U.S. rapper Nas has London crowd spellbound with 'Illmatic'

Mon Jul 21, 2014 4:37pm EDT
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By Jemima Kelly

LONDON (Reuters) - Many in the crowd at the Lovebox Festival in London this weekend were not yet born when U.S. rapper Nas released his groundbreaking “Illmatic” two decades ago, but they seemed to know all the lines anyway.

The New York-born hip hop star took to the main stage as the sun began setting on Saturday in East London's Victoria Park, giving the performance as one of a series to celebrate the anniversary of his debut record, widely considered one of the greatest rap albums of all time.

"I never sleep, 'cause sleep is the cousin of death ... I think of crime when I'm in a New York state of mind," Nas rapped to the crowd through an unusually hot and humid London air.

Loved by hip hop purists who did not buy into some of the more commercial material in Nas's subsequent albums, "Illmatic" features some of the most celebrated lines in hip hop history.

As Nas performed his track "One Love", revelers mirrored the rapper by pointing their index fingers in the air, to his obvious delight.

"Half of you weren't even born when I made this album!" the 40-year-old rapper shouted to the crowd, who cheered back enthusiastically.

Daniel Fisher, a 16-year-old Londoner, went to the festival, which also featured British singer M.I.A. and goth-indie band The Horrors, especially to see the hip hop star.

"I love Nas – I've been listening to him since I was little," Fisher said. "It’s that sort of hip hop – that conscious type – that you don’t get so much of nowadays.   Continued...

Rapper Nas performs after the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival opening night screening of 'Time Is Illmatic' in New York April 16, 2014. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton