The audience was fairly still at the iHeartRadio Theatre Friday (August 24), but not for lack of interest. They were entranced, as Nas bobbed and weaved through 15-year-old flows when performing his extensive catalogue. Fans across the room watched in awe and pensively mouthed every word. "Y'all too quiet out there!" DJ Green Lantern soon chimed but the intimate theatre underpinned a longstanding fact in hip-hop: when Nas speaks, you listen.
Which is why his latest Billboard 200 No. 1 album, "Life is Good," has garnered so much acclaim. The Queens MC tells all on his 10th studio LP: musing on his ex-wife, singer Kelis, teenage daughter, immense inventory, and lengthy career. On stage, he sported the same positive veneer that defines "Life is Good." "That shit wasn't rap, that was real life," he mentioned between tracks, "and people love it. I still can't believe it. I still can't believe we even get to be here."
Nas was reserved as well, sifting through his catalogue at his own pace and letting the crowd fill in lyrics when needed. Donning a white tee and army green bucket hat, the performance felt more like a TV appearance than a concert as iHeartRadio and NYC Power 105.1 simulcasted the performance online. After running through a string of cuts from his indelible debut "Illmatic," recorded when he was barely out of his teens, Nas commented on the weight of the moment. "I was thinking about this the other day, how I started this when I was young, I grew up in this. Y'all grew up with me. We grew up in this together," he said. The tone of the night was set with an impromptu acapella cover of Public Enemy's "Bring the Noise," spurred along by audience members finishing every bar. When he spotted DJ Clue in the crowd, he staked his claim in the city's growing Hot 97 vs.Power 105.1 radio war when saying, "Shout to Clueminatti! The biggest DJ in New York, the realest DJ in New York!"
The performance also suggested a quieter yet just as legitimate accolade for the 38-year old MC: sex symbol. Women of all ages vibed out with "If I Ruled The World," his breakout duet with Lauryn Hill that further branded him as a dreamy, introspective guy from down the block; a thug with intelligence. As much as his latest singles "Daughters" and "Bye Baby" offer the rare male perspective on fatherhood and marriage, they are songs for women. It's no wonder Drake's sonic architect, Noah "40" Shebib, produced "Bye Baby" and took the air of a confessional on stage. "I sent her [Kelis] a text recently: 'Can we make love just one more time?'" he quipped, to blissful squeals from the ladies.
After closing with "One Mic," Nas hung by the stage signing autographs and taking photos. He didn't address the recent rumors that he used ghostwriters on past material, but few seemed pressed to ask. As fans rushed the stage to snag a piece of the him, life couldn't get better.