By Miya Williams
I could literally feel the floorboards thumping. The music blared and the crowd excitedly bounced and rapped along to each song as Nas performed at House of Blues Chicago. Shortly before he took the stage, comedian Affion Crockett accused the audience of having “white linen, two-stepping energy.” Crockett predicted that energy would change for Nas and he was certainly right. The result was infectious.
Even if attendees didn’t know every song Nas performed, they definitely couldn’t help moving to the beat and joining in the crowd’s liveliness. People chanted “Braaaave Hearrrrt” to favorites such as “Made You Look” and responded with applause and shouts to songs from his current album, Life is Good, which debuted at No. 1 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. Over the course of the night Nas demonstrated why people still revere him as one of the best rappers in the game.
Nas told the crowd that the House of Blues Chicago was one of his favorite venues and it wasn’t difficult to understand why. The three-story performance space easily fit the hundreds of people who came out to see the rapper along with Pusha-T (half of the duo Clipse) for the launch of this year’s Heineken Red Star Access tour. At the beginning of the night it looked doubtful that the long line of people wrapped around the building would actually fit in the venue, but each floor seemed to expand as the space quickly filled.
Attendees were offered free Heineken all night with the option of Heineken, Heineken Light or Heineken Dark. Appetizers of bite-sized deep-dish pizzas, tortilla chips and spinach-artichoke dip and mini hot dogs were available throughout the night as well.
As people entered the venue, DJ Kiss immediately got them in the partying mood playing current and past hip hop tracks. She easily made the crowd forget the amount of time between sets as we bobbed our heads, danced or sang to the music.
Crockett opened up the show joking that he was “on [his] black Ryan Seacrest” for the night. He announced details about prizes Heineken was offering such as T-shirt and snapback hat giveaways or the chance to go backstage. He later kept the crowd entertained by beatboxing to classic hip-hop songs such as Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.”
When Pusha-T came onstage he immediately grabbed the crowd’s attention with his verse from the remix of Chief Keef’s hit “I Don’t Like,” which is most popular for it’s remixed version featuring Kanye West. He followed that with “Grindin” from his early Clipse days along with the duo’s 2009 hit “Popular Demand.” Signed to Kanye’s label G.O.O.D. Music, Pusha-T also rapped his verse from the current crowd-pleaser “Lamborghini Mercy.” He announced his solo album will be released later this year and performed the single “New God Flow.” Dressed in a red T-shirt, black jeans and a Chicago Bulls cap, Pusha-T thanked Chicago for “bein with [him] from the beginning.”
Nas wore all black with aviator sunglasses and a gold bracelet, necklace and blinged out pinky ring as he got the crowd hype with his music. He took everyone down memory lane with songs from earlier albums such as “N.Y. State of Mind,” “Represent” and “The World is Yours,” off his debut album Illmatic and “Street Dreams” and “If I Ruled the World” from It Was Written. When the DJ started playing the kid-friendly song “I Can,” he quickly cut it off, which resulted in moans from the crowd. He shook his head and asked in disbelief, “Ya’ll wanted that?”
Feelings were appeased when he performed the MTV-banned “Hate Me Now” followed by his new song “Bye Baby,” which addresses his divorce from R&B singer Kelis. His performance of “Loco-Motive” was a special treat as he didn’t record the song for mass distribution. “I didn’t care about a pop song so . . . they are never gonna play this on the radio.” He even joked that he would go to the radio station to snatch the record if he did in fact hear it. The set ended with his new single “Stay,” as he expressed his desire to remain on stage.
Crockett closed out the program with an impersonation of Nas, encouraged by the rapper. He resisted providing any further comedy as he said, “Tonight I’m just a fan.” “So am I,” replied Nas in reference to his admiration of Crockett. But it was obvious that night, everyone was.