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Nas brings 'Illmatic,' New York City trash cans to SXSW

In her book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), Mindy Kaling of the American Office argues that “with the [British Office] character David Brent, Ricky Gervais guaranteed that he would live in the pantheon forever, even if he did years of terrible, mediocre stuff.”

Gervais should get a beer with Nas. While he hasn’t produced anything truly terrible yet, the 38-old rapper will likely never outdo his 1994 debut, Illmatic. He’s had some good albums (and some just-okay ones) since then, but that record — one of hip-hop’s finest, period — will always define him.

As such, the classic East Coast album was on everyone’s mind at the Queensbridge rapper’s SXSW show at ACL’s Moody Theater. The stage was expertly dressed to resemble a New York street corner, complete with graffiti, a subway entrance, and an authentic-looking NYC trash can. For the many traveling New Yorkers weary on the last night of the festival, it was a little tempting to pull out a Metrocard and ride the imaginary train all the way back home.

Nas was also looking to take a trip to another time and place. Much like Jay-Z’s recent Carnegie Hall debut (which featured a Nas cameo), this NYCentric show splashed the wall with large, postcard-ready images of Big Apple icons like the Empire State Building and the Brooklyn Bridge. The decor cemented what many had hoped: Nas would be serving up llmatic, the album that helped shape the New York sound.

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