All Night Long
NasACL Live at the Moody Theater, March 17
It was a set made for a Broadway show: two faded, red-brick project buildings, a bus stop and subway entrance, two trash bags and a black-and-silver fire hydrant, and neighborhood boys sitting on park benches with bottles of Dom in hand. The scene was a remake of Nasir Jones' boyhood home, NYC's Queensbridge Houses, the rugged neighborhood that spawned his 1994 debut Illmatic, the iconic rapper's defining work. He performed the album in full Saturday night, roping the streetwise "N.Y. State of Mind" into "Life's a Bitch" and "The World Is Yours" with the help of rapper AZ – whose "Visualizing the realism of life and actuality, fuck 'Who's the baddest?' A person's status depends on salary" verse is as perfect live as it is on tape – plus DJs Premiere and Pete Rock. The latter two split off into battle mode before Nas reemerged for "Halftime" and "Memory Lane," a track augmented by screen projections of Nas' family home videos before everything changed in 1994. "Hold on to your dreams and one day you'll be able to bring your neighborhood on stage, too," he said before flipping the album's final four tracks. Nasty Nas, from the mean streets of New York to the Moody Theater, you could even sell it on Broadway.