As headliner for the final day (Sept. 2) of Rock the Bells at PNC Bank Arts Center in New Jersey, Nas packed his set with star power only he could provide. The veteran rapper brought out Lauryn Hill, Scarface and Large Professor during his hour-long show.
Accompanied by his band Z, Nas, dressed in all black, ran up to the front of the stage to a packed crowd, rapping “The Don” from his Life Is Good album. As expected, he moved through tracks from his debut LP, Illmatic; “New York State of Mind,” “It Ain’t Hard To Tell” and “Represent” among them.
“I wanna take it back even further than that,” Nas announced. “This is that early 1991 shit. I was 16.” He then went into his verse from “Live at the Barbecue,” his first on-record appearance ever.
“This is the bro that put me on this joint when I was a little n—-,” he said before bringing out Large Professor, who performed with him to “Loco-motive” from his latest album.
Nas’ next guest, Scarface, received praise from the audience as he entered the stage, delivering his verse from their current collaborative release “Hip Hop” off DJ Khaled‘sKiss the Ring.
The rhymer then took the stage back for “Bye Baby” and had Eddie Cole sing the hook, the lead singer of his touring band Z, delivering a stellar performance. After “Daughters,” Nas covered “I Know I Can” and “Can’t Forget About You” with Chrisette Michele‘s lyrics taken over and given its justice by Cole.
After proclaiming his love for the “old school,” DJ Green Lantern played Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You” and the “original gangsta,” James Brown before Nas rapped his 1990’s hits including “Nas Is Like,” “Hate Me Now” and “Street Dreams.”
To continue satisfying his “trapped in the 90s” fans during “If I Ruled The World,” Lauryn Hill graced the stage, performing the hook as the crowd sung along in shock to see the the greatly missed femcee.
Ms. Hill did tracks in front of her home state including “You Just Lost One,” The Refugee’s “Fu-Gee-La” and ended with “That Thing.”
“I’ve been gone for a long time, but I’m back again,” said Lauryn, who wore a black leather jacket with flamingo-pink pants.
The crowd did not want to let go of Nas when he once again returned to the stage. But with his band’s help, he gave a heartfelt, satisfying performance for his final songs of the night, including “Got Urself A…,” “Made You Look” and “One Mic.”