Monday, December 01, 2008

Nas in Concert Friday, Nov. 28, 2008

Friday in San Francisco the folks were out to see Nas, one of hip hop's stars whose Untitled CD is a contemplation on a word thrown loosely around by those from a generation disconnected from emotional damage its resonance causes some ears. I'd was rushing, completed a quick article for my editor to let A3 supporters know about Herman Wallace passing out while visiting with a friend that afternoon.

I jumped in the car after running my story by Robert H. King, former member of A3, the only free member of the revolutionary trio targeted by the Angola Prison and the State of Louisiana for organizing a chapter of the Black Panther Party behind bars.

He liked it. I filed the story and then left. It was after 7 p.m. so I knew I was going to miss Goapele, but I hoped I wasn't going to miss the headliner. I meet a friend at BART where we jumped on a train moments after arrival, jetted up Market Street, passed through security and then as soon as we get into the venue, Nas comes on--talk about perfect timing.

Dressed in a leather jacket, tee shirt and jeans, he walked as he sang, spoke to his fans and gave a powerfully dynamic, yet short, concert. He was on and off in an hour.

Yeah, with no encore.

My friend told me it was because he'd maxed out his repertoire. I wouldn't know, I'm no expert on his body of work, but what I liked most about the show was his conversation with his audience, their participation and the arrangement of material--oldies mixed with goodies, his stopping the soundtrack to rap a capella...the solos by his guitarist and trumpeter--too bad we couldn't hear them, though they looked impressive. The recorded music drowned out any live sound, which is why it was great when Nas had them turn off the music.

I'd never been to a concert before where the record plays in the background. One has to wonder, was Nas singing or lipsincing? Who could tell?

He sang about Obama and pulled some great songs from his archives on the folly of gun violence, what happens when one let's his temper control him, and one where he honored our heroes. He mixed in hits from his latest CD.

He also sang about love, and gave a toast to the folks whose shoulders he stands on like James Brown and Marvin Gaye. He kidded the audience that they were too young to know some of the artists he was referencing, but though younger by an average age that evening of about ten years, the audience knew Nas and by extention what music and what musicians he loved.

Despite the weird acoustic format--live musicians playing over taped music--yes, I know...but I can't seem to let it go, Nas' writing was so awesome, the well-crafted lyrics made me want to hurry home and find them on-line to read, espcially a song he dedicated to all the men and women behind bars.

He was really encouraging to the youth, whom he told to learn from other's mistakes and try something new, the killing needed to stop.

Though certainly happy Obama got the job--and "Yes, We Can Change the World," the thoughtful MC was still skeptical about politicians and told his audience they had the power and to not give it up. If change were to happen, he said, then they had to be involved. "I believe in you," he said. The "you," he clarified, were "the people."

Afterwards folks probably moseyed over to see Foxy Brown. She was definitely a great choice--Goapele opened for Nas. Both women are powerful artists from the San Francisco Bay. If you went to see Brown send me an email and let me know how the sow went: As I was taking photos during the first song, I saw Ise Lyfe front and center. It was good to know I was in such good company :-)


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