NEW YORK — The celebrity Virgos are out and shining this month. Beyoncé’s September 4 birthday, of course, was followed by the release of B’Day, which sold more than 500,000 copies in its first week. Ludacris (September 11) is all over the place promoting his new Release Therapy, and on Wednesday night, Kelis made sure her husband’s 33rd birthday was celebrated in grand fashion.
The singer threw a surprise bash with an old-school hip-hop theme for her man, Nas, at Manhattan’s Canal Room. Usher, Diddy, Mario, Jadakiss, Nick Cannon, Dallas Austin, ballers Carmelo Anthony and Chris Webber, ?uestlove, Rosie Perez, Styles P., Pras and former “Flavor of Love” contestant Like Dat were just some of the couple’s famous friends who showed up.
Upon entering the downtown club, partygoers could hear classic joints from the ’80s and ’90s like Nice & Smooth’s “How to Flow,” Digital Underground’s “Humpty Dance,” a Tribe Called Quest’s “Award Tour” and Salt-N-Pepa’s “Tramp.”
Furry Kangol hats, lipstick and Adidas sweatbands lay on a table by the door, serving as funky-fresh party favors. Above that table were giant posters of three special record covers hanging side-by-side like the retired New York Knicks jerseys in the rafters of Madison Square Garden: the Fat Boys’ “Falling in Love,” Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall and Eric B. & Rakim’s Paid in Full.
Above the bar was a banner that had the words “Happy Birthday Nas!” and a likeness of him spray-painted onto it. The 1984 hip-hop flick “Beat Street” played on a movie screen above the stage.
The party started moving immediately: With all the invited guests instructed to arrive at exactly 9 p.m. (so they wouldn’t spoil the surprise for the man of honor’s arrival an hour later), the Canal Room filled quickly, and at some points looked like a scene from the 1991 flick “New Jack City.” There was a man who had a genuine flat-top haircut with the word “Fresh” shaved into the back of his head; another guy was wearing a vintage MCM suit; some ladies sported door-knocker earrings; another woman even sported a jacket like the one Michael Jackson wore in the “Thriller” video. Several people — including Cannon, Webber and, later, Nas himself — wore big gold-rope chains.
When the man of the evening finally arrived, the mass cry of “Surprise!” was all but inaudible because a heavy contingent from Nas’ home ‘hood of Queensbridge started yelling triumphantly, and DJ Goldfinger played the MC’s track “The World Is Yours.” Apparently Nas has been in the studio with his friend C-Web and was cajoled away from the vocal booth for some partying — little did he know it would be in his honor!
Nas was gradually escorted to a small VIP section next to the stage, where he was front-and-center for some special performances. Comedian Katt Williams was the master of ceremonies and introduced the first two performers: Busy Bee and Just-Ice, who played short sets. Monie Love came out to perform her verse from the remix of De La Soul’s “Buddy” as well as her own “It’s a Shame (My Sister).” Melle Mel brought Nas to his feet with “The Message” — God’s Son stood on his chair and rapped along with lines from the classic 1982 single.
Williams said the night looked like an award show. “Anybody worth being here is in the muthaf—-n’ building,” he told the crowd. He also made light of the real-live panther Kelis had brought to the club: “Be careful y’all, that ain’t no Rockwilder!”
However, the evening’s onstage highlight was undoubtedly Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh blessing the mic. First, Rick the Ruler came out to do “Hey Young World” and then went into “Mona Lisa.” Before he could finish, Doug E. Fresh and Vicious came out to dance with him. Doug and Vicious went into “Freaks” and the trio ended with “The Show.” Nas was so moved by the performance that, at one point, he fell straight back from his standing position on the chair into the arms of some friends in the VIP section — who then pushed him back into a standing position.
As the party was winding down, Kelis changed from her dress into a Playboy bunny outfit and presented Nas with his cake — which had a giant gold-rope chain made out of frosting, of course with a pendant bearing his name in huge letters. Nas hit the stage, thanked everyone and admitted he had genuinely been caught off guard.
For more old-school hip-hop flavor, check out “The New Gold Rush: The Dookie Rope Returns.”