Even though it's been nearly 25 years since Nas dropped his iconic debut, Illmatic, we still haven't gotten tired of listening to such classics as "The World Is Yours" and "NY State of Mind." However, just when you thought there was no way to hear the song through new ears, Queens Finest comes along to blow our mind with news that he recently performed the album in its entirety while backed by the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center. If you (like us), weren't lucky enough to be in the audience during the performance, then have no fear: it will air on PBS on February 2nd in a Great Performances special named Nas Live From the Kennedy Center: Classical Hip-Hop.
The stage at the historic Washington, D.C.-venue is a far cry from the Queensbridge roots of Mr. Jones. In the featured preview clip, he is heard reflecting on the journey that took him from the projects to grace the same stage that also has hosted the likes of everyone ranging from Ella Fitzgerald to Audra McDonald. "Here we are in the the capital of America, Washington, D.C., playing this album and they're feeling it," he marvels. "I hope the audience look at me like, 'Yo, look at this kid from the hood on the stage where he belongs."
No truer words are spoken as Nas looks perfectly at home on the celebrated stage as he walks through mic checks before taking the stage in full tuxedo before a cheering audience. It is a satisfyingly fitting trajectory for one of hip-hop's most revered wordsmiths. The orchestral music provides the perfect sound to the broodingly theatrical sounds of the original Illmatic. Steven Reineke, the National Symphony Orchestra's Principal Pops Conductor, expressed his excitement at taking on the unique and ambitious project. "This was the first time me as a classical orchestra conductor was going to branch into the realm of doing hip-hop music and rap music. And the idea of finally tackling this genre was something I was really looking forward to do," he said in a statement.
As previously mentioned, Nas' episide of Great Performances is set to air on PBS on Friday, February 2nd. Be sure to check your local listings for show times and if you miss it, have no fear because it'll be streaming on the PBS website after the initial premiere. Check out the sneak peak below and prepare to enjoy Illmatic in a whole new way.