Full Episode
Nas Live From the Kennedy Center: Classical Hip-Hop

Now Streaming: Two decades after the album’s critically acclaimed release, hip-hop artist Nas teamed up with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., to stage a symphonic rendition of “Illmatic,” one of the most revered albums in hip-hop history. The new concert film Great Performances — Nas Live From the Kennedy Center: Classical Hip-Hop captures the energy and nostalgia of this collaborative performance. The program is also available to stream on the PBS apps. 

Transcript Print

-Next, on 'Great Performances'... -This is what it's about.

Thank you for givin' me 20 years of your ears!

-Two decades after the release of his groundbreaking record 'Illmatic,' hip-hop superstar Nas teams up with the National Symphony Orchestra to re-envision his iconic album in a special anniversary performance a the Kennedy Center.

-♪ I max like -- or flex like sex in ya ♪ ♪ Stereo sets, Nas'll catch rec ♪ ♪ I used to hustle, now all I do is relax and strive ♪ ♪ When I was young... -A New York City native, Nas's lyrical portrait of growing up in the Queensbridge Houses was quickly acclaimed as one of the greatest achievements in hip-hop.

Join us as we go behind the scenes with Nas as he reflects on his career and performs a lush, new, symphonic interpretation of 'Illmatic' with the National Symphony Orchestra.

[ Cheering and applause ] [Orchestra tuning] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -♪ Nas, too real, Nas, true king ♪ ♪ Nas, too real, Nas, true king ♪ ♪♪ There's great actors with stories like mine.

There's -- I'm sure some presidents with stories like mine.

I doesn't matter what you do, just don't ever let no one tell you, you can't be this because of that.

You know, no one writes books about this.

You can't write that book.

They don't green-light movies about that.

You can't make that movie.

Those people there are the worst people to ever listen to.

We gotta get out there and just -- and strike, no matter what.

[ Cheering and applause ] [Orchestra playing] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪ Na-na-nas, too real, Nas, true king ♪ ♪ Na-na-nas, too real ♪ Nas, true king ♪ Nas, too real, Nas, true king ♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪ Na-na-nas, too real, Nas, true king ♪ [ Cheering and applause ] ♪♪ ♪ Na-na-nas, too real ♪♪ ♪ Na-na-nas, too real, Nas, true king ♪ ♪♪ -D.C.! [ Cheering and applause ] ♪♪ Yeah.

Turn my mics up, yes.

It's so good to be here tonight with you.

[ Cheering and applause ] ♪ Na-na-nas, too real ♪ Nas, true king Yes.

♪♪ ♪ Nas, too real, Nas, true king ♪ [ Music stops ] So many people read these different books, 'Outliers,' 'Bounce,' the kind of books that tell you how the most successful people became.

And outside of those books, you notice the people have a lot of privilege.

They are born into the right families and they go to the right schools, and they have the right people guiding them to be great.

I didn't go to the schools that I wanted to go to.

I didn't graduate high school, but I was determined, I was focused, and I had some ideas.

-The people respect tonight, because somebody from Queens brought it live tonight.

You see a lot of Bronx acts, a lot of Brooklyn acts, but you never see Queens acts in the theater really.

But Nasty Nas, one of the youngest artists out right now, who's doing his thing, new artist, is keeping it live, keeping it real. Been under a rock for the last year almost, this is Nasty Nas, and the whole Queensbridge Masters.

Can I say that?

-Nas is on the run. He's on the run, no question.

He's on the run.

That's gonna be one of our top-notch Queensbridge MC's.

-You could say I had a foresight about where I would be, where I should be, where I had to be.

You know, before there was a fan base or a crowd or audience, I was the fan base, the mirror was my audience.

Myself, in a room by myself, was all I needed.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ What was I thinking?



I was just trying to get in the rap game, the incredible rap game.

♪♪ ♪♪ It's all a dream.

It's time.

And when that time came, I took it.

♪♪ Yeah.

♪ Rappers, I monkey flip 'em ♪ With the funky rhythm I be kickin' ♪ ♪ Musician, inflictin' composition of pain ♪ ♪ Scarface sniffin' cocaine ♪ Holdin' an M16, with the pen I'm extreme ♪ ♪ Now, bullet holes left in my peepholes ♪ ♪ Suited up with street clothes ♪ ♪ Hand me a 9 and I'll defeat foes ♪ ♪ Y'all know my steelo with or without the airplay ♪ ♪ I keep some E&J, sittin' bent up in the stairway ♪ ♪ Or either on the corner bettin' grants with cee-lo champs ♪ ♪ Laughin' at baseheads tryna sell some broken amps ♪ ♪ G-packs get off quick, forever niggas talk ♪ ♪ Reminiscin' about the last time the task force flipped ♪ ♪ Yo, they be runnin' through the block shootin' ♪ ♪ Time to start a revolution ♪ Catch a body, head for Houston ♪ ♪ They caught us off-guard, MAC-10 was in the grass ♪ ♪ Ran like a cheetah with thoughts of an assassin ♪ ♪ Picked the MAC up, told brothers, 'Back up!' ♪ ♪ The MAC spit, lead was hittin' niggas, one ran ♪ ♪ I made him backflip, heard a few chicks scream ♪ ♪ My arm shook, couldn't look ♪ ♪ Gave another squeeze, heard it click ♪ ♪ Yo, my -- is stuck!

