Nas Performs at the Kennedy center in Washington, D.C.

Source: The Washington Post / Getty

With a career spanning two decades, Nas has certainly proved there’s not much he can’t do. Now, his classic Illmatic album is getting the symphony treatment.

Great Performances- Nas Live from the Kennedy Center: Classical Hip-Hop gives viewers an all-access look at the inspiration behind Nas’ discography in his own words. He’ll also reminisce about his youth, growing up in Queensbridge, N.Y. Sprinkled in will be backstage footage and a symphony-backed performance of the iconic 1994 debut album, Illmatic.  The result is a masterful show in which classical meets the classic hip-hop journey.

Nas reflects on the magnitude of hearing his early music played by the National Symphony Orchestra: “I wrote this in the projects of New York City, and here we are in the capital of America, in Washington D.C. And a bunch of white people with strings, and all of that, playing this album. And they feeling it.” And in the true spirit of what Nasir has always been about, he hopes that those kids in the hood watching him perform at the Kennedy Center will be inspired, and know that they can also make it.

Illmatic fans are in for a real treat, as Nas and the National Symphony Orchestra reinvent hip-hop staples, like “N.Y. State of Mind,” “The World Is Yours,” “Memory Lane (Sittin’ In Da Park),” and “It Ain’t Hard To Tell.”

This is not the Kennedy Center’s first foray into highlighting hip-hop. Q-Tip serves as Artistic Director and Advisor at Large of the Hip-Hop Culture Program at the Kennedy Center. Last year, it celebrated its inaugural curatorial season.

PBS will premiere Great Performances- Nas Live from the Kennedy Center: Classical Hip-Hop this Friday, Feb. 2 at 9/8. You’ll also be able to stream the show the following day on pbs.org/gperf and PBS apps. 

In the clip below, watch Nas discuss his experience collaborating with the National Symphony Orchestra.