Roskilde 2017: Beyond Illimatic – Nas gives festival a lesson in hip-hop

6 out of 6 stars. Original article written for The Copenhagen Post, available here.

 

Nasir Bin Olu Dara aka Nas at his illimatic best (photo villunderlondon / Zoe Klinck

Nasir Bin Olu Dara aka Nas at his illimatic best (photo villunderlondon / Zoe Klinck)

Following the cancellation of hip-hop heavyweights A Tribe Called Quest ahead of this year’s Roskilde’s Festival, the honour of flying old school rap’s flag high and dry fell, rather unanimously, on the broad shoulders of New York rapper Nas.The last name to guest Roskilde’s emblematic Orange Stage on Thursday night, Nas’s show was tainted slightly by the pouring rain which, flowing steadily since the performance of British band The xx earlier in the evening, had sent one or two festival-goers to the shelter of their tents.

The king of Queens

Nas is not a man who is easily swayed, however. With an air of natural nonchalance that many of today’s hip-hop greats don’t quite have, Nasir Bin Olu Dara Jones rolled calmly onto the stage sporting a pair of aviator shades on a scene that may as well have been a rap booth in Queens.

Spitting to a James Brown sample of ‘Get down’ served with complements from the erstwhile Dj Green Lantern, Nas had the Orange Stage in the palm of his hand from the get-go. In contrast to other names who’ve played on the Orange Stage this year, Nas’s show contained all the elements one would expect from a show of this size and scale. A massive signature 3-D logo revolved in the backdrop, powerful, relevant projections beamed out on either side of the stage,  and a simple stage setup threw Nas and his smooth, well-timed rap lines and tip-top sound into the limelight.

No cheese, peerless breeze
Impassioned renditions of tunage such as ‘New York State of Mind’ and ’Halftime’ cemented the bold start, before tributes to greats such as recently deceased rapper, Prodigy from Mob Deep, showed Nas at his sentimental best, devoid of the cheesiness that tends to accompany these things. Similarly, the interjections he made to his stream of tracks were simple and honest – delivered without all the references to how great the crowd was, how wonderful the festival is and the usual fluffy language that we festival-goers have been accustomed to. For Nas, a curt “Thank You” and lines referencing the power of music sufficed.

Backing the peerless on-stage prophecy, witty projections of boom boxes and city streets from the rap heyday of the early ’90s took us back to the early era of a genre that we must admit has veered so far from these veritable beginnings today it can scarcely be compared.

A lesson in hip-hop
Thursday was about Nas and his deejay as much as it was about the state of music de jour. Thankfully for all of us, his performance was illimatic – beyond ill, beyond the ultimate. Roskilde did not see Nas, we experienced him – a music great at his best long past the golden days of old school hip-hop.

It is little wonder that he returned onto the stage for a flawless encore after a long break at the end of his show. Swapping a combat jacket and plain black shirt for a Roskilde 2017 t-shirt, Nas returned to ice the cake with a seldom-seen swag. This was the incarnation of ‘the orange feeling’ and a lesson in hip-hop history for today’s Millenial generation.

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