♪ It wouldn't shoot, now I'm in danger ♪ ♪ Pull my -- back, had three bullets ♪ ♪ Caught up in the chamber ♪ Now I'm running through the building lobby ♪ ♪ It was full of children prob'ly, couldn't see as high as I be ♪ ♪ The game ain't the same ♪ Got younger niggas pullin' the triggers ♪ ♪ Bringin' fame to they name ♪ Claim some corners, crews without guns are goners ♪ ♪ Broad daylight, stick-up kids, they run up on us ♪ ♪ 45's and gauges, MAC's in fact ♪ ♪ Same niggas will catch you back-to-back ♪ ♪ Snatchin' your cracks in black ♪ ♪ It's a snitch on the block gettin' niggas knocked ♪ ♪ So hold your stash 'til the coke price drop ♪ ♪ I know this crackhead say she got to smoke nice rock ♪ ♪ If it's good, she'll bring you customers in measuring pots ♪ ♪ But yo, you gotta slide in on a vacation ♪ ♪ Inside information, large niggas erasin' ♪ ♪ And their wives basin', it drops deep ♪ ♪ As it does in my breath, I never sleep ♪ ♪ 'Cause sleep is the cousin of death ♪ ♪ I lay puzzle as I backtrack to earlier times ♪ ♪ Nothing's equivalent to the New York state of mind ♪ ♪ New York state of mind ♪ New York state of mind ♪ ♪ Where I live ♪ New York state of mind ♪ Where I'm at ♪ New York state of mind ♪ Be havin' dreams I'm a gangsta ♪ ♪ Drinkin' Moets, holdin' TEC's ♪ ♪ Makin' sure the cash came correct, then I stepped ♪ ♪ Investments in stocks, sewin' up the blocks ♪ ♪ To sell rocks, winnin' gunfights with mega-cops ♪ ♪ But just a nigga walkin' with his finger on the trigger ♪ ♪ Make enough figures until my pockets get bigger ♪ ♪ I ain't the type of brother made for you to start testin' ♪ ♪ Give me a Smith & Wesson, I have brothers undressin' ♪ ♪ Thinkin' of cash flow, buddha and shelter ♪ ♪ It get frustrated, I a hijack Delta ♪ ♪ In the PJ's, my blend tape plays, bullets are strays ♪ ♪ Young b..., each block is like a maze ♪ ♪ Full of black rats trapped plus the Island is packed ♪ ♪ From what I hear in all the stories ♪ ♪ When my peoples come back ♪ Black, I'm livin' where the nights is jet-black ♪ ♪ The fiends fight to get crack I just max ♪ ♪ I dream I can sit back and lamp like Capone ♪ ♪ With drug scripts sewn, or the legal luxury life ♪ ♪ Rings flooded with stones ♪ I got so many rhymes, I don't think I'm too sane ♪ ♪ It's parallel to Hell, but I must maintain ♪ ♪ And be prosperous, though we live dangerous ♪ ♪ Cops could just arrest me, blamin' us ♪ ♪ We're held like hostages ♪ It's only right that I was born to use mics ♪ ♪ And the stuff that I write even tougher than dykes ♪ ♪ Taken rappers to a new plateau ♪ ♪ Through rap slow, my rhymin' is a vitamin ♪ ♪ Held without a capsule ♪ The smooth criminal on beat breaks ♪ ♪ Never put me in your box if your -- eats tapes ♪ ♪ The city never sleeps, full of villains and creeps ♪ ♪ Where I learned to do my hustle, had to scuffle with freaks ♪ ♪ I'm an addict for sneakers 20's of buddha ♪ ♪ Bitches with beepers in the streets I can greet ya ♪ ♪ About blunts I teach ya ♪ Inhale deep like the words of my breath ♪ ♪ I never sleep, 'cause sleep is the cousin of death ♪ ♪ I lay puzzle and backtrack to earlier times ♪ ♪ Nothing's equivalent to the New York state of mind ♪ ♪ New -- New York state of mind ♪ ♪ New York state of mind ♪ ♪ Where I live ♪ New York state of mind ♪ Where I'm at ♪ New York state of mind [Remixing] ♪ But tonight, tonight ♪ Yeah, in a D.C. state of mind ♪ ♪♪ ♪ Yeah, yeah ♪ Yeah ♪ Nasty Nas, come on ♪ Nasty Nas, what ♪ Nasty Nas, whoa ♪ ♪ Whoa ♪♪ [ Cheering and applause ] ♪♪ ♪♪ Thank you.

♪♪ When I found out I was doing the show with Nas, I called my son, who's 19, and I said, 'Do you, by any chance, have 'Illmatic' on your iPod?'

And his response was, 'Which version?'

So, of course, he plays it for me, and I've been playing it ever since, and now my very favorite line is, 'Life's a bitch, and then you die.

That's why we get high, 'cause you never know when you're gonna go.'

-This life is crazy.

♪♪ I realize we're all here for a purpose.

♪♪ I was lucky to find mine.

♪♪ I didn't come from a privileged family.

We just rise, right?

With no help, we can just rise, in a way.

♪♪ For me, I needed more than just money, though.

I wanted to be heard, man.

♪♪ ♪ Twenty years, a blessin', essence of adolescence ♪ ♪ Let my body fresher, physical frame celebrated ♪ ♪ 'Cause I made it one quarter through life ♪ ♪ Some godly-like thing created ♪ ♪ Got rhymes 365 days annual, plus some ♪ ♪ Load up the mic and bust one, cuss while I pus from ♪ ♪ My skull, 'cause it's pain in my brain vein, money maintain ♪ ♪ Don't go against the grain, simple and plain ♪ ♪ When I was young I used to do my thing hard ♪ ♪ Robbin' foreigners, take they wallets, they jewelry ♪ ♪ Rip they green card ♪ Dipped to the projects, flashin' my quick cash ♪ ♪ Got my first piece of ass, smokin' blunts with hash ♪ ♪ Now it's all about cash in abundance ♪ ♪ Niggas I used to run with are rich ♪ ♪ Or doin' years in the hundreds ♪ ♪ I switched my motto; instead of sayin', 'Tomorrow!' ♪ ♪ That buck that bought a bottle could've struck the lotto ♪ ♪ At times I look back, loose cracks produce stacks ♪ ♪ Cooked up, cut small pieces to get my loot back ♪ ♪ Time is illmatic, keep static like wool fabric ♪ ♪ Pack a 4-matic to crack your whole cabbage ♪ ♪ Life's a bitch and then you die ♪ ♪ That's why we get high ♪ 'Cause you never know when you're gonna go ♪ ♪ Life's a bitch and then you die ♪ ♪ That's why we get high ♪ 'Cause you never know when you're gonna go ♪ ♪ Life's a bitch and then you die ♪ ♪ That's why we puff la ♪ 'Cause you never know when you're gonna go ♪ ♪ Life's a bitch and then you die ♪ ♪ That's why we get high ♪ 'Cause you never know when you're gonna go ♪ [ Cheering and applause ] Shout out to my father, Olu Dara.

