NAS: A Shooting In Brixton
However, the final date in Nas' 2005 UK tour was overshadowed by gunshots fired inside the venue, causing hundreds of people to run screaming from the auditorium.
Prior to the shooting, Nasir Jones had given a very promising performance to his adoring fans, taking us back to the mid-90s with cuts from his classic 'Illmatic' LP, such as 'Life's A Bitch', 'Represent', 'The World Is Yours' and the moving 'One Love'.
QB's finest also brought things up to date, with a rowdy performance of 'Got Yourself A Gun' and the more recent, 'Thief's Theme', for which he brought on Rising Son, the winner of a Sony/Columbia competition for an artist to feature on the UK version of the single.
Other classic songs, like 'It Ain't Hard To Tell', 'The Message' and 'If I Ruled The World' were shown equal amounts of love from the London crowd, and as the lyrical mastermind danced to the beats from his latest 'Streets Disciple' album, he was greeted by chants of Go Nas! Go Nas!.
More new material was blared out from the huge amplifiers, and the throng of Hip Hop fans gathered in the Academy moved to the sounds of 'Suicide Bounce', 'Message to the Feds' and 'Disciple', on which he replaced one of the lines with the words, This ain't Jigga, this ain't Diddy, this ain't 50, pausing after the mention of the G-Unit rapper for full effect.
His DJ, L.E.S., then spun a few old skool records, getting the audience hyped for what would have been an even greater night. However, it was when L.E.S. threw on Smif-N-Wessun's 'Sound Bwoy Burial' that the gunshots went off, causing a surge towards the emergency exits, as Nas was ushered off stage by his security.
When outside, it was unclear exactly what had happened, and people stood huddled together in small groups, wondering what to do as the police arrived on the scene. There were mixed instructions from the Academy attendants, with some people allowed to go back in, whilst others were told to stay outside.
I chose to stay outside and wait to see what the police outcome was, but as it turned out, standing on the street meant that I missed out on a return from Nas, who reportedly came back onstage, unscathed and more determined than ever to continue his concert. He brought out UK Grime rapper Dizzee Rascal for 'Made You Look' - a track which was maybe a little inappropriate under the circumstances. Quanalso made an appearance that night with a solo performance of 'Just A Moment', until the Academy was told by police to fully evacuate the area, ending any other plans that Nas had for that night's live show.
The abrupt ending of the show came as a huge disappointment for all who had turned up that night, expecting to see Nas deliver other classic songs, such as 'One Mic', 'Ether' and his version of 'Thugz Mansion' with the legendary 2Pac. It was a shame that so many had to miss out on this rare performance by Nas, all because one man decided to bring a gun to the show and spoil it all for everyone.
This concert would have gone down in history as one of the best I'd ever attended; instead, it will go down as a night most people would really rather forget.
The funny thing is, if anyone is against violence, it's Nas. Sure, he may have rapped about guns and shit in the past, but nowadays, he's known as one of the most conscious emcees in the rap industry, along with the likes of Common and Talib Kweli. If he rapped about guns, it was because that's what he saw living in the ghetto; it was something he experienced in his childhood.
It doesn't take much to see what Nas is about; just take a listen to some of the tracks he's put out in recent years: attacks on the Government and the White House on 'Message to the Feds' and 'We the People' from his 'Streets Disciple' album; the inspirational 'I Can' for the kids from 'Stillmatic'; the heartfelt 'Heaven' and 'Warrior Song' off 'God's Son'... the list goes on.
And what about 'Streets Disciple's 'These Are Our Heroes'? On that he attempts to educate the young'uns, rapping about Black role models:
"Tavis Smiley, Michael Eric Dyson/Stokely Carmichael, let's try to be like them/Nicky Giovanni, poetical black female/Jim Brown to the people who sing well/From Fela to Miriam Makeba/The mirror says you are the next American leader."
Even his much-publicised beef with Jay-Z stayed on wax and was never taken to the streets. Yes, it became pretty controversial at times, (namely Nas at the Hot 97 Summer Jam event, and Jigga with Nas' baby mama), but it was lyrical warfare through and through. There was no shooting outside a radio station, no knockout on the street, none of this amateur shit. Nas and Jay were smart enough to know what was right and what was wrong.
After the gunshots at his Brixton Academy date, Nas was quick to defend his reputation, making it clear that he didn't tolerate violence of any kind. His publicist, "It's ironic because only today [Tuesday] he released his latest single, 'Just A Moment', which is about the fact that he is dead against violence in rap. This is not something he stands for, and he doesn't understand why there should be a connection."
Nas himself has been telling the British press where he stands when it comes to violence. He recently told MTV UK, "We don't just say no to the gun, we say no to senseless violence. I say no to senseless violence as a man. And I believe even 50 Cent doesn't want people to be killed and shot. At the same time he talks about his world." He continued, "I see hip hop getting the blame for all violence in the world. One thing is for sure, there's a lack in parenting. We as men have to be way more responsible. We run around, calling women 'bitches' and all that shit. It's just a way. We're not being disrespectful but some of the kids twist it up because of parenting. Parenting plays a big part in it. What I represent in my music is not guns - I mention it because it's from a world which I grew up in."
But does this come too late in Hip Hop's fight against gun violence? Maybe not. It's a long shot, but maybe those who grew up with Hip Hop, those who are old enough to realise that violence doesn't solve anything, will learn from the numerous gun-related tragedies that have taken place in the last few months, and join in the fight for the cause.
As for the little ones, now's as good a time as any to teach them good from bad, right from wrong. What those in the public eye need to understand is that they have the power to change the way young people think, whether it's through their music or by being outspoken. They are the people today's kids idolise, and if they want to help out, then voicing their opinions and explaining their actions is the way to go. Take a leaf out of Nas' book and help turn this world around.
The bottom line is, violence doesn't solve anything; people die everyday as a result of it, and for what? More folks in this world today need to stand up and recognise that.