Legendary Queensbridge emcee NASTY NAS got a feel for the York State of Mind late September when he paid a visit to the university’s Keele campus to rock the mic with special guest DJ and hypeman, renowned producer PETE ROCK. The concert, open to all college and university students in the city of Toronto, took place Friday September 23 at York U’s Rexall Centre. Aside from already being a prolific event, Nas announced that this concert would be his very last performance until the release of his new album, Life is Good, later this year. If you missed this historic show, peep our footage and full review below.
Despite the fact that doors would not open until four in the afternoon, students began lining up for the historic Nas and Pete Rock concert as early as ten in the morning. When legendary producer Pete Rock finally stepped onstage and behind the turntables at 6:15, the energy in the room was unmistakable as fans could see the prolific rapper lingering by the side of the stage. “Without no further ado,” Pete Rock yelled over the roaring crowd, “are y’all ready to see Nas?”
The rapper wasted no time in getting down to business. Nas gave a quick salute to the TDot before leading the entire venue into a rowdy rap-along with the 2006 hit “Hip Hop Is Dead”. The ambiance in the place made the show feel more like a giant block party than a concert, a sentiment that was echoed by the lyricist’s own proclamations of unity. “You my crew, you my crew, you my crew too,” Nas exclaimed, pointing out sections of the audience. Jones solidified his connection with the crowd by likening the campus to his own home city. “I’m in a York University State of Mind,” he announced before launching into the classic 90s track.
Next up was fan favourite “It Ain’t Hard to Tell” followed by the neighbourhood anthem “Represent”. Pete Rock, DJ extraordinaire, mesmerized the crowd with his eclectic and unexpected mixes, utilizing original samples and fresh beats to maintain an unpredictable set list. “It was like a lesson from a teacher to all the younger students to take notes from,” says Omar Malik, political science graduate, who has been listening to the duo since Nas’ debut.
The Illmatic emcee seemed to be in much better spirits after his reported bout, announcing to fans that his tenth studio album, the aptly titled Life is Good, will be hitting store shelves in the near future. Pete Rock contrasted the news with a throwback to 1994′s “Life’s a Bitch”, which the entire audience sang along to despite the obvious irony in the context.
“You make me feel young again, you make me feel twenty-one again”, Nas yelled to throngs of screaming fans before launching into the hood-pleaser “Street Dreams”. Hundreds of students formed one collective voice to sing along with the emcee on the chorus of “If I Ruled the World,” lending the track an even greater inspirational quality than it already possesses.
Nas took a halftime break to offer the iconic East Coast producer Pete Rock a chance to show off his skills on the wheels of steel, as well as an opportunity to preview new beats that may end up on the coming album. The Chocolate Boy Wonder wowed the crowd with his signature jazz-rap instrumentals and quick moves on the ones and twos. The show resumed with a quick excerpt from “Hero”, quickly moving into “Made You Look”. Esco revisited his Mafioso days with “Got Yourself a Gun”, following up with “Get Down” and “One Mic”. The emcee launched into an all-out lyrical assault on “Nas is Like”, proving himself to be “half man, half amazing” by sending the audience into a frenzy.
The crowd was loving the emcee’s rendition of “Memory Lane”, singing along throughout the chorus. Afterwards, Nas involved the crowd by jumping off the stage into the area in front of the barricades, asking individual fans for their top tracks. Favourites seemed to include Halftime, which Pete Rock didn’t have, and Ether, which Nas refused to do, calling out the troublemakers in the crowd. “Stop starting trouble! Fuckin’ startin trouble, y’all know I don’t do that at shows,” he laughed, clearly enjoying the revelry.
Nas’s address to naysayers was heard loud and clear: “Middle finger, fuck the world,” he exclaimed before bursting into a charged performance of “Hate Me Now”, middle finger extended to the sky. The final track for the evening was the emcee’s newest joint, “Nasty”, which he performed before exiting the stage to the tune of “Live at the BBQ”. Pete Rock stuck around just long enough to shake hands with fans and blow kisses to his adoring female followers. The legendary Soul Brother #1 made no secret of the good vibes at York University. ”Just killed it with Nas here in TDot,” he tweeted to fans just moments after leaving the stage.
And the feeling was mutual: the concert was a breathtaking trip down memory lane for fans of nineties boom bap. “Two old school legends in the new Hip-Hop capital,” remarked Nyiam Vendryes, 21, “this show was so legendary, yet it was seen by so few.”