♪♪ This is his horn part right here, he wrote.

Can we hear the horn?

♪♪ He played that so right.

♪♪ ♪ Life's a bitch and then you... ♪ ♪ Why we get high, never know, that's real, right? ♪ ♪ Life's a bitch and then you die ♪ ♪ That's why we puff la ♪ 'Cause you never know when you're gonna go ♪ ♪ Life's a bitch and then you die ♪ ♪ That's why we get high ♪ 'Cause you never know when you're gonna go ♪ ♪ Life's a bitch and then you die ♪ ♪♪ Y'all making me high right now.

I don't need no weed.

♪♪ Yeah.

♪♪ Oh!

[ Cheering and applause ] ♪♪ Thank you for that.

♪♪ ♪♪ -The upcoming album, 'Illmatic', is the latest creation from rapper Nas.

-It's like a person like him only comes along once in lifetime.

-The 20 year old Nas is a product of one of the largest and toughest housing projects in New York City, Queensbridge Houses, aka 'The Bridge.'

-The Bridge is very well, 365 days a year.

-This the foundation right here, you know what I'm saying?

My foundation. It's where I started out.

It's where I grew up at, 40 side of Vernon.

You know, it took one day for it to click to go, we're in the projects.

You know, you had TV shows like 'Good Times,' and they had similar buildings, and Cabrini-Green in Chicago, so they would mention, 'We in the projects,' and we'd be like -- but nobody was bad as Cabrini-Green, you know, you look at that show, and you be like, 'Wow, that was --' You know what I mean?

But that was really what was happening around in my neighborhood, in reality, so those things hadn't sank in.

But, before that all sunk in, it was a beautiful neighborhood.

For me, I feel like I was really blessed, lucky, whatever you wanna call it, to grow up in the inner city of New York -- I mean, what more can you ask for, especially during that time?

I was blessed. I was lucky with that.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪ It's yours ♪ It-it-it-it's yours ♪♪ ♪ I sip the Dom P, watchin' Gandhi 'til I'm charged ♪ ♪ Writin' in my book of rhymes, all the words past the margin ♪ ♪ Behold the mic I'm throbbin' ♪ My movement understandable smooth ♪ ♪ That murderers move with, the thief's theme ♪ ♪ Play me at night, they won't act right ♪ ♪ The fiend of hip-hop got me stuck like a crack pipe ♪ ♪ The mind activation, react like I'm facin' ♪ ♪ Time like Pappy Mason, with pens I'm embracin' ♪ ♪ Wipe the sweat off my dome, spit the phlegm on the streets ♪ ♪ Ralph Lauren on my feet makes my cipher complete ♪ ♪ Whether cruisin' in a Six cab or Montero Jeep ♪ ♪ I can't call it, the beats make me fallin' asleep ♪ ♪ I keep fallin', but never fallin' six feet deep ♪ ♪ I'm out for presidents to represent me ♪ ♪ Presidents to represent me ♪ President Barack Obama, he represents me! ♪ ♪ The world is yours ♪ It's mine, it's mine, it's mine -- who? ♪ ♪ The world is yours, the world is yours ♪ ♪ Can you believe it? It's your world ♪ ♪ It's yours!

♪ It's mine, it's... ♪ Can you believe that?

♪ I said the world is yours ♪ ♪ Believe it, yeah ♪ To my man Ill Will God bless your life ♪ ♪ To my peoples right here God bless your life ♪ ♪ I trip, we box up crazy bitches ♪ ♪ Aimin' guns in all my baby pictures ♪ ♪ Beef with housing police ♪ Release scriptures that's maybe Hitler's ♪ ♪ Yet I'm the mild, money-gettin' style, rollin' foul ♪ ♪ The versatile, honey-stickin', wild, golden child ♪ ♪ Dwellin' in the Rotten Apple, you get tackled ♪ ♪ Or caught by the devil's lasso ♪ ♪ There's no days for broke days ♪ ♪ We sell it, smoke pays ♪ While all the old folks pray to Jesús ♪ ♪ Soakin' their sins in trays of holy water ♪ ♪ Odds against Nas are slaughter ♪ ♪ Thinkin' a word best describin' my life to name my daughter ♪ ♪ My strength, my son, the star will be my resurrection ♪ ♪ Born in correction, all the wrongs that I did ♪ ♪ He'll do a right direction, how ya live? ♪ ♪ Large or broke, charge cards are mediocre ♪ ♪ You flippin' coke, playin' spit, spades, and strip poker? ♪ ♪ What you want soldier?

♪ I thought I told ya ♪ It's mine, it's mine ♪ Whose world?

♪ The world, the world ♪ Up top ♪ It's your world ♪ It's mine, it's mine ♪ Whose world?

♪ The world is yours, the world is yours ♪ ♪ Unh ♪ Watch what you listen to!

♪ I been listening lately a lot of you niggas ain't real ♪ ♪♪ ♪ If I must say so myself ♪ All right check it ♪ I'm the young city bandit, hold myself down single-handed ♪ ♪ For murder raps, I kick my thoughts alone, get remanded ♪ ♪ Born alone, die alone; no crew to keep my crown or throne ♪ ♪ I'm deep by sound alone, caved inside, 1,000 miles from home ♪ ♪ I need a new nigga for this black cloud to follow ♪ ♪ 'Cause while it's over me it's too dark to see tomorrow ♪ ♪ Tryin' to maintain, I flip, fill the clip to the tip ♪ ♪ Picturin' my peeps not eatin' can make my heartbeat skip ♪ ♪ And I'm amped up, they locked the champ up ♪ ♪ Remember that Mike Tyson back in the days ♪ ♪ Stabbin' women like the Phantom ♪ ♪ The crew is lampin', Big Willie style ♪ ♪ Check the chip-toothed smile, plus I profile wild ♪ ♪ Stash loot in fly clothes ♪ Burnin' dollars to light my stove ♪ ♪ Boppity-bop, checkin' dames plus the games people play ♪ ♪ Bust the problems of the world today ♪ ♪ It's yours ♪ It's mine, it's mine ♪ Whose world?

