“To be royal is to be tested and to be tried and to be proven, and if you’re here tonight and you’re a Mary J. Blige and Nas fan, you have been tested, you have been tried and you have been proven,” Blige told the audience filling the sold-out Hollywood Bowl on Tuesday night for the last stop of her and Nas’ The Royalty Tour.
It was a night dedicated to the most “die-hard, been there since 1991” fans of each performer, echoed by Blige’s many thanks. The New York natives put out two albums in 1994 that changed the hip-hop and R&B game forever. My Life by Blige crowned the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart that year and reigned as the R&B/Hip-Hop Album of the Year at the 1995 Billboard Music Awards, revealing the raw narrative of her struggle with drugs, alcohol and an abusive relationship.
For Nas, his Illmatic record characterized an emblematic time for the young MC, whose inward poetic perspective of the inner-city life -- drug addiction, poverty, gang warfare -- in his native Queensbridge, N.Y., alongside its multi-layered production embedded itself as a milestone in East Coast hip-hop. Illmatic peaked at No. 2 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart within the same year of My Life, marking the two rookies as leaders of a new generation.