Under The Bridge, London
From Queensbridge to Stamford Bridge, Nas’ journey from North America’s largest housing project to tonight’s sell-out London show is one of hip hop’s greatest stories. So, who better to tell it than Nasty Nas himself? A rapper whose 1994 debut ‘Illmatic’ has arguably never been bettered for its unflinching depiction of New York street life.
Those grimy, hood classics have clearly not been forgotten, and it’s to the crowd’s delight that the likes of ‘New York State of Mind’, ‘Represent’ and ‘The Message’ all feature at the forefront of tonight’s performance. In fact, there are few noticeable omissions from the evening’s setlist, taking us back to his recorded debut on Main Source’s ‘Live at the Barbeque’ through to the mid-career highs of ‘Get Down’ and ‘One Mic’. Only the infamous Jay-Z diss ‘Ether’ is missing, and despite mischievous heckles from the audience, Nas merely produces a wry smile and insists – “Can’t do that song no more, sorry.”
This gig is more than just a trip down memory lane, though – it also serves as an intimate celebration of his superb new record ‘Life is Good’. “Pushing 40, she’s only 21 / Don’t applaud me, I’m exhausted G” he raps on the album’s intro, but make no mistake, this is Nas’ best material in a decade.
In the hands of a lesser artist the paternal reflection of ‘Daughters’ could provide a sentimental lull, but the rapper’s eloquent, purposeful delivery makes for a genuinely touching diversion. “Thanks for letting me have my father moment,” he tells the crowd almost apologetically, but his tone is unnecessary. Even if the subject matter has changed, Nas remains a master storyteller, and as long as he’s around to keep telling them, there’ll be a crowd of people hanging on to his every word.