♪ I said, the world is yours, the world is yours ♪ ♪ Whose world?

♪ It's yours ♪ Whose world?

♪ I said the world is yours, the world is yours ♪ ♪ To my Queensbridge crew, the foundation ♪ ♪ The world is yours ♪ To my peoples in B-more ♪ The world is yours ♪ The world is yours -- all my peoples in VA ♪ ♪ The world is yours, The world is yours ♪ ♪ In the nation's capital, you know the world is yours ♪ ♪ The world is yours ♪ Unh ♪ Da-da-da, da-da-da ♪ Yeah, smooth it out like ♪ ♪ Da-da-da, da-da-da ♪ ♪♪ [ Cheering and applause ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ This is crazy.

20 years later, after making this album, here I am, National Symphony Orchestra, playing my album, 'Illmatic.'

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ It's crazy, you know, I wrote this in the projects of New York City, you know, and here we are, in the capital, you know, of America -- Washington, D.C., and, you know, a bunch of white people with strings and all of that, you know, playin' -- playing this album.

And -- and they feelin' it.

-When the idea came about, of collaborating with Nas and the National Symphony Orchestra, of course it was something I felt was very, very exciting, but at the same time, a little daunting, because this was the first time, me, as a classical orchestra conductor, was gonna branch out into the realm of doing, you know, hip-hop music and rap music.

And the idea of finally tackling this genre was something I was really looking forward to do.

-♪ Yeah, be what I wanna be I think I'm gonna do the chorus first.

♪ If I work hard at it ♪ I'll be where I want to be, yeah ♪ ♪ I know I can ♪ What I wanna be ♪ If I work hard at it ♪ I'll be where I wanna be ♪ Oh man, I hope the audience look at me like, 'Yo, look at this kid from the hood, on the stage, where he belongs,' because there are lots of great artists and writers and vocalists and whoever -- pianists and musicians -- that never make it to a stage like this.

So when you see one of them that do, you know, you gotta say that, you know, this guy's doing it for everybody who didn't make it there.

♪♪ I like that.

♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪ Nasty Nas in your area ♪ About to cause mass hysteria ♪♪ ♪ Before a blunt, I take out my fronts ♪ ♪ Then I start to front; matter of fact ♪ ♪ I be on a manhunt ♪ You couldn't catch me in the streets ♪ ♪ Without a ton of reefer ♪ That's like Malcolm X catching the Jungle Fever ♪ ♪ King poetic; too much flavor, I'm major ♪ ♪ Atlanta ain't Braver, I'll pull a number, like a pager ♪ ♪ And I'm an ace when I face the bass ♪ ♪ 40-side is the place that is giving me grace ♪ ♪ Now wait, another dose and you might be dead ♪ ♪ And I'm a Nike-head ♪ I wear chains that excite the Feds ♪ ♪ And ain't a damn thing gonna change ♪ ♪ I'm a performer, strange ♪ So the mic warmer was born to gain ♪ ♪ Nas, why did you do it?

♪ You know You got the mad-phat fluid when you rhyme ♪ ♪ It's halftime ♪ C'mon, c'mon, c'mon, C'mon, c'mon, c'mon ♪ ♪ Halftime ♪ C'mon, c'mon, c'mon, C'mon, c'mon, c'mon ♪ ♪ Halftime ♪ C'mon, c'mon, c'mon; C'mon, c'mon, c'mon ♪ ♪ Halftime ♪ Yeah, yeah ♪ I said it's like that, you know it's like that ♪ ♪ I got it hemmed, now you never get the mic back ♪ ♪ When I attack, there ain't an army that could strike back ♪ ♪ So I react never calmly on a hype track ♪ ♪ I set it off with my own rhyme ♪ ♪ 'Cause I'm as ill as a convict who kills for phone time ♪ ♪ I'm max like -- I flex like sex ♪ ♪ In your stereo sets, Nas'll catch wreck ♪ ♪ I used to hustle; now all I do is relax and strive ♪ ♪ When I was young I was a fan of the Jackson 5 ♪ ♪ I rock jewels, wear jewels, hope to never run it ♪ ♪ With more kicks than a baby in a mother's stomach ♪ ♪ Nasty Nas has to rise, 'cause I'm wise ♪ ♪ This is exercise 'til the microphone dies ♪ ♪ Back in '83 I was an MC sparkin' ♪ ♪ But I was too scared to grab the mics in the parks ♪ ♪ And kick my little raps ♪ 'Cause I thought niggas wouldn't understand ♪ ♪ And now in every jam I'm the -- man ♪ ♪ I rap in front of more niggas than in the slave ships ♪ ♪ I used to watch 'CHiPS', now I load Glock clips ♪ ♪ I got to have it, I miss Mr. Magic ♪ ♪ Rest in peace Mr. Magic Tragic ♪ ♪ Check, I'm an intellectual ♪ And that's no question, yo ♪ These are the lyrics of the man You can't near it, understand ♪ ♪ 'Cause in the streets I'm well-known ♪ ♪ Like the number man ♪ Am I in place with the bass and all that ♪ ♪ Explore rap and tell me, 'Nas ain't all that' ♪ ♪ And next time I rhyme, I be foul ♪ ♪ Whenever I freestyle I see trial ♪ ♪ Niggas say I'm wild, oh ♪ I hate a rhyme-biter's rhyme ♪ Stay tuned, I assume; the real rap comes at halftime ♪ ♪♪ ♪ Check, check, it's halftime ♪ ♪ Wait, lookin' at my Rolly, it's about that time ♪ ♪ Oh ♪ C'mon, c'mon ♪ You hear that soul to soul in there ♪ ♪ C'mon ♪ Some of y'all know ♪ I got it going on, even flip a morning song ♪ ♪ Every afternoon, I kick half the tune ♪ ♪ And in the darkness, I'm heartless ♪ ♪ Like when the narcs hit, word to Marcus Garvey ♪ ♪ I hardly sparked it ♪ 'Cause when I pass the herb, that's my word ♪ ♪ I be slayin' them fast, doing this that and the third ♪ ♪ But chill, pass the Andre, and let's slay ♪ ♪ I bag ladies up at -- and hit a matinee ♪ ♪ Putting hits on 5-0 ♪ 'Cause when it's my time to go ♪ ♪ I wait for God with the .44 ♪ And biters can't come near ♪ So go to hell to the foul cop who shot Garcia ♪ ♪ I won't plant seeds ♪ Don't need an extra mouth I can't feed ♪ ♪ That's extra Phillie change, more cash for damp weed ♪ ♪ This goes out to Manhattan, the island of Staten ♪ ♪ Brooklyn and Queens is living fat ♪ ♪ And The Boogie Down, enough props, enough clout ♪ ♪ Ill Will, rest in peace! We was out ♪ ♪ C'mon, c'mon, c'mon ♪ Halftime ♪ Hold up ♪ Looking at my Rollie its about that time ♪ ♪ Oh!

