MJ’s “Human Nature”, where Nas appropriately pays homage to his fallen homie. I am a massive Michael Jackson fan, so it was nice to see Nas give the actual song a lot of airtime before its transition into the beat.
And that’s it. Did Nasty do it again or did he do it again? 9 songs, 39 minutes. Great performance, even better album, I am very jealous of everyone who was at Coachella for this set.