Friday, PBS aired Great Performances—‘Nas Live From the Kennedy Center: Classical Hip-Hop.’
The series featured Nas performing his debut classic Illmatic with the National Symphony Orchestra. Conductor Steven Reineke previously told PBS it was the first time he “branched out into the realm of doing hip-hop” and Nas also noted the seemingly disparate connection.
“It’s crazy…I wrote this in the projects in New York City,” Nas said of Illmatic, during a PBS interview taped before his performance. “And here we are in the capital of America in Washington, D.C. And a bunch of white people with strings and all of that are playing this album, and they’re feeling it.”
Illmatic was originally released on April 19, 1994 and is heralded as a classic by many fans and critics. Last night fans and his music industry peers took to Twitter to show their long standing appreciation for project 20 years later, showing that the project has aged very well.
Nas performing illmatic with a live symphony orchestra as his band at the Kennedy Center?? On PBS?? This is grown up shit no one would have ever predicted for hip hop 20 years ago. Lovely, beautiful evolution. #NasPBS
— Raqiyah Mays (@RaqiyahMays) February 3, 2018
Wait, Nas is performing Illmatic at the Kennedy Center backed by the National Symphony Orchestra? I never thought hip hop would take it this far! #NasPBS
— 🤷🏽♀️ kiki 🤦🏽♀️ (@heyjdey) February 3, 2018
Through candid reflections, photos from his youth, backstage footage and a symphonic performance of “Illmatic,” this is an inside look at the inspiration behind @Nas’ music.
— WGBY (@wgby) February 3, 2018
— Mass Appeal Records (@MassAppealRecs) February 3, 2018
just watched the @Nas at the Kennedy Center joint on PBS. super dope and inspiring. the sole reason why I started rapping in the first place, I wanted to write like Nas.
— Rapper Big Pooh (@RapperBigPooh) February 3, 2018
You can watch the full performance below courtesy of PBS, also featured Nas offering commentary and providing some on-the-fly changes. For example, Nas changed the line, “Suede Timbs on my feet make my cipher complete” to “Ralph Lauren on my feet” in a sartorial nod to his designer dress shoes. The performance was taped back in March 2014.