♪ Half, half ♪ It's halftime ♪ Yeah, check ♪ Hey, yo, it's halftime ♪ Not even half of the show, though ♪ ♪ Not even half [ Cheering and applause ] ♪ Yeah ♪ Halftime ♪ Yeah ♪ Halftime ♪ Yeah ♪ Halftime My neighborhood encouraged me and inspired me in a lot of ways.

It's a lot of great energy there, catch an old guy on the bench feeding the pigeons and talk to him for a minute and see what he's talking about.

You look at the cracks in the ground of the basketball court, the rusty rim without the net, you know what I'm sayin'? The bullet hole in the backboard, the good times I had hanging out on that block and stuff like that.

It was just so much good.

♪♪ ♪ Yeah, yeah Brings me back.

I used to come outside on the block, the basketball court was cracked, you still playing ball, shootin' on a rusty rim.

I lived on the fifth floor.

Wow, remember those days like yesterday.

Memories, man, they feed the soul.


♪♪ ♪♪ ♪ I rap for listeners, prisoners ♪ ♪ Hennessy-holders, old-school niggas ♪ ♪ Then I be dissin' unofficial that smoke Woolie Thai ♪ ♪ I dropped out of Cooley High ♪ Gassed up by a cokehead cutie pie ♪ ♪ Jungle survivor, who's the alive-er ♪ ♪ My man put the battery in my back, a difference ♪ ♪ From Energizer, sentence begins indented ♪ ♪ With formality, my duration's infinite ♪ ♪ Moneywise or physiology ♪ Poetry, that's a part of me ♪ Retardedly bop I drop the ancient manifested ♪ ♪ Hip-hop straight off the block I reminisce on park jams ♪ ♪ My man was shot for his sheep coat ♪ ♪ I can see him drop in my weed smoke ♪ ♪ It's real, grew up in trife times ♪ ♪ Murderous nights, white lines ♪ ♪ Pipe fights, yeah ♪ Chill on the block with Cognac, hold strap ♪ ♪ With my peeps that's into drug money market interact ♪ ♪ No sign of the beast in the blue Chrysler ♪ ♪ Guess that means peace for niggas ♪ ♪ No shysty vice to just snipe ya ♪ ♪ Start off the dice-rollin' mats for craps ♪ ♪ To cee-lo to roll a deuce, nothin' below ♪ ♪ Peace God, now the -- is explained ♪ ♪ Takin' all you on a trip back through memory lane ♪ ♪ Damn, it's like that, y'all ♪ It's like that, y'all ♪ It's like that, y'all ♪ ♪ Yeah, now let me take a trip down memory lane ♪ ♪ Comin' outta Queensbridge ♪ Now let us take a trip down memory lane ♪ ♪ Comin' outta Queensbridge ♪ Now let us take a trip down memory lane ♪ ♪ Comin' outta Queensbridge ♪ Now let us take a trip down memory lane ♪ ♪ Comin' outta Queensbridge Let me explain ♪ ♪ One for the money, two for a pussy and foreign cars ♪ ♪ Three for Alizé, niggas deceased or behind bars ♪ ♪ Rap divine, God, check the prognosis ♪ ♪ Is it real or showbiz?

♪ My window faces shootouts, drug overdoses ♪ ♪ Live amongst no roses, only the drama ♪ ♪ For real, a nickel-plate is my fate ♪ ♪ My medicine is the ganja ♪ Here's my basis, my razor embraces, many faces ♪ ♪ You're telephone blown, black, stitches or fat shoelaces ♪ ♪ Peoples are petro, dramatic automatic .44 ♪ ♪ I let blow and back down po-po when I'm vexed so ♪ ♪ My pen taps the paper, then my brain's blank ♪ ♪ I see dark streets ♪ Hustlin' brothers who keep the same rank ♪ ♪ Pumpin' for somethin', some'll prosper, some fail ♪ ♪ Judges hangin' niggas ♪ Uncorrect bail for direct sales ♪ ♪ My intellect prevails from a hangin' cross with nails ♪ ♪ I reinforce the frail, with lyrics that's real ♪ ♪ Word to Christ, a disciple of streets, trifle on beats ♪ ♪ I decipher prophecies through a mic and say 'peace' ♪ ♪ I hung around the older crews ♪ ♪ While they sling smack to dingbats ♪ ♪ They spoke of Fat Cat ♪ That nigga's name made bell rings, black ♪ ♪ Some fiends scream about Supreme Team ♪ A Jamaica Queens thing ♪ Uptown was Alpo, son, heard he was kingpin ♪ ♪ Rap is real, watch the herbs stand still ♪ ♪ Never talkin' to snakes, 'cause the words of man kill ♪ ♪ True in the game, as long as blood is blue in my vein ♪ ♪ Pour my Heineken brew to my deceased crew on memory lane ♪ ♪ It's like that, y'all ♪ For memory lane ♪ Nothin' like the memories, boy ♪ ♪ Let me take a trip down memory lane ♪ ♪ Unh, comin' outta Queensbridge ♪ ♪ Let me take a trip down memory lane ♪ ♪ Comin' out of Queensbridge ♪ Remember looking out my window pane ♪ ♪ Comin' out of Queensbridge ♪ Now let us take a trip down memory lane ♪ ♪ Comin' out of Queensbridge ♪ Let me take a trip down memory lane ♪ ♪ Coming out of Queensbridge ♪♪ ♪ Comin' out of Queensbridge ♪ Queensbridge, Queensbridge, Queensbridge ♪ Thanks.

