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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Nas graces Brandeis with his presence

Activist rap legend may just be what Brandeis has been missing out on

Published: September 26, 2008
Section: Arts, Etc.

On September 20, 2008 Nasir Jones, aka Nasir Ben Olu Dara, aka Nastradamus, aka Nasty Nas, but more commonly known as simply Nas, graced Brandeis University with his presence to our extreme delight.

Before he blessed the stage, we had notable performance from up and coming artist John Hope ( that “favorite verses” section of is performance was ill) and were thoroughly prepped by Nas personal superstar DJ Green Lantern.

When Nas took the stage, however things took on a whole different nature. Gone were the “we want Nas” grumbles and mumbles, the idle stares from people who had obviously enjoyed some “herbal therapy” before the show, the general nonchalant attitude of much of the crowd. What took its place was kind of inexplicable. It’s like we all became one giant fifteen year old girl who just met the Jonas Brothers…and I’m ok with that.

Nas received his applause in his marked fashion, stepping onto stage with a regal air, more monarch than mc. After about five minutes he had stripped down to his jeans, sneakers, tank-top and diamond encrusted (or blinged-out as they say) Cross-laden chain. The girl next to me almost screamed my ear off… the show was ready to begin. In something of an unexpected move, he chose to start with some of his new, more controversial pieces. Songs like “N.I.G.G.E.R.”, which he opened with, and the song “Testify”, which begins with the line “I just burnt my American flag, and sent three cracker Nazis to hell and I’m sad” were made somewhat less awkward with explanation of context from Nas himself (apparently he is voicing the ethos of one of his comrades that has been driven mad by the world’s troubles) and the fact that half the audience knew the words to the song and were singing along.

Nonetheless song choices like these did come with hints of uneasiness and tension which were no doubt intended to yield a reaction from the audience. This, in no way, detracted from Nas’ performance. Honestly if you bought a ticket you came to see Nas hoping, if not expecting, some controversy and “fight the system” ideology. And in that department Mr. Nasir Jones definitely did deliver.

In between songs, Nas continually reminded the audience that we, as the next generation of scientists, leaders, politicians, etc. are not only a force to be reckoned with, that the older generation fears, but that we are the only ones who can and will change the world and fix all that is wrong with it today. Aside from this Nas kept out of political discourse stating that he believes not in politics but in people.

Nonetheless he performed his song “Black President” in which he attested to his support of Barrack Obama, not on the bases of his political merits (because as he had said ten seconds before he doesn’t affliliate himself with politicians) but solely on the type of person Nas believes him to be and the type of leadership Nas believes Obama will perpetuate. The last bit of controversial performance was by far the most fun to get into.

In the song “Sly Fox”, Nas rips into much of media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s empire including Fox News, CBS and The New York Post for their inaccurate portrayals of himself and skewed view of politics. One of the wittiest lyrical attacks had to be “They say I’m all about murder-murder and kill-kill, But what about Grindhouse and Kill Bill?, What about Cheney and Halliburton?, The backdoor deals, On oil fields, How’s Nas the most violent person?” By the end of the song Nas had turned much of the audience (myself included) into an anti-Fox mob which was fun to say the least

Mr. Jones spent the rest of the night going through fan favorites. Songs like “Made You Look”, “Hate Me Now, Got Yourself a Gun “and “N.Y. State of Mind” made sure that everyone got in on the action. The performance also included guest appearances from Nas’ little brother Jungle and friend Big Horse, members of the rap group the Bravehearts, who performed their hit Oochie Wallie.

In retrospect I’m kinda surprised at how many people knew the words to almost every song. There were several times where Nas would just stop spitting to hear the crowd, and in my head I was like “NOOOOO, what are you doing?!?!?!?”. To my surprise and delight I wasn’t the only one who knew the words to “N.Y. State of Mind”, so did most of the audience.

The high point of the show was a heartfelt rendition of the hit “If I Ruled the World” in which Nas really brought home the message of unity. He gave his testament that if we were all to unite on the basis of humanity and not allow the powers that be to separate us on the basis of b.s., we would “walk right up to the sun, hand in hand, [we’d] walk right up to the sun, we won’t land”. He chose to end the show with the emotion filled performance of “One Mic” in which it seemed as if even Nasty Nas might’ve broken into tears. The energy resonated from the microphone into each and every one of us and in the last seconds where he mouthed the lyrics silently one could clearly hear the audience filling in each and every word and it was flipping amazing.

After such a show it’s no surprise that my man Steven Robinson claimed that “out of three times that I’ve seen Nas, the performance at Brandeis was by far the best”. No doubt, what distinguished this performance from others was the excitement of the crowd (I still can’t believe we got Nas), and the personal nature with which Nas approached us. His belief in the youth as the harbingers of a new and better age was evident the energy he put into the performance. All in all, I’ll reiterate my statement from last week. Brandeis wins, or won, whatever. Nas is a legend, he proved it last Saturday. Between the wild crowd, amazing lyricism, powerfully empowering messages and overall stellar showmanship Nas also proved, in the ironic fashion befitting him, that contrary to his own statements, Hip-Hop is far from dead. It is kept very alive in Nas and artists like him and for that I am thankful. One Love.