BY JEFF SANFORD
Daily Arts Writer
Published February 1, 2009
Friday, 7:30 p.m.
At the EMU Convocation Center
Tickets starting at $35
Ladies and gents of the University, roll your blunts up tight; dust off those old bottles of Moet and Alizé; and please, for God’s sake, put away that tired, auto-tuned hip hop. Nas is here.
Well, not yet. But this Friday, acclaimed rapper Nas will be performing just down the road at Eastern Michigan University’s Convocation Center.
In 1994, Nas debuted with the now-legendary album Illmatic. Ever since, he has been a titan of the hip-hop industry, maintaining a reputation as the rap game’s poet laureate. Considering the elaborate rhymes and abundant literary allusions sprinkled generously throughout his songs — not to mention his beautifully poignant renderings of inner-city life — the title is hardly unwarranted.
Yet in the 15 years since his debut, his career hasn’t been all handshakes and backrubs. From pestering accusations of selling out to his involvement in one of hip hop’s most notorious feuds (with fellow rap elite Jay-Z), Nas has seen his share of drama. But he and Jigga have long since made amends, and his recent street-conscious work has all but silenced the critics. His name remains one of the most revered in hip hop today.
Nas is not one to settle into complacency, and his cushy throne at the head of the rap kingdom hasn’t made him shy away from controversy. His most recent LP, released in July, was originally supposed to be titled Nigger. But after a furious shit-storm of uproars from various retailers and high-profile personalities like Reverend Jesse Jackson, the album was simply re-titled Untitled, with Nas remarking: “The people will always know what the real title of this album is and what to call it.” Still, it proved to be an epic call-out of a record — slamming FOX News, belittling George W. Bush and successfully predicting Barack Obama’s rise to the presidency. The reviews weren’t bad either, with a four-star review from Rolling Stone and a prestigious four-and-a-half out of five rating from The Source.
Performing with Nas on Friday are Royce Da 5’9”, hip-hop collective Street Justice and rapper Johnny Saxx. Native Detroiter Royce has a history in the rap game stretching back to 1997, when he and Eminem collaborated and released several tracks together. After some significant buzz early on, a brief prison sentence hampered the young rapper’s rise to fame. But now he’s out and looking again to break into the mainstream with the upcoming March release of his fifth album, Street Hop.
Also Detroit locals, Street Justice and Johnny Saxx have The D in their hearts and aim to bring Motown back into the hip hop limelight. Undoubtedly, they will shine in front of the hometown crowd Friday. The Michigan Dance Team will also accompany all acts on stage.
It’s not every day that a living legend comes to town. And Nas truly has the credentials to be considered, as the promotion for the show not-so-farfetchedly calls him, “One of the five greatest emcees of all time.”
Contrary to the title of Nas’s 2006 effort Hip Hop is Dead, hip hop is unquestionably alive. And on Friday, the evidence will be indisputable to those who make it out to the Convocation Center.
For Michigan students, free bussing will be provided to and from the show with proof of an MCard. Buses will leave from the Michigan Union for the Convocation Center at 7 p.m. After the show, buses will be running back to the Union and to popular bars and clubs around Michigan’s campus.