Thank you.


That's something for your mind.

♪♪ I was up in here in the studio one day, doing a song, and you, you know, when we hear it, we thinkin' like, damn, it's a blessing that we could be here working on this equipment and stuff like that, so then we wonder, what's going on back in the projects right now, some crazy probably going on, so then we go back around the way, and boom, it be a nigga -- I just came back on the block, and you see a nigga whole head just open, blood, you know what I'm sayin'? No disrespect to that brotha.

Bless -- bless your life and all that, but it's ill.

You know what I'm sayin'? Every one of us has people who lived and died for us to be here, and I think it's important to realize that, you know, it took a lot for you to get wherever you are, and it's always important to think about it, you know, think about what really got you here.

I used to say I grew up like a Vietnam vet in my teenage years, you know, because of what I seen and stuff.

So, seeing deaths around me at an early age, I thought it was unfortunate, but I thought that was life.

I thought that was life.

I knew there was another side of town where things were different, of course, but I didn't know that other side of town, so it was life.

[Cheering] ♪♪ ♪♪ [Applause] ♪♪ Damn.

♪♪ ♪ What up, kid?

♪ You know it's rough after you slid ♪ ♪ When the cops came you shoulda slid to my crib ♪ ♪ Black, no time for lookin' back, it's done ♪ ♪ Plus, congratulations, know you got a son ♪ ♪ I heard he looks like ya, why don't your lady write ya ♪ ♪ Told her she should visit, that's when she got hyper ♪ ♪ Flippin', talkin' about he acts too rough ♪ ♪ He didn't listen, he be riffin' ♪ ♪ While I'm tellin' him stuff ♪ I was like, yeah, your girl don't care don't care ♪ ♪ She a snake too, messin' with them niggas ♪ ♪ From that fake crew that hate you ♪ ♪ But yo, guess who got shot in the dome-piece ♪ ♪ Jerome's niece, on her way home from Jones Beach ♪ ♪ It's bugged, plus little Rob is sellin' drugs on the dime ♪ ♪ Hangin' out with young thugs that all carry 9's ♪ ♪ More trife than ever What up with Cormega? ♪ ♪ Did you see him? Are y'all together? ♪ ♪ If so, then hold the fort down, represent to the fullest ♪ ♪ Say what's up to Herb, Ice and Bullet ♪ ♪ I left a half a hundred in your commissary ♪ ♪ You was my dog when push came to shove ♪ ♪ One, one, one -- One love! ♪ ♪ One love, one love ♪ We used to write letters to each other ♪ ♪ Now they email you from jail, right? ♪ ♪ One love, yeah ♪ One love, one love, one love, one love ♪ ♪ Yeah, one love, one love, one love, one love ♪ ♪♪ ♪ Unh ♪ Wow ♪ A lot of those dudes I wrote about on that album ♪ ♪ Have passed on ♪ In that song specifically ♪ Damn ♪ My man Draws, Marty, Yayo ♪ So many of them ♪ They left us here ♪ But I wish they knew we were in good company, all right ♪ ♪ Represent to the fullest ♪ Let's represent forever ♪ We gonna represent forever ♪ I will represent forever ♪ Yeah ♪ Say what?

♪ What you say?

♪ What we do?

♪ Represent ♪ Any day could be your last in the jungle ♪ ♪ Get murdered on a humble, guns'll blast, niggas tumble ♪ ♪ The corners is the hot spot, full of criminals ♪ ♪ Who don't care, guzzling beers, we all stare ♪ ♪ At the out-of-towners, they better break North ♪ ♪ Before we get the four pounders ♪ ♪ And tear they face off, the streets is real ♪ ♪ Undercovers, homicide chasing brothers ♪ ♪ D's on the roof tryin' to watch us and lock us ♪ ♪ Killer coppers even come through in helicopters ♪ ♪ Drink a little vodka, spark a L and hold a Glock for ♪ ♪ The fronters, wannabe ill niggas and spot runners ♪ ♪ Thinking it can't happen 'til I trap 'em and clap 'em ♪ ♪ And leave 'em done, won't even run about ♪ ♪ I don't believe in none of that, your facts are backwards ♪ ♪ Nas is a rebel of the street corner ♪ ♪ Pulling a TEC out the dresser, police got me under pressure ♪ ♪ Represent, represent ♪ Represent, represent ♪ ♪ Yeah, represent, represent ♪ Oh, represent, represent ♪ ♪ Yeah, they call me Nas, I'm not your legal type of fella ♪ ♪ Moet drinking, marijuana smoking street dweller ♪ ♪ Who's always on the corner, rolling up blessed ♪ ♪ When I dress, it's never nothing less than Guess ♪ ♪ Cold be walking with a bop and my hat turned back ♪ ♪ Love committing sins and my friends sell crack ♪ ♪ This nigga raps with a razor, keep it under my tongue ♪ ♪ The school drop-out, never liked that from day one ♪ ♪ Life ain't -- but stress, fake niggas, crab stunts ♪ ♪ I guzzle my Hennessy while pulling on mad blunts ♪ ♪ The brutalizer, Brutus-izer, accelerator ♪ ♪ The type of brother who be -- in your elevator ♪ ♪ Hey, yo, the rap game reminds me of the crack game ♪ ♪ Used to sport Bally's and Cazals with black frames ♪ ♪ Now I'm into fat chains, sex and TEC's ♪ ♪ Fly new whips, new chicks, Heine's and Beck's ♪ ♪ I represent, y'all ♪ Represent, yeah, I represent, y'all ♪ ♪ I represent, y'all ♪ See my stacks are fat, this is what it's about ♪ ♪ Before the BDP conflict with MC Shan ♪ ♪ Around the time when Shante dissed the Real Roxanne ♪ ♪ I used to chill up on the corner or the block ♪ ♪ Every day's a different, had us running from cops ♪ ♪ If it wasn't hanging out in front of cocaine spots ♪ ♪ We was at the candy factory, breaking the locks ♪ ♪ Nowadays, I need the cash in the hand ♪ ♪ Like the next man ♪ A yard, God, let me see a hundred grand ♪ ♪ Could use a gun, son, but -- being the wanted man ♪ ♪ But if I hit rock bottom I'ma be the Son of Sam ♪ ♪ Then call the crew to get live too, with Swoop Bokeem ♪ ♪ My brother Jungle, Big Bo cooks up the blow ♪ ♪ Mike'll chop it; Mayo, you count the profit ♪ ♪ It's on the streets, this way the Jakes'll never stop it ♪ ♪ Your brain on -- all fly ladies and thugs ♪ ♪ 'Nuff respect to the projects, we ghost, one love ♪ ♪ Represent, y'all, yeah ♪ Yeah, I represent, y'all ♪ Up top, I represent, y'all ♪ Up top, I represent, y'all ♪ ♪ Oh!

