U.S. rapper Nas has London crowd spellbound with "Illmatic"

LONDON Mon Jul 21, 2014 9:23pm IST

File photograph shows Rapper Nas performing after the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival opening night screening of 'Time Is Illmatic' in New York April 16, 2014. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/Files

File photograph shows Rapper Nas performing after the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival opening night screening of 'Time Is Illmatic' in New York April 16, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton/Files

Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers ride their camels as they rehearse for the "Beating the Retreat" ceremony in New Delhi January 27, 2015. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

"Beating The Retreat" Rehearsals

Rehearsals are on for "Beating the Retreat" ceremony which symbolises retreat after a day on the battlefield, and marks the official end of the Republic Day celebrations.  Slideshow 

LONDON (Reuters) - Many in the crowd at the Lovebox Festival in London this weekend were not yet born when U.S. rapper Nas released his groundbreaking “Illmatic” two decades ago, but they seemed to know all the lines anyway.

The New York-born hip hop star took to the main stage as the sun began setting on Saturday in East London's Victoria Park, giving the performance as one of a series to celebrate the anniversary of his debut record, widely considered one of the greatest rap albums of all time.

"I never sleep, 'cause sleep is the cousin of death ... I think of crime when I'm in a New York state of mind," Nas rapped to the crowd through an unusually hot and humid London air.

Loved by hip hop purists who did not buy into some of the more commercial material in Nas's subsequent albums, "Illmatic" features some of the most celebrated lines in hip hop history.

As Nas performed his track "One Love", revellers mirrored the rapper by pointing their index fingers in the air, to his obvious delight.

"Half of you weren't even born when I made this album!" the 40-year-old rapper shouted to the crowd, who cheered back enthusiastically.

Daniel Fisher, a 16-year-old Londoner, went to the festival, which also featured British singer M.I.A. and goth-indie band The Horrors, especially to see the hip hop star.

"I love Nas – I've been listening to him since I was little," Fisher said. "It’s that sort of hip hop – that conscious type – that you don’t get so much of nowadays.

"I do appreciate party tracks but I just love Nas. Even though it's old, I still love it – I can relate to everything he says."

On Twitter, fans praised the rapper’s performance.

"Nas is killing #Lovebox right now" tweeted Melody Kane, a DJ for youth broadcaster SB.TV.

REPRESENTING QUEENSBRIDGE

Nas wore a T-shirt emblazoned with "Queensbridge North Houses" in tribute to the public housing project in New York i which he was brought up – the biggest such estate in the United States and which provided much of the inspiration for the album.

With "Illmatic", Nas portrayed a tough, bleak picture of life in the projects at a time when smooth R&B and party tracks dominated the charts. The album was released the same year as R&B hitmaker R Kelly’s smash "Bump n Grind" and West Coast rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg’s party anthem "Gin and Juice".

Nas's music served a different purpose: these were not songs to dance to, but words to hear. Rather than being driven by catchy beats, the production on "Illmatic" - slick but minimalist - allowed the lyrics to take centre-stage.

He was followed on the main stage by M.I.A., who put on an energetic performance but was left frustrated by technical issues and finished her set early, throwing her microphone on the ground as she exited the stage.

It was Nas who seemed to dominate the chat among the Hackney crowd as they drifted into the night.

"Look at the number of people that turned out for him," said 16-year-old Fisher. "Nas is a legend."

(Editing by Michael Roddy and Jeremy Gaunt)

Photo

After wave of QE, onus shifts to leaders to boost economy

DAVOS, Switzerland - Central banks have done their best to rescue the world economy by printing money and politicians must now act fast to enact structural reforms and pro-investment policies to boost growth, central bankers said on Saturday.

Reuters Showcase

ONGC Share Sale

ONGC Share Sale

ONGC share sale scheduled for this fiscal - oil minister  Full Article 

The Apple logo is pictured inside the newly opened Omotesando Apple store at a shopping district in Tokyo June 26, 2014. REUTERS/Yuya Shino/Files

Record Earnings

Apple iPhone sales trample expectations as profit sets global record  Full Article 

'Umrika' At Sundance

'Umrika' At Sundance

From Oscars to Sundance, Sharma and Revolori discuss India's 'Umrika'  Full Article 

Australian Open

Australian Open

Smooth Wawrinka, ill Serena through to Melbourne semis   Full Article 

India's Male Tenor

India's Male Tenor

India's lone male tenor aims to sing opera in local key  Full Article 

Japan Hostages

Japan Hostages

Mother of Japanese captive begs PM to save son held by Islamic State  Full Article 

Tripoli Attack

Tripoli Attack

Frenchman, American among those killed in Tripoli hotel attack - Libyan official.  Full Article 

U.S. Blizzard

U.S. Blizzard

Blizzard hits Boston and New England, spares New York despite forecasts.  Full Article 

Spying Row

Spying Row

Spying program leaked by Snowden is tied to campaign in many countries.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage