Last Night: Nas Raps Most of Illmatic at Ei8ht Lounge
"I ain't been to no All-Star shit in so long... I'm glad it's in Houston," a cheerful Nasir Jones told the crowd that packed one of Washington Ave's newer establishments, E8ght Lounge on Thursday night. "I love y'all."
Inside the venue itself, a sprawl with two bars on each side, a taut stage with go-go dancers, there was already an air of surreality involved before Nas even touched the stage.
It seemed partial to the crowd, led on by a solid hour of mixing from Atlanta DJ and producer Don Cannon itching to see the main event. Cannon wise cracked about enjoying feet, taunting women who were more than welcome to dance to rowdy call-and-response dance records.
It was an All-Star party in the traditional sense -- plenty of lowkey big names making certain they were seen on the strip with Bentleys and recent model Benzes, bottle service for some and roped off sections for others.
I considered it practice for the rest of the weekend, maybe not the most distinct way to spend a V-Day but when you throw easy on the eyes dancers along with good music, you chances of complaining are slim to nil.
Clutching the microphone in a windbreaker and his babyface gleaming in the strobe lights, all Nasir Jones had to do was utter "Houston" and the crowd would roar in approval. Once the opening chords of "Hate Me Now" strolled out like a chariot of bravado self-awareness, the small space that occupied half the crowd swelled to a point where a small pocket of space on the left side gave your best clear view of Nas and the dancers surrounding him.
It may have lasted all of 25 minutes, a stark difference from his hour-plus jaunt at Bayou Music Center last Halloween but Nas moved in a tight circle, swinging from his Lauryn Hill-assisted "If I Ruled The World" to God Son's open call-and-response "Made You Look" to Life Is Good's bawdy "The Don" record.
"They saying I gotta leave..." he remarked. "But wait, y'all want some old-school shit?"
He could have asked the crowd if they wanted free shots or something, a new song, a remix to Drake's "Started From The Bottom" record and they would have eaten it up. Then the subway car synths of "The Genesis" started up.
An Illmatic medley.