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Nas Celebrates 'Illmatic' 20th Anniversary With Special Kennedy Center Performance

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WASHINGTON, DC - March 28th, 2014 - Rapper Nas performs his classic debut album Illmatic with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The performance was part of the 'One Mic: Hip-Hop Culture Worldwide' festival. (Photo by Kyle Gustafson / For The Washington Post via Getty Images) | The Washington Post via Getty Images

Two decades in the making, Nasir “Nas” Jones kicked off the 20th anniversary of his classic debut album, “Illmatic,” this past weekend with a special performance featuring the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall in Washington D.C.

And as expected, the veteran New York lyricist delivered two sold out captivating performances on Friday and Saturday lead by NSO Principal Pops Conductor, Steven Reineke, who provided newly commissioned orchestrations of the ten track opus, in addition to other notable hits including “Made You Look,” “Hate Me Now,” "Live at the Barbeque,” and “If I Ruled The World” to name a few.

Pulling together such an elaborate performance alongside the nation’s most prestigious instrumental ensemble was not only a milestone for the 40-year-old, but also a riveting cinematic experience.

"We just had one day to rehearse, and then the dress rehearsal, and that was the day of the show,” he revealed to those in attendance during the Hennessy V.S cast party at the venue’s KC Café. “It’s been two nights of my life that I will never forget. You know you kind of made it when you get the people that you work with are seasoned professionals. And that’s what I dealt with through this experience. You guys are serious people. You really, really, really made this whole thing turn into a movie.”

Nas’ two monumental performances also kicked off the Kennedy Center’s first annual, “One Mic: Hip-Hop Culture Worldwide Festival,” celebrating the four original elements of the genre’s culture: MCing, DJing, b-boying, and graffiti writing.

From now until April 13, hip-hop enthusiasts can partake in various ticketed and free performances and exhibitions, highlighting international and local artists who use hip-hop to transform their communities, as well as activists from D.C.’s hip-hop community. For a complete list of events from this year’s festival click here.


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