Nas Ei8ht Lounge February 14, 2013
"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.
Most eyes diverted towards the dancers onstage, skinny slight model types clad in red in honor of Valentine's Day and even they were reduced to spectating fans once Nas hit the stage.
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.
Here's the power of his seminal debut album. It's nearly 20 years old and still causes grown rap nerds to leap over scantily clad women to tell themselves as loud as possibly internally, "YES I AM HERE WITH NAS AND YES I AM GOING TO RAP THIS ENTIRE ALBUM IN YOUR FACE!"
So "The Genesis" begot "Halftime" which begot "The World Is Yours" which begot "It Ain't Hard to Tell." All rapid-fire, all moments where scantily-clad chicks you wouldn't assume to be hip-hop heads gave you the eyes of seduction and agreement.
Nas thanked us, highlighted the fact that Houston has some of the baddest women around and then disappeared, almost taking a congregation of people with him. I don't believe that every All-Star party would carry this sort of weird gravitas but then again, you don't know what to expect when Nasty Nas is in your area.
Personal Bias: In the span of a year I've seen Nas three times, each performance a different animal.
The Crowd: A healthy mix of baller, wanna-be-a baller and choosy women.
Overheard In the Crowd: "I'm keeping myself pure this weekend."
Overheard In My Head: No, no you're not.
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Random Notebook Dump: When you read a flyer for an All-Star party, you expect to conform to a dress code. E8ght Lounge is classy and upscale with a wide patio section and heaters -- yet there was a guy inside with a Kappa Alpha Psi T-shirt on. Put my suede jacket and shoes to shame. Play on, playa.