A little belated: Happy Veterans Day for those serving our country. Couldn't be who I am doing the things I do with out those protecting us!
On to the next order of business, last night was the performance of two hip hop veterans. Nas and Lauryn Hill tore it up in Chicago.
What is a music veteran?
A veteran is someone who has mad iconic hit that are STILL relevant today and manage to continue with success, evolving their craft, and consistently setting the bar higher with out letting the game change them selves. Their talents are timeless and their songs are classics.
In a crowd of older fans, the first half of Nas’ set was everything I had imagined a hip hop concert from the 90s would be. (My older brothers would be so proud of me.) An 80s baby, I dream of what concert shows were like as a kid and I got to experience Nas back in college at UIUC, but this time it was different. He kept his backdrop simple, played all the favorite, super high energy.. ya de ya daaa… he forgot some of his older lyrics here and there… The stage filled the room with blinding, I kid you not, red and blue lights worse than four cop cars chasing after you. Then shit got real. After playing his typical repertoire, songs that he’s been singing for 15 years, he slowed it down for a very intimate song about his ex. You could see the emotion coming out of him as he poured every emotion out on stage. Bringing us to the current hits, Nas payed tribute to his lost sister, Amy Winehouse with a cheesy toast over actual cherry wine. It was endearing.
The hip-hop institution left off with “Hip Hop is Dead.” Is it? Shoot, then we’re um… somewhere else.
Then, the longest set change in my life occurred. After Nas finished, supposedly, the set was facing some difficulties, but it hardly seemed believable. Just then as the crowd started to boo, a raw and ethereal voice just started coming for the mic. As if she had heard the booing from her dressing room and decided she would just start singing from there. Her booming voice was just so perfect… some… including me… thought it was a pre-recorded track that the DJ had put on to soothe the crowd after the booing. Then we heard a little break in the song, “Chicago are you starting beef with me? You think this is a recording?” from the incredible Ms Lauryn Hill.
She took a crowd of 3500+ booing fans to a place that seemed like the back of a blues club with only 10 people around. She touched each and everyone one of us. She won us over within one verse! Starting out with an extra reggaeton version “Killing Me Softly” to full out rapping all the parts in iconic Fugee verses, there is no one in comparison to her. There seemed to be no set list, no previous rehearsal, but only a team of very eager back musicians. She conducted her own music. Cuing the exact amount of drums to directing guitar solos, we watched her creative juices flow. She performed a new song, “Black Rage” to the tune of “My Favorite Things” and then broke down the lyrics like we were watching slam poetry. She had a sudden urge to play a song and called for a stagehand to bring her guitar.
Lauryn Hill practiced on stage right before our eyes on her guitar and teaching her backup singers the chorus. Ms Lauryn, mother of SIX, busted out the mommy fingers on her back up singers! Everything was unscripted and just bared all of her talents. Coming back to Killing Me Softly, cause one time just isn't enough, she took the classic route and finished off with a song that helped me proclaimed my independence as a teen, "Do Wop."
She is not a performer that just goes home after a well-rehearsed show and scripted show, but instead she continues to live music on and off the stage. You must be extremely patient and just let her creativity flow. We just got to watch it for 2.5 hours… very long... but very worth it.