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Hip Hop is Late: Nas at HOB

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The upside, usually, of going to the early show the night an artist is doing two performances, is not having to stand around waiting forever for the headline to actually hit the stage. This, however, was not the case Monday night when veteran emcee Nas, on the last leg of his Hip Hop is Dead Tour, kept a packed House of Blues crowd waiting, wandering and clock watching.

Despite the fact that the doors of the late show opened at 11, the curtain did not lift until five minutes to 10 for show number one. DJ L.E.S. was given the tough task of entertaining the anxious congregation of hip-hop heads, amping the crowd as he spun what seemed like 9,000 mid-90's classic hip hop records. But even a seasoned DJ like L.E.S. could only keep the fans attention for so long. By 9:45, "We want Nas" chants overtook the sound system.

Fortunately for the mostly mid-20's to early-30's crowd, Nasty Nas didn't keep them waiting much longer. When the curtain finally lifted, a hype man sporting a metalic gold mask standing in front of a burial scene had the balls to ask, "Are you ready for Nas?" Any more waiting and he might have been thrown into the fake casket that served as the DJ booth.

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Punctuality may not be Nas' strong suit, but his hour-long performance was well worth the wait. The man many would consider one of the greatest emcees of all-time, got things started with his latest work including the track for which both the critically acclaimed album and tour are named, the incredibly catchy will.i.am produced "Hip Hop is Dead."

Nas then asked, "Do you wanna go back?" the answer from HOB was a resounding yes, leading into a fast paced journey back through his masterpiece, Illmatic. Released in 1994, his debut album remains one of hip-hop's most influential albums to date. "Life's a Bitch," "One Love" and "World is Yours" are just some Illmatic classics Nas rapidly rocked.

Nas continued to breeze through his catalog in chronological order. He performed all of his radio friendlies through the years, including "If I Ruled the World" and "Oochie Wallie," a track that divides Nas fans. Those who were raised on his insightful narratives treat "Oochie Wallie" the way Rocky fans treat Rocky 5, it never happened. While younger fans were first exposed to Nas thanks to this club friendly, yet awful record.

The Queensbridge native also indulged the crowd of faithful followers with a fair share of album cuts. Unfortunately, none of them got more than a verse's worth.

The highlight of the night was Nas' performance of "One Mic." The record slips from slow and introspective spoken word to fast and angry attacking lyrics, translated well in a live performance thanks partially to great lighting work. Other highlights included a guest appearance by one of the game's pioneer's KRS-1 who ended the show with a salute to Nas for "carrying on the tradition."

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Not sure if the Blast Master is alluding to the tradition of showing up late (KRS-1 gave a guest lecture at my school when I was in college and was 2 hours late) or the tradition of rocking the mic. My guess is the latter. Either way, on this night, Nas was successful at both.