♪ Represent ♪ Let's move it out ♪ Represent ♪ Move it out ♪ To the Queensbridge crew ♪ The 40 side of Vernon ♪ The 41st side of Vernon ♪ To the goodfellas ♪ My man Cee-Lo from the Don ♪ ♪ Lanky the Kid ♪ My whole crew ♪ Big Bo, Mayo, wherever you at, I'm here baby ♪ ♪ To my whole crew from the North Side ♪ ♪ From the South Side ♪ Way out in Astoria Projects ♪ ♪ Can't forget Ravenswood ♪ The whole Long Island City ♪ We here baby, we here ♪♪ ♪ And of course to you, D.C.! ♪ Represent, represent ♪ Represent to the fullest [ Cheering and applause ] I worked on my thing.

I worked on my craft and I stuck to it.

So, today, here, I think about how many people were wrong.

I think about how many people, who didn't follow their heart, who believed what someone told 'em, or believed what society says, or what status quo was tellin' them.

Don't believe nothin' but you.

Don't believe in anything but you.

I feel good up here.

[ Laughter and applause ] ♪♪ ♪ Yeah, it's illmatic ♪ It's illmatic ♪ Let's go back a little bit and go one time for your mind ♪ ♪ One time, yeah, whatever ♪ ♪ One time for your mind, one time ♪ ♪ Yo, whatever, One time for your mind ♪ ♪ One time ♪ Hey yo, Nas? Kick that rhyme! ♪ ♪ Yeah, check, check it out ♪ ♪ When I'm chilling, I grab the buddha ♪ ♪ Get my crew to buy beers ♪ And watch a flick, illin' and root for the villain, yeah ♪ ♪ Then I go out, I find it, I find it sort of chilly ♪ ♪ Then I send a shorty from my block ♪ ♪ To the store for Phillies ♪ After being blessed by the herb's essence ♪ ♪ I'm back to my rest, ten minutes, some odd seconds ♪ ♪ That's where I got my honey at, spend the night for sexin' ♪ ♪ Keep lubrication, Magnum protection ♪ ♪ Picking up the stereo's remote control quickly ♪ ♪ Ron G's in the cassette deck, rocking the D ♪ ♪ I try to stay mellow, rock, well a cappella rhymes'll ♪ ♪ Make me richer than a slipper made Cinderella, fella ♪ ♪ Go get your crew, Hobbes, I'm prepared to bomb troops ♪ ♪ Rest in peace to my mom dukes ♪ ♪ When I was ten I was a hip-hoppin' shorty wop ♪ ♪ Known for rocking microphones and twisting off a 40 top ♪ ♪ One time for your mind, one time ♪ ♪ One time for your mind, one time ♪ ♪ One time for your mind, one time ♪ ♪ It sounds clever ♪♪ ♪ Okay, cello ♪♪ ♪ You know the hard times, kid ♪ Cold, be starving make you wanna do crimes kid ♪ ♪ But I'ma lamp, 'cause a crime couldn't beat a rhyme ♪ ♪ Muslims yelling ♪ 'Free the mind' ♪ And I'm from Queensbridge, been to many places ♪ ♪ As a kid when I would say that out of town, people chased us ♪ ♪ But now I know the time, got a older mind ♪ ♪ Plus control a 9, fine, see now I represent mine ♪ ♪ I'm new on the rap game, niggas never heard of me ♪ ♪ Yet I'm a menace, why police wanna murder me ♪ ♪ Heine dog drinker, represent the thinker ♪ ♪ My pen rides the paper, it even has blinkers ♪ ♪ Think I'll dim the lights, then inhale, it stimulates ♪ ♪ Floating like I'm on the North 95 Interstate ♪ ♪ Never plan to stop, when I write my hand is hot ♪ ♪ And jam a lot from the Wiz to Camelot ♪ ♪ The parlayer, I'll make your heads bop, pa ♪ ♪ I shine a light on perpetrators, like a cop's car ♪ ♪ From day to night, I play the mic and you'll thank God ♪ ♪ I wreck so much the microphone will need a paint job ♪ ♪ See, my brain is incarcerated ♪ ♪ Live at any jam ♪ I couldn't count all the parks I've raided ♪ ♪ I hold a MAC-11, and attack a reverend ♪ ♪ I contact eleven L's and max in heaven ♪ ♪ One time for your mind, one time ♪ ♪ One time for your mind, one time ♪ ♪ One time for your mind, one time ♪ ♪ Ah [ Cheering and applause ] ♪♪ I hope that you could look through the dream with me, and see the journey I took, to be on the stage with an orchestra.

