Dave Chappelle's hiatus has been evidently too long. So, him currently taking on a week-long stint at New York City's Radio City Music Hall — as a headliner for a series of stand-up sets and as an opener for a host of top-tier musicians — is a huge deal.
Last night (June 24), the first night of the series that included a musical guest, the comedian came out in a well-tailored dark suit. His attire was the only thing serious about his hour on stage, though. He opened by comparing his time out of the limelight after leaving his widely successful Comedy Central "Chappelle Show" to a man that's been in prison for years. He joked that when fans see him on the street nowadays and see he's added on muscle to his once thin frame they say, "Motherfucker, you got swoll'!" He also passively called his time off a "phenomenal decade of just loafing around."
Eventually he'd introduce the evening's performer, Nas. Chappelle cheerfully announced the handpicked rapper's booking during an appearance on "The Late Show With David Letterman." Nas, celebrating the 20th anniversary of his “Illmatic” debut album, performed with a 45-piece orchestra, making a set filled with gritty tales of New York City street life sound gorgeous.
Below, check out a time-stamped highlights of both Chappelle and Nas' time on stage.
8:49 pm EST – Chappelle calls V. Stiviano, the woman that secretly recorded conversations with former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, "a goddamn hero… The things we do to end discrimination." The crowd roars with laughter.
8:56 pm EST – Dave dips out of one racial controversy and into another—now locking in on once-beloved Southern sweetheart, chef Paula Deen. She lost her Food Network show after admitting to once using racial slurs. Dave tells the crowd that he called her after the controversy and asked if she would come be his personal chef. Apparently the unemployed Deen asked how much she'd be paid. His response: "Twice as much as unemployment."
9:12 pm EST - Chappelle says a gay friend of his recently got married in NYC. And before the nuptials were exchanged, he asked Dave for his expertise on marriage. The comedian told him that marriage is a "diabolical leverage game."
9:15 pm EST - Dave admits to eating his children's packed school lunches in the dead of the night, when he’s high off weed.
9:30 pm EST – Intermission.
10:05 pm EST – Chappelle reappears stage left and introduces Nas.
10:07 pm EST – Nas, wearing a red blazer, black slacks and matching sunglasses, opens with "Illmatic’s" "The World is Yours." The orchestra's strings make Nas' lyrics that much more menacing, but also gorgeous and lush.
10:12 pm EST - "For those of you that don't know," the rapper starts, "My name is Nas. Nice to meet you." After he charmingly introduces himself, he performs "Life's a Bitch."
10:25 pm EST – "I need some music with this shit," Nas tells the orchestra, before telling the audience a story. "Make it sound sexy." He explains how he'd write letters to friends upstate in prison years ago. Then the orchestra bends their light strokes to strengthened cries as "Represent" becomes the apparent track. Nas raps that he's the "type of ni--a that be pissing in ya elevator." The contrast of the vile line and the beautiful chords backing them is mesmerizing.
10:30 pm EST - "Human Nature" by Michael Jackson plays, as the orchestra is now done for the evening. Nas thanks the late King of Pop for clearing the sample used for his "It Ain't Hard to Tell,” segueing into the thoughtful song.
10:48 pm EST– Done with "Illmatic," Nas blazes through classic songs from the rest of his catalog. "Hate Me Now" drops. At this point, Nas is sweating through his blazer, often patting his neck and forehead with a black towel.
10:55 pm EST – Nas wraps up an awesome night with arguably his most poignant song: "One Mic."
11:00 pm EST - Chappelle steps back on stage with a bottle of champagne and two plastic cups. The show closes with Chappelle and Nas sharing a celebratory hug.