Concert Review: NAS is still bae. Lauryn is still Ms. Hill.

CHICAGO. September 7.

Ms. Lauryn Hill (MLH)/NAS/Chronixx

at Huntington Bank Pavilion—Northerly Island


(Unedited) Didn’t know how the fall-like weather was going to act for this outdoor show, so I was strategic with my attire. Layers…including a scarf and gloves in my bag knowing that when the sun set it would be major brrrrr.


Some of us people were still holding on strong to summer—there were vaselined melanated shoulders popping, short shorts with fishnets underneath, backs out, muffin tops wanting to make one last appearance, and summer pedicures hanging over the edge of sandals.


Following in the footsteps of Mary J. Blige who kicked off her Strength of a Woman Tour in Chicago, end of July, Thursday’s show kicked off MLH + NAS, PowerNomics Tour.


“PowerNomics reportedly stems from Dr. Claud Anderson’s book, which is about economic enfranchisement for the African-American community. So in celebration of that concept, the hip-hop legends will be raising funds in support of education, health, agriculture, technology, and other initiatives that will help build businesses and equity within the black community. Proceeds from each show will reportedly be donated to 44 charities, including The Harvest Institute, Yes We Code, Equal Justice Initiative and the International Peace Initiative.”


  • Chronixx was a well-received reggae opening act. He was pleased to see some of his countrywomen waving the Jamaican flag, on their feet and feeding him energy the entire set. I love us people cos dude did a whole entire set like he was headlining. Ha. His band sounded really nice though. Seeing him made me want to see Luciano in concert.


  • I do not like disclaimers from artists, let your art, whatever form or media, speak for itself. Prior to starting one of his songs he disclaimed it: “This song is not racist….” We do not have to apologize for our narratives or sharing our experiences no matter how uncomfortable it makes others.


  • There was a white man who sat in front of me and video recorded the Chronixx set on his iphone, and then he left. Whenever I see stuff like that it makes me cringe, possible cultural appropriation.


  • And of course, reggae equated to folk blazing up. Spliffs were being passed around and random “Irie’s” and “Jah Rastafari” were shouted in the section I was in. I am thankful for the open air and someone else lighting a bundle of incense.


NAS is still bae. Timeless. Classic hiphop. Bars.


One of my homies once said that Amy Winehouse & Ms. Lauryn Hill were heavy-hearted sistas. He said he could hear the pain in their voices and it made him sad for them. NAS paid tribute to Amy Winehouse (Cherry Wine) and he shared that when he was starting out, Michael Jackson allowed him to sample “Human Nature” for “It Ain’t Hard to Tell.”


“If HipHop is Dead”


“One Mic” – I will always appreciate seeing him do this song live because it reminds me of youth I’ve worked with over the years. “One Mic,” is always on playlists I use to help engage youth. Also, I use “One Mic,” with youth I support using the therapeutic intervention of HipHop/Rap Therapy.


Unfortuntely, Bae was on stage for like 20-mins and then he was gone, and we were sad, like wait, did you just hit us with a mini-set? Who does that? Nooooooooooooo…. (in my Kevin Hart voice.)


Lauryn’s dj came on stage and smoothed us out as we waited for Lauryn. I had emotional memory from his set when I saw her last year at Ravinia, almost a year ago to the date of this show. Check out that review.


Ms. Lauryn Hill’s band played before she came on, and she entered rocking my favorite color, green. Her green cape-type coat and green eye-shadow were very Nigerian fashionista-esk.


MLH took her time with “Everything is Everything” and “Ex-Factor.” Here voice on Ex-Factor though, all the feels. I want her to record this version of Ex-Factor, I like the arrangement because it compliments the lyrics and urgency in her voice. Lauryn was in her feelings and the explanation was in the words she sang, suddenly I was even more hyped for the musical journey she was about to take us on and I didn’t care that her sound was loud: loud band and her loud vocals. I wasn’t mad. I simply put my tissue ear plugs in and I was invested.


The audience was trying to figure Lauryn out. One sis kept saying, “tha fuq is this…” They knew the words, but couldn’t figure out the arrangements. They wanted the album version of songs, they weren’t open to world flare. I understand familiarity is human nature, but I also understand that change is the only constant thing in life. MLH has changed since 1998.


Her band was dope. The one brotha was playing all the instruments: the African Kora, Xylophone and the guitar.


Her set was stimulating: lights, video…robust sound…I felt like I was elsewhere in the Diaspora. Afro-beats presence and her vocals/rhymes were clear, even those moments when it was like Twista had climbed into her body making her rhyme fast.


I really wanted the audience to be open to change, to vibe and F E E L what was being rendered. No need to punish artists for evolving. As for me, I want something special, different, and unexpected when I see artists live. Live music!


She was firm in requesting, “Get some light on my ladies.” Her “ladies” reminiscent of Fela’s “Queens,” dancing and singing.


When I heard, “I treat this like my thesis / Well-written topic, broken down into pieces…” I lost it, “Final Hour” is my ish.


“Lost Ones”


Each song was allowed to breathe. Each had texture, layers and depth…changing cords. Each song was rich, and they felt like heavy cream being folded into the space between that which was, and that which is becoming.


Ms. Hill is still intense and intentional in her artistry. A genius of sorts. All embodying. Hard working and present for all elements of her show. Black excellence.


I think doing this tour with NAS brought out a different side of Lauryn, she seemed more comfortable in the skin than she did last year at Ravinia. Don’t get me wrong I loved her Ravinia show because she gave us a range of her catalog including her Nina Simone stuff, but she was harder hitting Thursday and I approve.


She paid homage to the Fugees:


She rocked out, “How Many Mics.”


“Zealots” was closest to the album version and it was dope how she and her background singers harmonized on the chorus.




“Ooh la la la”


“Ready or Not” I’ve always friggin’ loved loved loved, this line: “So while you’re imitating Al Capone · I’ll be Nina Simone, defecating on your microphone.”


“Killing Me Softly”




NAS came back on a stage—it was a welcomed surprise after he’d only did what felt like a 20 min set.


He made my ovaries smile by doing:


  • “New York State of Mind”
  • “Whose World is This”
  • “You Can Hate Me Now”
  • “Made You Look” – “You a slave to a page in my rhyme book”


And then he asked: “Where’s the Queen?” Lauryn returned to the stage for “If I Ruled the World.”

It was clear that they have love and respect for each other and their embrace after the song was sisterly/brotherly L O V E! Their embrace felt like the intent of Talib Kweli’s sentiment in Ms. Hill.


Lauryn did one last song “Doo Wap!”


This concert was so HipHop. It felt bboy/bgirl with soul and African Diasporic. It felt aware. It felt woke. They didn’t need to beat us over the head with “PowerNomics,” but the essence and intent were apparent in their performances.


Immediately after the concert I put my earbuds in because I didn’t want to hear the negative commentary about Lauryn Hill. I get it, folks wanted to be nostalgic and reminisce on the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, but damn can Lauryn live? Can she breathe. Can she art, how she wants to art?




nicole jhan’rea


#SheBloomsBlack     #MsLaurynHill     #NAS     #Chronixx     #Powernomics

Leave a Reply