When it came to every song that we did, hearing it the way I've always heard it, from studio to wax to the radio, and then the National Symphony puttin' it down their way, I knew it was bigger than just what was on the record.

I knew you had more legs than what I already saw you running with, record. I'm talking to my record.

I knew you had different legs too, and it ran off into the air, and the sounds and the notes was bouncing off the walls and hittin' the lights, and landing on people's hearts and minds and eyes, right there on that stage, and it was like, this is what it's about.

Thank you for giving me 20 years of your ears.

[ Cheering and applause ] Thank you. Thank you.

So, we now conclude with the final song of 'Illmatic.'

This was the end of the cassette.

-Audience member: What?! -It was just nine songs.

♪♪ Yeah.

This song right here -- I got you though.

♪♪ This was my joint, 'cause I'm a big Michael Jackson fan, and he... I tell you something I never said, on my album cover, you see me with the Afro.

That was kinda inspired by Michael Jackson, the little -- the little kid picture, right?

So, I never told nobody that before.

So this is, uh, 'It Ain't Hard to Tell.'

♪♪ ♪ Yeah ♪♪ ♪ Yeah Yeah, I see y'all over here.

♪ Yeah ♪ It ain't hard to tell ♪ I excel, then prevail ♪ The mic is contacted ♪ The mic check is life or death♪ ♪ Breathin' a sniper's breath ♪ Exhale the yellow smoke of buddha through righteous steps ♪ ♪ Deep like The Shining, sparkle like a diamond ♪ ♪ Sneak a Uzi on the island in my... ♪ ♪ Hit the Earth like a comet, invasion! ♪ ♪ Nas is like the Afrocentric -- ♪ -♪ Asian -- half-man, half-amazin' ♪ -♪ In my physical I'll express through song ♪ ♪ Delete stress like Motrin, extend strong ♪ ♪ Drink Moet with Medusa, get my shotguns in Hell ♪ ♪ From the spliff that I lift and inhale ♪ -♪ It ain't hard to tell -Whoa.



♪ It ain't hard to... ♪♪ Some of y'all were like 5 years old when this album came out!

♪♪ ♪ The buddha monk's in your trunk, turn the bass up ♪ ♪ Not stories by Aesop ♪ Place your loot up ♪ Nas, I analyze ♪ Inhale from the L School a fool well ♪ ♪ You feel it like Braille, it ain't... ♪ ♪ Kick a skill, like Shaquille holds a pill ♪ ♪ Vocabulary spills, I'm Ill plus Matic ♪ ♪ I freak beats, slam it, like Iron Sheik ♪ ♪ Jam like a TEC with correct technique ♪ ♪ They analyze me, surprise me ♪ ♪ Can't magnetize me ♪ Scannin' while you're plannin' ways to sabo-- ♪ ♪ I leave 'em froze, like heroin in your nose ♪ ♪ Nas will rock well -♪ It ain't hard to tell -Yeah!

[ Cheering and applause ] Yeah!

If you was down with me in '94, make some noise.

[ Cheering and applause ] I love you for that.

♪ This rhythmatic explosion ♪ Is what your frame of mind has chosen ♪ ♪ I'll leave your brain stimulated, niggas is frozen ♪ ♪ Speak with criminal slang, begin like a violin ♪ ♪ End like Leviathan, it's deep ♪ ♪ Wisdom be leakin' out my grapefruit, troop ♪ ♪ I dominate break loops, givin' mics men-e-strual cycles ♪ ♪ Street's disciple, I rock beats that's mega trifle ♪ ♪ And groove even smoother than moves by Villanova ♪ ♪ You're still a soldier, I'm like Sly Stone in Cobra ♪ ♪ Packin' like a Rasta in the weed spot ♪ ♪ Vocals will squeeze Glocks, MC's eavesdrop ♪ ♪ Though they need not to sneak, my poetry's deep ♪ ♪ I never fell, Nas' raps should be locked in a cell ♪ ♪ It ain't hard to tell ♪ Na-na-na-na-nas ♪ It ain't hard to tell ♪♪ ♪ It ain't hard to tell Twenty years!


Special thanks to everybody up in here!

I thank you from the bottom of my bravehearts!

♪♪ ♪♪ [ Cheering and applause ] Thank you.

Special thank you to the National -- to the National Symphony Orchestra.

[ Cheering and applause ] We thank you from the bottom of our brave hearts, for keeping it Illmatic with me through the years.

Thank you for looking beautiful tonight.

I love you forever, man.

Stay real.

[ Cheering and applause ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪ I sip the Dom P, watching Gandhi 'til I'm charged ♪ ♪ Writing in my book of rhymes, all the words past the margin ♪ ♪ To hold the mic I'm throbbing, mechanical movement ♪ ♪ Understandable smooth that murderers move with ♪ ♪ The thief's theme, play me at night, they won't act right ♪ ♪ A fiend of hip-hop, it's got me stuck like a crack pipe ♪ ♪ The mind activation, react like I'm facin' time like ♪ ♪ Pappy Mason with pens I'm embracin' ♪ ♪ Wipe the sweat off my dome, spit the phlegm on the streets ♪ ♪ And the Nikes on my feet keep my cipher complete ♪ ♪ Whether cruising in a Sikh's cab, or Montero Jeep ♪ ♪ I can't call it, beats make me falling asleep ♪ ♪ I keep falling, but never falling six feet deep ♪ ♪ I'm out for presidents to represent me ♪ ♪ I'm out for presidents to represent me ♪ ♪ I'm out for dead presidents to represent me ♪ -♪ Whose world is this ♪ The world is yours -To find out more about this and other 'Great Performances' programs, visit

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-♪ Whose world is this -♪ The world is yours, to mine in lockdown ♪ ♪ With new plans -♪ Whose world is this ♪ The world is mine, holding a stolen cop's Glock ♪ With G-notes in my hand to my man Ill Will ♪ ♪ God bless your life ♪♪