Nas & The National Symphony Are Taking Illmatic From QB To The Kennedy Center (Video)

Back in 1994, Nas’ debut Illmatic peaked at #12 on the charts. The commercial performance was highly respectable for an emerging Rap artist, but Hip-Hop Heads who heard and loved the album knew those 10 songs meant so much more than any chart, music review, or record store display could ever capture.

Approaching its 24th birthday on April 19, Illmatic is going places that most albums—in any genre—cannot access. The platinum Columbia/Sony Records release is in the Hip-Hop Archive at Harvard University Library, thanks to 9th Wonder. It is the subject of a celebrated 2014 documentary, Nas: Time Is Illmatic by directors One9, Erik Parker, and Anthony Saleh. This is also the LP deemed to be Hip-Hop’s greatest album by the readers of Ambrosia For Heads.

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In less than three weeks, the mainstream public can view Nas taking the album he wrote as a teenager living on the 41st side of Vernon in the Queensbridge Houses and performing it on the Kennedy Center stage in Washington, D.C. Nasir Jones is joined by the renowned National Symphony orchestra for a concert that will air on PBS (at 9pm on February 2) as part of Great Performances. Previously, Nas has performed past hits with live musicians in other genres, including one with DJ Premier and the Berklee Symphony Orchestra as well as The White Stripes’ Jack White. However, as Mass Appeal’s Jason Goldwatch-directed trailer shows, this is something special, and deep.

In the trailer, Nas recalls contently rapping in the mirror for all the years before he had amassed a fan-base. The footage shows Nas, in a tuxedo, with the orchestra and DJ Green Lantern, delivering some of his most beloved verses (including “The World Is Yours”—and keeping the curses in—from that classic LP. “I hope you can dream with me and see the journey I took to be on the stage with an orchestra,” says the MC in the trailer. “I knew it was bigger than just what was on the record. This is what it’s about.”

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The full concert performance will be available February 3 on PBS’ website and app.

Last month, a Nas influence, collaborator, onetime label-mate and fellow Queens resident LL Cool J was celebrated at the Kennedy Center Honors. Now Nas touches the same historic stage named after the United States’ 35th President.

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Notably, Q-Tip, who produced video single “One Love” on Illmatic as well as remixed Pete Rock’s track for “The World Is Yours” is currently Artistic Director for The Kennedy Center. In addition to confirmed Hip-Hop concerts at the popular tourist destination and theater, the A Tribe Called Quest member has spoken about making it an educational platform at a crucial time in American culture.

After recent appearances with DJ Khaled and Chris Brown, respectively, Nas is currently finishing his twelfth solo album, and first in more than five years.