Nas, Wu Tang Clan, Afrojack Head Up Chicago’s North Coast Festival

This year’s fourth installment of the North Coast Music Festival in Chicago will star Wu-Tang Clan, NAS and Afrojack.

Being dubbed “Summer’s Last Stand,” the festival will take place over Labor Day weekend, August 30-September 1, in the city’s Union Park.

Though Chicago is primarily known for it’s Pitchfork and Lollapalooza festivals, those skew primarily toward hosting artists in the rock and indie-rock genres. North Coast, on the other hand, seems more focused on hip-hop, electro and jam music.

Other artists that will be performing at the event include Disco Biscuits, Laidback Luke, Gary Clark, Jr., Paper Diamond, Just Blaze, JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound and Capital Cities, among many others. A press release promises more acts will be announced in the coming weeks.

This year’s festival will feature an expanded fourth stage that has been transformed into a dome and will host national and international touring acts. Last year, two of the three days of the festival sold out, and more than 50,000 people are expected to pack the park this year – around 18,000 festivalgoers per day.

The festival benefits the International Latino Cultural Center (ILCC) of Chicago, a non-profit organization that promotes all varieties of the arts among the Latino community in the city. Thus far, the festival has donated nearly $50,000 to the charity.

In addition to the performance at the festivals, there also are a slew of after parties held at various venues around the city. Though these parties are open to the general public, North Coast Music Festival ticket holders can purchase tickets to these event before they are available to the public.

Three-day passes for the event currently start at $135, and upgraded “VIP Experience” tickets cost $220.

Past performers at the festival include Moby, The Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, Common, David Guetta, Of Montreal, Flying Lotus and more.


Kanye West, Kings of Leon, Nas Sign On for Governors Ball Festival

Kanye West, Kings of Leon, Nas Sign On for Governors Ball Festival

Kanye West, Kings of Leon, Nas and a mysterious “too be announced” artist will headline this year’s incarnation of New York City’s Governors Ball music festival.

In its third year, the festival will expand to three days this year and will be held June 7-9. This is up from two days last year and one day during the festival’s inaugural year in 2011. The event will once again be held on New York’s Randall’s Island.

A ton of other notable artists also will appear at the festival, including the Avett Brothers, Grizzly Bear, The xx, Beach House, The Lumineers, Kendrick Lamar, Miguel, Animal Collective, Feist, Azealia Banks, Gary Clark Jr., Dirty Projectors, Japandroids, Beirut, Alt-J, Of Monsters and Men, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes.

Also notable, the festival will mark the first time Kanye West has played a solo show in New York City since 2008.

The event will feature games including ping pong and a life-sized Connect 4. Thankfully, there will be eight water refill stations on the grounds.

Tickets are only sold as three-day packages, and range from $190-$220 per person depending on when you buy. Two VIP packages also are available.

The VIP 3-Day Regular package includes access to the concerts, a special viewing area, access to VIP lounges and bars and air conditioned restroom facilities. The package runs $470. The Super VIP 3-Day pass costs $1,500 per person, and includes everything in the regular VIP package plus car service to and from the festival, on-site concierge, side-stage viewing area for most access, vendor food tokens and a merchandise package.

Guests also have the option of choosing from three different transportation options. The least expensive is a three-day Manhattan Ferry at $45, then a three-day Brooklyn Shuttle is $55, while it costs $65 for a three-day parking pass on Randall’s Island.

Nas, Lauryn Hill Embark on Fall Concert Tour

Nas, Lauryn Hill Embark on Fall Concert Tour

Two of hip-hop’s biggest names – Nas and Lauryn Hill – will head out on the road together this fall for the “Life is Good/Black Rage” tour.

The 10-city tour will kick off October 29 at the Palladium Ballroom in Dallas, and the trek is scheduled to continue through November 19 when the pair perform at the Fox Oakland Theater in Oakland. In between those dates, the tour also will visit Houston; Atlanta; Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; Boston; Chicago; Denver and Magna, Utah.

The name of the tour is derived from recent and upcoming releases by the two artists. Life is Good is the most recent Nas record, and topped the Billboard 200 albums chart when it was released in August. “Black Rage” is the name of Hill’s upcoming single, set to be released this fall. That song is said to address the “derivative effects of racial inequity and abuse,” and the singer says it is meant to be a juxtaposition to “life is good,” according to

“I use the performance platform as an opportunity to express the energy of that moment, and the intention behind it,” Hill said in a statement. “I’ve been a long standing rebel against the stale, over commoditization. As artists we have opportunity to help the public evolve, raise consciousness and awareness, teach, heal, enlighten and inspire in ways the democratic process may not be able to touch. So we keep it moving.”

