Live Review: Nas - The Roxy - Los Angeles - CA
Mon, 21 Jul 2008 16:52:51
Fans were lined up at 10AM last Friday outside the Roxy to see NYC rap legend Nas at a free MySpace sponsored show that night. The performance was meant as a buzz-building thank you card to his diehard fans in preparation for his upcoming tour. Having sent his controversy baiting new album, Untitled, to number one on the charts, these fans deserved a little love, and Escobar gave it to them in spades.
The Roxy is an intimate venue for an artist of his stature, and everyone in attendance realized this was a special opportunity that they should appreciate accordingly. The audience erupted as soon as the curtain went up revealing the rapper and his backing band. Instantly energized by the electricity in the air, Nas dove headfirst into a set stuffed to the brim with classics from his impressive catalogue and spiced up with some of the more thought-provoking numbers from his new album. Aided only slightly by a DJ, the band—complete with trumpeter—did a knockout job recreating the music from his songs and even managed to make some sound more impressive through funky solos and well-timed vamps. "Hip Hop Is Dead," with its "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" sample, seemed almost custom built for this rockier treatment and the rapper spit the song's lyrics with an intensity befitting its sharpened metal edge. Following it up with a soulful version of new song "Breath," he turned to the crowd and asked, "Should I take it back?" The crowd's screams gave him his answer, and he proceeded to drop a medley of throwback hits including "N.Y. State of Mind," "Life's a Bitch" and "Street Dreams."
Nas' recently increased politicism was prominently on display throughout the evening, adding a prickly new dimension to his bravado. Unafraid to snap at the hand that feeds him, he took direct aim at Fox News with the song "Sly Fox," even while acknowledging that Rupert Murdoch's News Corp was the sponsor of the night's show through its ownership of MySpace. He led the crowd in a rousing cheer of "Fuck Fox" before starting the song, though he did prove himself an equal-opportunity dissenter, throwing in a "Fuck the New Yorker and the L.A. Times too." He also let his feelings about Jesse Jackson and the old guard of civil rights leader be known, saying that this is "our time" and bringing out a backup singer donning a Barack Obama t-shirt for the song "Black President." Whether his message of political empowerment gets lost beneath the incendiary nature of his lyrics on these new songs is a question that's up for debate, but there's no denying his passion when it comes to having these issues raised. Nas displayed the chops of a seasoned performer and the intelligence of an informed rebel at the Roxy, as he left the crowd with something to talk about regardless of whether they simply heard the music or they were actually listening.