"It's going to be special!": AEG Presents' Chris Wareing on Nas' Illmatic 30th anniversary UK shows

Last year was, of course, a massive milestone for hip-hop, as the genre that changed the world celebrated its 50th anniversary

But while that golden anniversary is done, the celebrations keep on coming – 2024 marks the 30th anniversary of some of the greatest rap records of all time, from Notorious BIG’s Ready To Die and Outkast’s Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik to Scarface’s The Diary and Beastie’s Boys’ Ill Communication

April 19th, in particular, marked the 30th anniversary of not just a classic rap album, but for many people the classic hip-hop album, and arguably the greatest album of any genre, full stop: Nas’ debut Illmatic.

Its appeal endures. 

“Illmatic is beautiful, melodious poetry and rap in its purest form,” Trevor Nelson told Music Week as part of our 50 Years Of Hip-Hop celebration. “The producers all complement each other so the tracks flow into each other seamlessly. It’s all killer, no filler and devoid of gimmicky collabs. It’s the perfect introduction to East Coast rap and Nas is on fire.”

To mark the anniversary, Nas will be playing the revered record in full for a host of UK shows in November, including one at the Royal Albert Hall.

Here, AEG Presents' Chris Wareing tells us what we can expect… 

It goes without saying that IIlmatic is widely regarded as one of the best records of all time. Just how big a deal is it to you that he's going to be playing it in full for UK fans? 

“Illmatic is a very special record to me. It’s a record I play at home and have done for many years. My kids love it – we get in the car and my son asks for me to play The World Is Yours before any other track. It’s a very important record in hip-hop and one that has stood the test of time – it’s as poignant today as it was 30 years ago. The lyrics still resonate, the beats and production are timeless, and Nas simply has one of the best flows ever. It doesn’t date. You hear Nas, you know it’s Nas. It has swag and honesty in equal measure. Its humility speaks – I could talk forever on just how great this record is. It’s astounding that the record was released when Nas was only 20 years old. Taking what is known as the best hip-hop record ever out on tour across the world is going to be very special and it’s an honour for me to bring this to like-minded fans in the UK.” 

What are you expecting from these shows? Is the Royal Albert Hall a hint that we might see him do a symphonic run through it like he did at the Kennedy Centre in the States? 

“It could only be The Royal Albert Hall in London for a show as special as celebrating 30 years of Illmatic. I have confidence that people will walk away and realise they have just witnessed the most special record played in the most special environment. We are not doing this symphonically, this will be boom-bap at its very finest and I expect the walls of the hall to shake with every kick and snap. In terms of the 30 years roll out for Nas, I would expect a world tour and a lot of activity around it. Nas will release a special 30th Anniversary of the album which includes rarities and remixes. Maybe we’ll see a track with a UK artist this year! Who knows…”

The Illmatic shows will be boom-bap at its very finest – I expect the walls of the Royal Albert Hall to shake with every kick and snap

Chris Wareing, AEG Presents

What are you anticipating the demand will be like to see Illmatic live? 

“There is a lot of value in people wanting to see things that will only happen once, and anniversary tours are a great example of that. Throw in Illmatic being one of the greatest records ever and Nas playing it in full on this tour… It’s a one-off and I don’t see it happening again. I hope the demand is huge and we can create another moment in hip-hop history.”

It's looking like a big year for Nas in the UK, first he has the All Points East show with Loyle Carner, and now an Illmatic tour! This on back of huge run with Wu-Tang last year. The sense is that Nas' international live business is bigger than it's ever been? Is that proving to be the case? 

“All Points East is looking incredible. Headlined by Loyle with Nas on the bill, too. Whilst Nas isn’t doing Illmatic at APE, the show will be spectacular. It is a beautiful full circle moment for Loyle who supported Nas back in 2016. Loyle speaks on the opening line of his track Sun Of Jean from his Yesterdays Gone album from 2017 – ‘Ay, we just supported Nas, Whose World is this? Bruv, of course it’s ours’. In my opinion, Nas’ International business is growing and that is down to timeless, fantastic music that still resonates today. On Illmatic Nas speaks about growing up around poverty and violence which is as poignant today as it was then. It’s a very simple formula: create music that doesn’t age. It allows fans to grow with the artist and also gain new fans.”

Nas' recent six album run with Hit-Boy has been widely celebrated and he's spoken about how it's revivified him. Are you seeing that in his audience, too? Is he reaching new generations of concert goers? 

“As Nas says in Memory Lane, he raps for listeners, blunt heads, fly ladies and prisoners. Great music stands the test of time and doesn’t have an expiry date or only appeal to a certain demographic. We talk about the greatest rock bands being great, generally, we don’t need to pigeonhole rappers as being great rappers – they can just be great artists, too. Nas flipped the script with Hit-Boy because he has the ability to – his level of versatility shows no bounds. He can be simultaneously timeless and current which is a rarity. He uses his recognisable tone and flow over Hit-Boy beats and the outcome is astounding.”

As you're helping bringing Illmatic to life in the UK, what other classic hip-hop records are on your bucketlist to bring over to the UK for a similar treatment?

“We celebrated Wu-Tang Clan’s 36 Chambers, Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation Of Millions… and De La Soul's 3 Feet High And Rising on the Gods Of Rap tour to great success. I think the Illmatic anniversary will be very successful too. I’d love Jay-Z to do something to commemorate making some of the finest records ever. I’d personally love Ghostface to do Supreme Clientele in 2025 and I would have loved The Beastie Boys to be able to commemorate making ground-breaking albums that I have loved for many many years. Hip-hop is timeless, and I hope we can continue celebrating for many years to come.”

You can revisit our 2023 interview with DJ Premier, including making classic beats on Illmatic here.

Photo: Obidigbo Nzeribe

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