Nas described the tour (and the build up to it) more succinctly: “Better late than never. Life is good!”

Nas also has a handful of solo dates scheduled before, during and after the tour. Throughout the early part of October he will play a slew of dates including an appearance at the Voodoo Festival in New Orleans. He also will perform by himself on November 3 in Norfolk, Va. and November 9 in Rochester, N.Y. Finally, he will perform a New Year’s Eve show December 31 at Radio City Music Hall in New York.


Album Review: Nas ‘Life is Good’

Album Review: Nas ‘Life is Good’

Nas is generally agreed to be one of the greatest rappers of all time, but he hasn’t always seen the kind of success that his accolades should warrant, especially not in the latter half of his career. He has always been somewhere near the top of most people’s lists of favorite wordsmiths, but never has he commanded the culture, nor has he really been able to reach a very diverse audience. He’s probably not going to appeal to many who aren’t already deeply interested in rap and street culture with Life Is Good, either, but this could be his best effort since 1994.

This record feels like the product of a forgotten era, when rap music was most often a kind of catharsis or an airing of grievances, and even though there was still a lot of posturing, it was less about swag and more a matter of proving oneself as an ambassador to a harsh reality. For all of the negativity that sort of subject matter can bring up– drugs, murder, racism, etc– the message would still tend to be a positive one. For most of us it’s meant to be a wakeup call or a public service announcement on the prolific injustice of life for lower income families, while for those living in a similar reality it can stand as a beacon of hope.

Which is really where today’s insubstantial hiphop culture comes from. At some point “You can make a better life for yourself” became “Look how great my fucking life is, loser”, but not for Nas. There is a little of that, but for the most part this is a record to be taken pretty seriously.

The opening track, ‘No Introduction’, goes for a large and epic feeling, as Nas gives a selected life’s history. It’s the kind of grandiosity that is very much expected to open an album by a big-name hiphop artist, and from that point onward the mood of the album is quite dark, with few exceptions.

It’s not just violence and anger, though. This feels like a deeply personal album for Nas, and a part of what makes it clearly superior to his last few releases is that he is looking in on himself and things that are very close to him, rather than speaking broadly as a philosopher about the world as a whole. He ends the album with ‘Bye Baby’, a completely open song about his failed marriage to Kelis.

As refreshing as the record is for its content, it is not only slightly dated in the approach Nas takes to songwriting, but in its sound as well. Even though it’s kind of nice to hear a rap album in 2012 that doesn’t rely on dubstep for all of its punch, it’s a little disappointing that Life Is Good offers so few new ideas. I may be splitting hairs though, because the oldschool sound has its place, and on ‘Loco-Motive’ Nas openly pines for his golden era of rap music, ending it by saying, “This is for my trapped in the 90s niggas.”

Life Is Good
may seem at first to be a mildly sarcastic title, because it’s a record full of pain and struggle, but I’d sooner think that Nas is taking a zen-like perspective on the state of his life. Even though things have been difficult, he’s okay with it, and maybe he needed a bit of a shake to record another album as good as this one.

Release Date: July 17, 2012
Image Courtesy of Def Jam

Rock the Bells Festival Snags Lauryn Hill, Nas, Erykah Badu

Rock the Bells Festival Snags Lauryn Hill, Nas, Erykah Badu

For the past eight years, Rock the Bells Festival has been bringing premier hip-hop performers and their music to the public during an all-day event that features many of the biggest hip-hop names along with up-and-coming artists who are the heir apparent of the genre.

The lineup for 2011 is continuing with that esteemed tradition.

Usually a New York treat, festival organizers have expanded their reach and will bringing the event to four different locations. One will take place in New York, two in California, and the last event will be in Boston.

On Saturday September 3, the concert in New York will be held on Governors Island. From the southern part of Manhattan, it’s just a short ferry boat ride.

The lineup this year will feature several artists performing their classic albums. Lauryn Hill will perform “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” while Nas performs “Illmatic,” his influential debut, with help from DJ Premier, Pete Rock and AZ. Other artists who will be performing entire album sets include Talib Kweli & Mos Def’s hip-hop group Black Star performing their self-titled debut and Cypress Hill performing “Black Sunday.”

This year the festival will have three main stages, which include Rock the Bells, the main stage, Paid Dues Stage, which focuses on new hip-hop talent, and 36 Chamber Stage featuring Wu-Tang Clan members as well as artists handpicked by RZA.

On June 4, tickets are going on sale for the general public to the whole Rock the Bell event. However, if you want yours early, check the pre-sale by Guerilla Union that will kick off on June 3 at 10 am.

To get hyped up for the premiere hip hop event of 2011 and to see the entire lineup, visit