Nas – Nassau Coliseum, New York – September 13th 1996
It was the end of the sweltering summer of 1996, and the east coast / west coast hip-hop rivalry was at its peak. East coast rapper Nas was performing in New York, his home turf. He’d just released a great album and the show was sold out but, whether Nas liked it or not, the summer had stylishly cruised by as though in a low-riding 1964 Chevy Impala, dominated by the explosion of upbeat G-funk vibes coming from the West. America was riding high on California love and Nas’ hard-hitting ghetto grit was out of vogue. Not only this, west coast wonder-kid Tupac Shakur supplied yet another bee for Nas’ bonnet with his braggadocious call outs to his east coast rival, creating what is known as ‘beef’ in the hip-hop fraternity.
This kind of swagger-some bravado was, and is, common in the industry. But, Nas at Nassau marked the time where, more than ever, the reality of these disputes and glammed-up, ho-jocking, busta-doming lyrics is realised. Halfway through the set, Nas fell silent and his DJ announced that at 7.03 pm Tupac was declared dead after being shot. The DJ, Ed Lover, can barely contain the anger in his voice. ‘I don’t give a fuck what Tupac ever said on a record, he didn’t deserve to die that way … give me a moment of silence’, he says as Nas walks zombie-like laps around the stage, head bowed, wearing a pair of ludicrously jazzy red leather overalls.
“The weight of something bigger than just a rap gig in Long Island is clearly felt”
Even if you aren’t interested in the reverence of one of the only moments in hip-hop that could actually silence a mouth like Nas’, find the video purely to see the biggest incongruity between outfit and mood ever captured. Also, to lighten the mood, I will introduce what may be a consistent theme in this column: twats in the crowd. The moment of silence was, of course, pierced by a few infuriating mugs who felt this was the best time to shout ‘I LOVE YOU, NAS’, despite his understandably mopey face.
Regardless of whether you want to think of this concert’s cultural significance, or you just want to get angry with tactless idiots, its importance cannot be denied, and the weight of something bigger than just a rap gig in Long Island is clearly felt. Personally, I will be joining the conspiracy theorists in wondering what Ed Lover meant when he said ‘don’t believe the hype it wasn’t no east coast / west coast bullshit, it was some internal LA shit’.