Nas, Big Heath: Mountford Hall, Liverpool



Nas rolled into Liverpool and Getintothis’ Miles Etchells witnessed a true star.

The word legend gets thrown around way too much these days.

However, seeing Nas (Nasir Jones) at Mountford Hall it was clear we were in the presence of a rapper whose legendary status is totally deserved.

The hip-hop star from Queensbridge, New York played a blistering set – his first in Liverpool – to a capacity crowd, and this writer was privileged to witness it.

From the start of the queue in the summer evening there was a palpable excitement in the air, which stemmed from the chance to see true hip-hop royalty playing a relatively intimate venue.

Certainly being in the two thousand odd crowd at the Liverpool University Guild made for a more memorable experience than a typical arena gig for a contemporary American MC, and the opportunity had brought out rap-fans from across the North West.

The night started with an enjoyable set from the playful Cambridge artist Big Heath.

The UK rapper sounded and looked like an unlikely support act for a hip-hop hall of famer, but his *ahem* large stage presence brought the excitement levels up a notch as he went through a set packed with self-deprecating bars, playful flows and old-school beats.

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Highlights included My Motherfuckin’ Jam and having the crowd make fun of his size only to confirm he ‘just rolls with it’. While possibly not the best fitting support act you could imagine for the rapper who cemented the resurgence of New York hip-hop, Big Heath proved worth his weight with a few golden bars.

If the support was good value, the headliner was priceless.

Nas burst on stage to begin a blistering set featuring all the classics from his impressive back catalogue. The opening of the Street’s Disciple’s set featured the first half of his seminal debut album Illmatic consecutively, and the rest of the gig continued in a largely chronological order.

The depth of the Queensbridge rapper’s library was emphasised regularly, especially when we were treated to merely single verses from belters such as Nas is Like… and The Message, and the appreciation from the audience was evident in spit-alongs like NY State of Mind and If I Ruled the World..

Nas played alongside his DJ and drummer, and the latter added significant muscle to the beats produced by the likes of Q-Tip, Pete Rock and Large Professor.

However, the seriously weighty live rhythms detracted somewhat from the actual backing track at times, unfairly burying some amazing samples and mixing.

Fortunately, and unsurprisingly, Jones’ exceptional lyricism and multi-syllabic rhyme schemes were engaging enough to captivate the audience regardless of the barely audible backing track.

Throughout the career-spanning set, Nas led fitting musical tributes to the likes of Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse and Mobb Deep’s Prodigy, while taking us from his debut verse on Main Source’s 1991 belter ‘Live at the BBQ’ up to tracks from his 2012 album Life is Good’.

Further confirmation was also given that a new album is due out this year, and based on tonight’s showing, the fire that has made Nas a true hip-hop legend still burns strong, and we should be glowing with excitement.

Pictures by Getintothis’ Francesco Imola