October 18, 2012

Students Express Excitement Over News That Hip-Hop Legend Nas Will Take Barton Hall Stage in November

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Almost 20 years after his first album Illmatic catapulted him to eternal hip-hop glory, Nas will perform at Cornell on Nov. 10 in Barton Hall, according to an upcoming announcement by the Cornell Concert Commission. CCC confirmed the event on Thursday.

Nas — whose full name is Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones — is one of the undisputed legends of the early 1990s New York City hip-hop scene that also produced The Notorious B.I.G., Jay Z and the Wu Tang Clan.

Cornell will be one stop of many for Nas on his joint tour with Lauryn Hill: The Life is Good/ Black Rage Tour. Following Nas’ latest studio album Life is Good, released July 13, and Hill’s unreleased single “Black Rage,” the tour began Oct. 29 in Dallas, according to billboard.com.

Nas, entering his third decade in the music industry, will offer Cornell a performance distinct from previous hip-hop concerts, including Lupe Fiasco in April 2011 and Kid Cudi in Nov. 2010, according to Dave Rodriguez ‘13, executive director of CCC.

“Nas is at a very different point his career than Lupe [Fiasco] was when he came [to Cornell in April 2011]. Nas has been around since the early 90s; we got Lupe when he was at the height of his career … I’m hoping it’s going to be a little more laid back than maybe Lupe or Kid Cudi,” Rodriguez said.

When the possibility arose for Nas to perform at Cornell surfaced in CCC discussion, they “went for it,” according to Rodriguez.

Although Nas is touring with Lauryn Hill — an acclaimed rapper, singer and songwriter — CCC may not currently have sufficient funds to secure her performance as well, according to Rodriguez.

“I can’t confirm or deny anything at this point,” Rodriguez said.

Students expressed excitement Thursday about Nas’ performance. Some called the rapper a more substantive artist than recent D.J. and mashup acts.

“A lot of the [music CCC brings] is just noise or dance music. This is going to be fun: People like the music and he has something to say. His lyrics are meaningful,” Ariel Smilowitz ’15 said. “He’s a legend. You’re going to be telling your grandkids you saw Nas.”

Michael Cohanpour ’15 echoed these sentiments.

“Nas is like my idol. His rap has so much substance to it. He just writes as if you’re put in that situation,” Cohanpour said.

“His first album, Illmatic, was one of the best albums of all time,” Cohanpour added.

Released in 1994, Nas’ Illmatic has been hailed as a tour de force that exposes the brutal cycles of poverty and crime in inner-city America. A native of the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City, Queens, Nas dropped out of school in the ninth grade, and his rap mentor and neighbor was murdered by a gunman when he was young.

Still, Nas’ songs have been praised as widely accessible, and some may even directly relate to Cornell students.

“I never sleep, because sleep is the cousin of death,” goes the refrain in Nas’ “N.Y. State of Mind.”

“The way he can appeal to both the mainstream audience and people like my English teacher is so cool,” Cohanpour said.

Nas’ acclaim in part stems from his formidable lyrics.

“Overall, Nas is a poet. You can’t even just call him a rapper,” Cohanpour said.

Unlike Homecoming’s Avicii concert, ticketing for Nas’ show will operate under CCC’s standard policy: four tickets maximum per person and no requirement of photo identification upon entry, according to Rodriguez.

But several students said they expected Cornellians to be equally if not more excited by Nas’ appearance than they were by Avicii’s. Scott Abrams ’15 said he expects that Nas will be “as big or bigger than Avicii.”

“People freak out because Avicii came to Cornell, and he really only has a few hit songs. Nas has a few hit albums. You really can’t even compare,” Smilowitz said.

Jeff Stein and Liz Camuti contributed reporting to this article.

Original Author: Lianne Bornfeld