Monday, June 16, 2014

Nas

Tuesday, July 1 @ Harley-Davidson Roadhouse, 10 p.m.

Nas, Summerfest, Milwaukee, Concerts
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In hip-hop, no achievement is more celebrated than the classic debut, and no album better epitomizes the classic debut than Nas’ masterpiece Illmatic. It was one of the first records The Source ever honored with a perfect five mic review, back when five mics from The Source truly meant something, and its reputation has only grown over the years as generation after generation of hip-hop fans have held it up as the model of a perfect rap album.

This year Nas is marking the 20th anniversary of Illmatic with the requisite reissue—Illmatic XX, which includes a second disc of worthwhile rarities and remixes—and a host of concerts running through the album in its entirety. If any record deserves that kind of treatment, it’s Illmatic, but too often that sterling debut overshadows Nas’ subsequent achievements. While Nas’ recent albums haven’t been unqualified classics, they’ve found the rapper in fine form. His latest, 2012’s Life is Good, is a true gem, a meditation on divorce, parenthood and middle age. That sounds like a recipe for bitterness, but Nas handles the subject matter with warmth and good humor, rolling with the punches life throws his way. Gone are the unflinching and life-and-death stakes of Illmatic, but the wisdom and raw lyricism that made the rapper an instant marvel 20 years ago remain untarnished by time.