Nas celebrates 20th anniversary of his debut album at the Kennedy Center

Nas and NSO Principal Pops Conductor Steven Reineke at the Kennedy Center after party in the KC Cafe following the concert for the 20th Anniversary Celebration of Illmatic on March 29, 2014. (Photo by Yassine El Mansouri)
Nas and NSO Principal Pops Conductor Steven Reineke at the Kennedy Center after party in the KC Cafe following the concert for the 20th Anniversary Celebration of “Illmatic” on Saturday. (Yassine El Mansouri/ Kennedy Center)

On Saturday night at the Kennedy Center, there were as many bow ties as there were backwards baseball caps. As many Allen Edmonds shoes as there were Air Force Ones sneakers. The reason for all this sartorial schizophrenia?: Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, rapper known as Nas, whose debut album “Illmatic” is considered a hip-hop classic. So much so that the National Symphony Orchestra decided to celebrate the album’s 20th anniversary as the kick off to the One Mic Hip-Hop Culture Worldwide festival, a 20-day event held at Washington’s marquee cultural institution.

So with the question of who and why out of the way, fans, many of whom told us they’d never been to the Kennedy Center before, were left wondering what. As in what does one wear to 42-year-old concert hall hosting a 40-year rapper performing songs from a 20-year-old album?

“We were stalking Intsagram all yesterday,” said one concertgoer who was looking for fashion inspiration. Eventually she decided on a sleek body conscious black dress. Her friend had on red leather pants. Both blended in the head-bobbing crowd seamlessly.

For his part Mr. Nasty Nas showed up in a black tux, not too fitted least it stifle his swagger. And when lights dimmed and the music swelled — from the DJ booth to the full orchestra –none of it mattered. Fans in hoodies and floor-length gowns shouted the lyrics to Nas hits like “Street Dreams” and “If I Ruled The World” then scrambled back to their seats for the surprise encore.

At the official after party sponsored by Hennessey V.S, Nas made a brief appearance with his bow tie undone and a beaded medallion minus the bling that read “one mic.” He shook hands with NSO conductor Steven Reineke and thanked the crowd for “rocking” with him for the past two decades. Then the rapper, who joked that he might “get a crib” in the District, disappeared back into history.

RELATED: “Nas at the Kennedy Center: A symphonic celebration for hip-hop classic ‘Illmatic’

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Helena Andrews is the co-author of The Reliable Source. Follow her on Twitter @helena_andrews, and send your hot tips, sightings, and gossip to reliablesource@washpost.com.
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