Live Review: Nas In London
Maybe it’s a testament to how spoilt we are, how blasé. Maybe it’s evidence that Londoners are increasingly hard to impress… But watching the legendary Nas on the o2 Arena stage last Tuesday (19th) didn’t completely take my breath away. The reason why is hard to pinpoint; in fact I’ve spent many an hour contemplating what exactly it was that left more to be desired...
His back catalogue of hits is supremely, undoubtedly impressive – was it that he merely skimmed past the majority of them? His enunciation is impeccable – was it his stage presence that was lacking? His legendary status more than affirmed by now – was it that he didn’t really seem to believe it?
That’s not to say a Kanye-esque style rant would have been in order, after all there is a middle. “I’m just so happy to be here,” he said, looking around the bustling o2 crowd, seeming a little overwhelmed, a little unsure of his prowess and that although yes, he should be grateful for his blessings, he should aspire to a lot more than that. That he had, in fact, earned a lot more than that.
Opening with an ode to his ex-wife Kelis – complete with the green wedding dress, before erupting into ‘The Don’ – arms in the crowd bowing in time to the beat, Nas strode up and down the stage, every word ringing as clear as a bell.
Tracks such as the likes of ‘Daughters’ and ‘You Can Hate Me Now’ proved highlights of the night, energy and passion erupting both from the artist, and from the crowd, as bursts of fire exploded on the pulpit.
Performing a multitude of cuts from his latest offering in-between snapshots of previous hits, Nas gave life to the Amy Winehouse assisted ‘Cherry Wine’ which was all the more compelling in her hometown.
This was followed by a video about the late, great artist’s foundation, which showcased Winehouse in her element. “Life is short, life is crazy, life is s**t, but life is still good,” he said, alluding to his most recent album, before vanishing from the stage only to re-emerge on an elevated platform mid-crowd.
Bringing the 1990’s back with a vengeance, Nas then performed snippets of hits the likes of ‘Oochie Wally’, One Mic’ and ‘Hip Hop Is Dead,’ sighs of approval emanating from the crowd with every offering.
So what was lacking? A better set-list, perhaps? One in which more time was afforded to the classics? Better stage presence? If you don’t believe you are a legend and worthy of the kind of praise people heap onto the likes of Jay-Z (not to further add fuel to the fire that is the Jay Z vs Nas debate) then why should others?
But it felt predominantly like a deficit of connection with the crowd that was lacking; a hip-hop legend unable to translate his prowess into a world of superstars and commercial marketing.
However, despite the possible lack of the assuring ego that accompanies many worldwide hip-hop stars, Nasir Jones’ collections of hits spoke for themselves – and that was something no one could argue with.
Words: Alya Mooro (@moorizZLA)