- BiG HEATH
The Guild is packed on arrival and, in fact, even outside around the whole area surrounding Paddy’s Wigwam people are bustling around in tight crowds on this balmy summer’s eve. You can hear Brummy accents in the throngs; it’s clear that tonight’s event is a rarity that people have come from far and wide to witness.
Inside it’s humid, warm, and sticky. Weighty breaks burst out of the speakers as the playlist offers a mesh of hip hop’s finest while the room fills fast. Pretty soon, smoke clouds rise above certain groups huddled close. This is hip hop.
The support for tonight is BIG HEATH, who strolls on stage to an unsure crowd. When you’re the main support for hip hop royalty, it’s going to be a chore to win over a crowd that already belong to the headliner. He flows his way through tracks Trigga Blow and M!crophone Checker; his particular brand of hip hop – of the polished, contemporary ilk – turns heads, even despite its slight jarring with the headliner’s style. He’s made the hard sell look easy: who knew Cambridge had rappers?
There’s a wait that seems like eternity in between acts, as anticipation hangs in the air like ectoplasm. Weird thing is, Liverpool has never played host to NAS before, even being a world-renowned major city and a proposed cultural hotspot. Somehow, we’ve slept on this one. Now’s our time.
So, after the wait, bring on Nasir Jones, who strides on stage to thunderous applause and screams from the crowd. It seems that he’s making up for lost time in Liverpool, as he lunges into a set crammed with legendary material from his equally legendary career. Here is an artist who has been hailed as the greatest MC of all time, who has had eight consecutive platinum albums, sold over 25 million records and has maintained credibility as a true pioneer of hip hop culture, and he’s tearing through his entire back catalogue to a humble crowd in Mountford Hall. When many of his contemporaries only appear in arenas or stadiums, with a distinct drift from the people and their audience, it’s clear that Nas is still at it for all the right reasons.
He spits raps from NY State Of Mind and The World Is Yours as though it’s still 1994, with as much passion and weight that the meaning of each syllable is felt by every single person here. Nas is a lively performer and is visibly humbled and privileged to be able to connect with crowds like this one. He pays a touching tribute to the recently departed Prodigy of Mobb Deep, reciting words from Shook Ones in homage to the fellow friend and rapper. Further tribute is paid to the late Amy Winehouse as Nas plays their collaborative piece Cherry Wine.
The crowd keep bouncing and rapping along as the tracks come thick and fast: Memory Lane, If I Ruled The World, I Can, Made You Look, and plenty more, this set is perfectly composed. The crowd are up in arms throughout, with even a sense of longing when he finally departs. Don’t leave it so long next time, yeh?