A classic never dies and Nas proved that to a packed house during the final night of South by Southwest, with a performance of his debut album Illmatic at ACL Live at the Moody Theatre. The 20th anniversary of Illmatic's release (April 19, 1994) is quickly approaching, and to commemorate the occasion, VEVO tapped the Queens, New York MC to perform his celebrated album in its entirety.
The stage of Austin's Moody Theater was transformed into an elaborate set designed to replicate the atmosphere of mid-90s Queens. An image of the Queensbridge Houses were set behind a New York City bus stop tagged up with "RIP Ill Will," (a tribute to Nas' childhood friend Willie "Ill Will" Graham) and Nasir Jones climbed a flight of stairs, emerging from a subway tunnel to begin his set.
The veteran rapper was brief with his words, simply introducing himself, "My name is Nas and tonight I'm bringing you Illmatic," before beginning "N.Y. State of Mind." Legendary producers DJ Premier and Pete Rock, who both had a hand in crafting Illmatic, manned the turntables and joined Nas in reminiscing about his early days.
Rapper AZ joined Nas to assist on "Life's a Bitch," and the duo diverted from Illmatic momentarily to perform The Firm's "Phone Tap." DJ Premier kept the memories coming, teasing Nas about the first time he heard him rapping back in 1991 ("You were rapping some sick, demented s---"), which prompted Nas to perform his verse on Main Source's "Live at the Barbecue."
In between classics like "The World is Yours," "It Ain't Hard to Tell" and "Halftime," DJ Premier and Pete Rock encouraged crowd participation and kept energy levels high with a short tribute to fallen legends Big L and Guru. But before Nas finished his set, he brought things back to the present, with the first performance of his new single "The Don," which will appear on his upcoming tenth studio album Life is Good.