Gig review: Nas, Edinburgh Picture House

Early on in this show, New York-bred rapper Nas noted the irony of playing an early single entitled Life’s a Bitch in a set designed to promote his new album Life is Good.

He’s been on a journey in the 20-plus years of his career, he told us, and he’s not quite the same angry young man of the Nineties. As if to prove the point, his next track was a new one entitled Daughters, a laid-back and relatively contented jam aimed at his own child and “my brothers with daughters”.

Not that the years have softened Nas, real name Nasir Jones, or led him to take what he does for granted.

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This was a full 90-minute set drawn from all stages of his career and backed by a six-strong band and two backing singers, an unusually full complement compared to the often sparse “two MCs and one DJ” hip hop aesthetic. He attributed this interest in a broader sound to his father, whose music was “blues music from Mississippi,” and played his Muddy Waters-echoing collaboration with his dad, Bridging the Gap, alongside songs that sampled Marvin Gaye, James Brown and, in the case of Hate Me Now, Carmina Burana.

Then of course, there were the tracks which strode along on a fat beat and a bit of attitude, including the Iron Butterfly-sampling Hip Hop is Dead, the marvellous New York State of Mind, the soulful groove of If I Ruled the World (Imagine That) and the fat and utterly contemporary bass sound of The Don. By the end, as in his current career, it felt like he was just getting started.

Rating: ****