Man, when I first heard this crazy dude named Nasty Nas jump all over the track on Main Source’s “Live At The Barbeque”, I just knew this cat was something special. A few years later, when his debut album “illmatic” hit the streets, my notion was confirmed. The beats, the concepts, the storytelling, were something the rap world had never encountered before, and 24 years later it still reigns as my all time favorite hip hop album.
The 20th anniversary of illmatic was in 2004, and during that year, Nas decided to celebrate by performing the complete album backed by the National Symphony Orchestra at Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center. It wasn’t until this year that PBS aired the concert on television, and not until last Friday when it was released as an album titled Nas – illmatic: Live From The Kennedy Center on Double LP and Digital Download. I was finally able to listen to it on Tidal this past weekend, and I fell in love with this album all over again.
One of illmatic’s strong suits was Nas’ vivid storytelling, and that is markedly enhanced by the Orchestra’s cinematic interpretation of the original beats. It made Nas’ gritty street poems feel even more alive, and several times during the recording I felt like I was watching an illmatic movie, with the music creating pictures in my mind. Not only was the score really well done, the recording sounded superb, and if there was ever a hip-hop album for audiophiles, this one is it.