The Kennedy Center gig is one for the books.

By Hayden Wright

Back in 2014, Nas celebrated the 20th anniversary of his debut album Illmatic by performing at the Kennedy Center backed by the National Symphony Orchestra. This past Friday (Feb. 2), the performance aired for fans to see on PBS’ Great Performances.

Related: Watch Jay Z & Nas Rap Biggie Lyrics in New Notorious B.I.G. Documentary Trailer

The legacy-building concert in Washington, DC featured Nas’ seminal debut album Illmatic and hits like “N.Y. State of Mind,” “The World Is Yours,” “Memory Lane (Sittin’ in Da Park),” and more.

In a preview for the concert special, Nas recalled his humble beginnings and rise to the top. Illmatic was written in the projects of New York City before the album put Nas on the map as one of rap’s most important voices.

“You could say I had a foresight about where I would be, where I should be, where I had to be,” Nas said. “Before I had a fanbase or an audience, I was the fanbase. The mirror was my audience. Myself — in a room by myself — was all I needed.”

Twenty years later, Nas says perseverance was the key to his success.

“I worked on my thing. I worked on my craft and I stuck to it,” Nas said. “I hope that you can look through the dream with me and see the journey I took to be on this stage with an orchestra.”

“Thank you, for giving me 20 years of your ears,” he said.

Watch clips, previews and rehearsal footage from Nas’ Kennedy Center performance, including “One Love” here:


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