With all the pomp and circumstance celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, it’s a great time for the Wu-Tang Clan and Nas, two titans of the genre, to join together for a co-headlining tour showcasing some of the best albums and tracks from the ’90s and beyond, which they did recently at Capital One Arena.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from De La Soul’s opening set at the arena on Sept. 26. Founding member Trugoy The Dove, aka Plug 2, aka Dave, died in February, just as the decades-long sample clearance dispute that had lept their early work out of print was resolved. The group drafted Talbi Kweli in as a replacement, resulting in a fun set that featured some De La classics like “Potholes in My Lawn” and “Buddy” as well as some Kweli material like “Get By” and “Move Something.” Most importantly, Posdonus, aka Plug 1, was smiling throughout. It was easy to see how much fun he was having up there and that was infectious. De La deserves all the flowers coming their way.
Watch the official music video for “Potholes in My Lawn” by De La Soul on YouTube:
The Wu-Tang were up next after a very quick set change. The RZA appeared first, high up on the stage riser, positioned behind a podium with a Wu-Tang W logo and soon after the procession of Wu MCs began. First up was GZA, performing his hit “Liquid Swords,” followed by Inspectah Deck and Cappadona running through “For Heaven’s Sake.” Raekwon soon followed with his classic “Incarcerated Scarfaces” — a highlight of the evening. Then U God appeared for “Bring Da Ruckus” and “Da Mystery of Chessboxin’.” Before anyone could catch their breath, Ghostface Killah appeared to perform “One” and join everyone else onstage for “Clan in da Front.” And then just like that, they all exited the stage.
Watch the official music video for “Incarcerated Scarfaces” by Raekwon on YouTube:
Nas quickly followed and surprisingly started his set with “Verbal Intercourse,” a Raekwon song that featured both him and Ghostface. He then started a series of ’90s rap radio staples — “Hate Me Now,” “Got Urself a Gun,” “It Ain’t Hard To Tell,” “One Love,” and “NY State of Mind.” Nas has had such a long and prolific career and he touched an all of it during his two sets, pulling from 11 different albums, plus songs by The Firm and some of his appearances on songs by Mobb Deep and Missy Elliot. His performance was a total masterclass by one of the giants of the game.
Watch NY State of Mind by Nas live in 2012 via YouTube:
The Wu’s second set featured more solo songs by Ghostface and Raekown before the night’s big reveal. As the group performed “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing Ta F’ Wit,” Method Man finally appeared, causing a huge roar from the crowd. Adding the most charismatic member of the group to the stage at this point in the concert was just icing on the cake, and Meth performed “Method Man” and “All I Need” to rapturous applause.
Wu-Tang shows are always a bit of a crapshoot because you generally never know who is going to appear at a show. The group is malleable and can work around any absences, but it’s always that much more special when everyone is in the building. The “hip-hop turns 50” angle also gives everyone on this tour license to play more of their hits and less new material, giving the people what they want. Wu-Tang played 8 of the 12 tracks from 36 Chambers and Nas played 7 of the 10 tracks from Illmatic. The results are one of the most enjoyable and satisfying shows I’ve seen all year.
Here are some photos of Wu-Tang Clan, Has and De La Soul performing at Capital One Arena on Sept. 26, 2023. All pictures copyright and courtesy of Kyle Gustafson.
Nas (with Raekwon and Ghostface Kills)
De La Soul (with Talib Kweli)