NEW YORK — Dave Chappelle is in the middle of a bit of a comeback tour, in the form of a 10-show run at Radio City Music Hall. That in itself would be reason enough for his legion of patient fans (like me) to celebrate. But the comedian decided to up the ante, by inviting musical guests to co-headline with him for some of the shows. Like Nas. Performing Illmatic. With an orchestra. On Monday night.
And yes, it was as immaculate as you might have imagined.
As a large screen at the back of the stage flashed images of Nas, each accompanied by a year, counting down from 2014 to 1994 (the year of Illmatic’s release), the orchestra played him in. And Esco arrived just in time to deliver his legendary opening verse to “N.Y. State of Mind.”
Nasty then rolled into “Life’s a Bitch,” before reminding us that “The World Is Yours.”
Even his in-between-song sh– talk sounded next-level with the backing of the talented instrumentalists.
After running through his classic debut album, the Queens rapper said goodbye to the orchestra, and brought it back to the essence: an MC and a DJ (… and a drummer). The trio ran through a bevy of Nas’ post-Illmatic favorites, from the poetic positivity of “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)” and “I Can” to the unfiltered energy of “Hate Me Now” and “Made You Look.”
Oh, and let’s not forget: This all came after Dave Chappelle commanded the thousands in attendance with an hour of straight laughs. Like, laughs on laughs. The man is as funny as ever.
Monday night’s show came in the middle of the comedian’s Radio City run, which brought us a surprise appearance from Kanye West on Friday, and rounds out with performances from The Roots (today), Busta Rhymes, DJ Premier, and Janelle Monáe (June 25), and Erykah Badu (June 26).