When Nas was just 19 years old living in the projects of Queens, he composed what would become one of hip-hop’s defining masterpieces, Illmatic. To mark the album’s 20th anniversary, the MC re-envisioned it for one of the most venerable stages in the country, performing it alongside the National Symphony Orchestra at Washington, DC’s Kennedy Center.
The once-in-a-lifetime concert went down four years back, but PBS debuted footage of the show just this past weekend. Now, the entirety of Great Performances — Nas Live From the Kennedy Center: Classical Hip-Hop has come online for fans everywhere to enjoy.
With conductor Steven Reineke taking the orchestra through arrangements of beats by DJ Premier and Large Professor, Nas delivered impassioned renditions of tracks like “N.Y. State of Mind”, “The World Is Yours”, and “Memory Lane (Sittin’ in Da Park)”. Between songs, the program cut away to both archival and new interview footage to document Nas’ rise from Queensbridge upstart to influential rap icon.
Directed by Jason Goldwatch, the entire hour-long special is available to watch down below. More info is at the PBS website.