Live: God’s Son Nas Stands On Water At Pier 54


Pier 54
Thursday, October 20

Better than: watching the show from a few yards further into the Hudson River.

On Pier 54, a wooden finger that pokes into the Hudson River, Nike’s Jordan Brand held a party in celebration of Carmelo Anthony’s new shoe, the M8. The sanitation department sits directly south, New Jersey to the west—it can be a pretty shitty location (ha ha), but it looks nice when you don’t think about the surroundings.

Overhead, a helicopter darted, Jordan logo painted on the side. Out stepped Carmelo, in a jersey and sweatband… and he then dropped fifty feet into the water with a huge splash. “Carmelo” was an incredibly life-like hologram that would later shoot through the water like an orca to post up and later dunk on a neighboring building, with water explosions and light effects and minds blown. If it sounds crazy, it was. If it doesn’t, it’s because there aren’t really words to describe it. (This must be how my mom felt when she saw a beatboxer perform for the first time and didn’t know where the sound was coming from.)

A dry Carmelo walked onstage, and Hot 97’s Angie Martinez pointed out his quick costume change with a laugh. He laughed, she laughed. I kept wondering if the helicopter was real. (Anyone?) He said something about his shoe; Angie said a special guest would soon perform. He urged everyone to play those caged basketball arcade games, toward the back of the pier, in order to win a pair of M8s, or to at least have your name projected onto a building. (“Marsha,” “Jay,” and “Big Lex” heeded his words.)

Schoolchildren crowded the stage, thrilled. I thought they didn’t know Nas was the special guest, but that theory didn’t hold. A girl who couldn’t see the stage and who was shorter than me asked if I could take a picture—her iPhone only focused on all of the cameraphones in front of me.

Nas is currently going through his third resurgence, or maybe it’s his fourth—a return to form with the youthful, aggressive “Nasty” and a highly touted team-up with Common. The Queensbridge rapper looked smooth in black leather, his gold Jesus piece glittery. His voice sounded pleading, emotional, as if he’d held the same urgency for the past 15 years.

Whether by way of self-censorship, inebriation or a combination of the two, Nas didn’t seem to know all of his lyrics. Still, his forgetful pauses gave the lines he did happen to remember more resonance, more weight. (Carmelo, to his credit, rapped every word.) The sirens of “One Mic” rang out, limitless in the open space of the Hudson, Nas backed by red smoke and blue lights. It was cold; Nas apologized for the temperature while smiling behind Gazelle frames. I couldn’t remember Nas ever looking so happy, so alive. Usually he’s so grumpy, his thick jaw lumped up with annoyance, but last night he was just one soft-shoe away from Diddy. His new album is titled Life Is Good, and after seeing him in person, that mantra seems to be tied to his current emotional state, and not to the clothing line for uncool yuppie Dads on vacay.

Nas ended his brief set thanking everyone and saying of Carmelo, “He’s a good dude. Not too many of them. He calls me, I show up. He’s one of us.”

The crowd was strange: When DJ Enuff asked “How many of you are sneakerheads?” seven hands went up. Seven. Mostly there were dude-bros and schoolchildren running around the legs of grown women, with butts that could have had the ‘Spalding’ logo stamped on each cheek. It was really cold, but they dressed like they were in Miami. Anything for a date.

Critical bias: When Jay-Z and Nas were squabbling, I took a really hard line and refused to listen to Nas. I could only be Team Jay-Z. Only when they squashed their beef did I squash mine. So, my bias is that I’m really dumb.

Overheard: “Have you ever seen Nas perform? He’s awesome. He’s so blunted.”

Random notebook dump: DJ Enuff played a set-list of WorldStarHipHop bookmarks: Waka Flocka, Rick Ross, Future, Tyga’s “Rack City,” Soulja Boy. Nas must’ve been so pissed.

Random notebook dump II: Wieden+Kennedy New York and their production partners produced the holographic spectacle.

Random notebook dump III: Nas left just as the questionably employed New Orleans Hornet Chris Paul walked in, wearing a suit as if David Stern were still calling the shots. He and Carmelo reportedly spoke for about ten minutes.

Set list:
It Ain’t Hard to Tell
The World is Yours
Made Ya Look
One Mic

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