Latin Grammys 2018

Nas Represents For Queens at Meadows Festival 2017

Taylor Hill/Getty Images for The Meadows Music & Arts Festival
Nas performs onstage during Day 3 at The Meadows Music & Arts Festival at Citi Field on Sept. 17, 2017 in New York City. 

Nas has always repped for his home borough of Queens throughout his career, and the Queensbridge warrior didn't disappoint during his main stage set at the Meadows Festival this year. Straight from the jump, he kicked things off with "New York State of Mind," making no mistake about where his head was on his return to NYC.

Three years ago, he toured on the 20th anniversary of his iconic debut, and for the first 15 minutes many in the crowd thought he'd run through the entirety of Illmatic as he then performed "Life's a Bitch" and "It's Yours."

"I go back to the cassette tape era!" he said to the crowd, many of whom probably wouldn't even remember the medium. "I'm glad you're here either way."

Nas then hit "Halftime" -- with the crowd again thinking he'd continue the Illmatic theme -- before deviating into "The Message" and "Street Dreams," beginning a run through his classic catalog. "If I Ruled the World" got those assembled dancing and singing along again.

"Here's my classical version of the show," Nas intoned from the stage, before cutting into "I Can," from God's Son, as the God MC ran through his catalog semi-sequentially. "Nas Is Like" bled into the forever-controversial "Hate Me Now," off 1999's I Am..., before he took a second to acknowledge a fallen fellow Queensbridge soldier.

"I wanna take a second to acknowledge Prodigy," Nas said of the Mobb Deep MC, who died suddenly this past June. "It's Mine," the Mobb Deep cut from 1999's Murda Muzik, was next, as he paid tribute to one of New York's finest. "I love y'all for that," Nas said at the end. "Rest in peace Prodigy."

After running through "Hip-Hop Is Dead," Nas revived the earlier Illmatic vibe with "Represent," "It Ain't Hard To Tell" and a great version of "Memory Lane," making fans think he might sandwich the set with the two halves of his debut. But he had much more than that to come, running through a strong rendition of "Got Urself a Gun" and, most poignantly, "One Mic."

Being in Queens, Nas went even deeper than Illmatic towards the end, dropping his career-breaking verse from Main Source's "Live At the Barbecue," a verse that is at this point cemented in hip-hop lore as the one that introduced a then-teenage MC to the world well before his debut announced him as one of the -- if not the -- greatest talents of his generation. 

As he ended his set with "Stay," off his last album, 2013's Life Is Good, Nas was joyful, just as energetic and dedicated to the history and nuance of his craft as he was when he was a kid back in Queensbridge. As a set, it was immaculate. Now the assembled fans will have to wait for the next one.