Strange bed­fel­lows on PBS

The Republican Herald - This Weekend - - News - BY LUAINE LEE TRI­BUNE NEWS SER­VICE bwilliams@ timessham­rock. com; 570- 348- 9127

PASADENA, Calif. — It’s not only pol­i­tics that make strange bed­fel­lows. Some­times it’s art. And an un­ex­pected col­lab­o­ra­tion will fill the tube to­day when hip- hop artist Nas per­forms with a full sym­phony orches­tra on PBS.

The net­work’s “Great Per­for­mances” presents “Nas Live from the Kennedy Cen­ter: Clas­si­cal Hip- Hop,” a con­cert fea­tur­ing the 13- time Grammy nom­i­nated artist’s first al­bum, “Ill­matic.”

Mourn­ful strings and sassy street po­etry don’t usu­ally mix. And Nas ad­mits he was ner­vous to try it.

“It was one re­hearsal be­fore the ac­tual thing. So I was, like, we did two shows. The first show I was re­ally ner­vous, and what we taped was the sec­ond show. And I was a lit­tle less ner­vous, but ner­vous mean­ing, like, I didn’t want to mess up. So I wanted it to be just the way we re­hearsed it, and of course one re­hearsal, it gets your nerves,” he said.

In spite of his trep­i­da­tion, Nas ( whose real name is Nasir Jones) re­mained op­ti­mistic.

“When mu­si­cians get to­gether, it’s a lot of us. We tend to come up with some good ideas. I knew I was up for a chal­lenge, but it turned out eas­ier than I thought it would be,” he said.

He cut the de­fin­i­tive al­bum backin1994and­feltat thetime that its scope­waslim­ited.

“Grow­ing up, I would think that hip- hop mu­sic only reached the com­mu­ni­ties of the peo­ple that made it,” he said.

“I didn’t re­ally see out­side of my own neigh­bor­hood to know if any­body out­sidemy neigh­bor­hood cared. But hiphop is huge. So many peo­ple have got­ten into hip- hop through the years that it’s al­most not sur­pris­ing any­more. There’s still sur­prise el­e­ments to it, the peo­ple that tell me they lis­ten to rap mu­sic or heard of this artist or that artist. I sur­prise peo­ple with some of the artists that I know that I’m not go­ing to men­tion.”

Nas said at first he felt the mem­bers of the Na­tional Sym­phony Orches­tra would be re­luc­tant to back him.

“I thought the sym­phony got peo­ple ( who) were go­ing to be like, ‘ Ugh. THIS mu­sic? I don’t want to do this, but I’ll just do it for a buck.’ But it turns out­wewere re­ally con­nect­ing as a fam­ily for that mo­ment, and I loved it. I just loved it,” he said.

Nas ex­plains that “Ill­matic” — now con­sid­ered the best hip- hop al­bum of all time — be­gan when he was just a kid.

“I re­al­ized writ­ing the first al­bum, you’ve been writ­ing it all your life un­til that point. I’m sure you’ve heard that be­fore. So I’d been writ­ing it, I guess, since I was 9 years old, in a way. But when I nar­rowed it down to what would be al­bum­ma­te­rial… I prob­a­bly started at 16 years old and got a record deal at 18 and then fin­ished the record at 20. So it’s not done till it’s be­ing mas­tered and pressed up and ready to go. That’s when the al­bum is re­ally done. So it was a two- year pe­riod from me sign­ing the deal to ac­tu­ally get­ting it out there. And so it took maybe prob­a­bly six years re­ally,” Nas said.

The mu­sic changed dur­ing that time, said Nas, who grew up in a hous­ing project in Queens.

“I saw what was work­ing, what wasn’t work­ing. I saw artists make bad de­ci­sions. And I re­al­ized thatwhat was, of course, the sound that would be. I trust in sound and that the lis­tener would re­ally feel com­fort­able with that sound with­out go­ing too far this way or that way. What’s the sound that re­ally rep­re­sents most of the el­e­ments of hip- hop mu­sic? I wanted it to be that­way.”

For the 44 year old, ap­pear­ing with a full backup orches­tra is a life­long goal.

“A dream come true. As a young guy mak­ing this al­bum, it was aboutme be­ing a dreamer, and therewere no lim­its,” he shakes his head.

“… I look at clas­si­cal mu­sic as the hip- hop of its day… and I feel like there’s a strong con­nec­tion with all mu­sic. So do­ing things with the mu­sic, things like this show, is just part of the dream.” anato­myand­phys­i­ol­o­gy­while hewas­growingup. Whileit isn’to­b­vi­ousat first­glance, nat­u­ral sci­ence­and­car­i­ca­tures canover­lap, he­said.

“Peo­ple think of it as car­toon­ing, but there’s re­allya kind of sci­en­tific mind­set,” he said.“Youlook at a face or bodyand­what­makes it unique. Like a sci­en­tist, you think ‘ what’s goin­gonhere?’ ”

Kascht will be part of up­com­ing events at the mu­seum. Hewill con­duct tours of his ex­hi­bi­tion at theEver­hart onMarch 22. This event costs $ 25 per per­son and in­cludes light re­fresh­ments at 6 p. m. Tours will be­gin at 7 p. m. and

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Nas brings his brand of hip- hop to PBS’ “Great Per­for­mances,” backed by the Na­tional Sym­phony Orches­tra on “Nas Live from the Kennedy Cen­ter: Clas­si­cal Hip- Hop.”

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