With a live band and a dj on hand, along with a huge video screen at the back of the stage with curtain length video screens on either side, the show begins with the first track from his 'Life Is Good' album, a scene setting piece entitled 'No Introduction'. The tone is perfect as we see Nas (with hat and coat on) sitting down on a chair holding a green wedding dress. The symbolism is not lost on the crowd who let out a loud united roar of recognition. As Nas stands up he rolls into the next track, 'Loco-Motive' (giving us a first hand glimpse into the flavour of New York's very busy 42nd Street bus terminal), by now the whole place is jumping. You can feel God's Son is taking control. The video screens really explode into bright, exciting, images (nothing bleak here) of New York City as Nas breaks into 'The Don', another hot cut from the latest album, a standout as this track superbly blends the NY hard core rap feel with Jamaican sounds, led by a killer sample by reggae artist Supercat, who can be heard singing "New York girl, dem a mad over we" over the tough rhythm.
From here Nas decides to take everybody back to the beginning, selecting classic cuts from his iconic 1994 debut set, 'Illmatic', sending a cheer of approval from all the b-boys in the house. Soon the O2 is rocking to 'NY State Of Mind', 'Life's A Bitch' and 'The World Is Yours'. All the while Nas prowls from one side of the stage to another delivering his lyrics in surefire fashion. This is in essence a masterclass for all the up and coming future hip hop artists. In plain simple fashion, this is how it's done. Every song tells a story and Nas' stance throughout the whole show is one of a soldier who is preaching love, tolerance and understanding, as well as pride and respect not only for yourself, but for others. In this era where the real strength and power of hip hop seems to be lost on materialistic bullshit, Nas stands as one of the few in the game not caught up in the game of chasing the money by any means, he still treats the art of rapping as an art form.
As he delivers his timeless classics his presence on the stage increases with the determination of a man on a mission. The hits roll out, including 'If I Ruled The World', a song he recorded with Lauryn Hill providing the chorus. Ms Hill was not needed tonight as the O2 audience took over quite nicely. Another standout performance was the track he recorded with Puffy, 'Hate Me Now', a song originally recorded around the time whispers were floating around the hip hop world that Nas had lost his touch. To answer his critics he spat the track out with a real venom, and it was with this same intensity he performed it to the crowd. A sweet ,touching moment (if there ever is one at a rap concert) was when Nas did 'Cherry Wine', another song from the latest album, this time featuring the late Amy Winehouse. It is no secret they were huge fans of each other, so much so he even appeared on her last album, 'The Lioness'. During 'Cherry' Nas showed clips of Amy on the big video screen and gave a big mention for The Amy Winehouse Foundation. Overall his interaction with the audience was strong and direct, not only rocking them with strong beats and lyrics to match, but it was felt he was trying to re-establish what this whole hip hop movement is all about. The timing couldn't be more appropriate as rap on the whole at the moment seems to have lost it's direction and purpose, seemingly doing anything just to make a dollar. Other stand out songs from the show included, 'One Mic' (with it's quiet build to an epic finale, this song must surely rank as one of the best rap records ever made), 'Made You Look', HBO's 'The Sopranos' theme hook line 'Got Myself A..' the nursery rhyme inspirational 'I Can','Halftime' (another classic from the first album), the much talked about 'Daughters' (rperformed with the video featuring his daughter shown behind him) and the Timbaland produced club favourite 'You Owe Me', this one really got the ladies dancing. He made special mention of his life going through several ups and downs before launching into 'Bye Baby' dedicated to his ex wife. Just one listen to this ode to this relationship that did not work shows how faithful Nas is to his art, putting it all out there for all to see. A brave soul indeed.So in closing it must be stated that Nasir Jones came to town and showed to all in the house that he can still spit those rhymes with intensity, strength and intelligence that first alerted everyone to this man's unique talent. Nas definitely ruled the world in South East London on that special night!