- Photo courtesy of Mary J. Blige
- Jul 16
Days Time Tue, Jul 16 8pm – 10:30pm Single Ticket Prices $40 to $302 adv
When Mary J. Blige's debut album, What's the 411?, hit the street in July 1992, critics and fans were floored by its powerful combination of modern R&B and edgy rap production that glanced off of the pain and grit of the singer's New York upbringing. Compared to Chaka Khan and Aretha Franklin, Blige had little in common stylistically with either of those artists, but like them, she helped adorn soul music with new flavors. With her blonde hair, self-preserving slouch, and combat boots, Blige personified street-tough beauty. As she exorcized her demons and softened her style, she remained a hero to thousands of girls growing up in the same kinds of rough places she came from. Blige continually reinvented her career by shedding the habits and influences that kept her down and matured into an expressive singer able to put the full power of her voice behind her music. Blige's rank as "the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul" has never been disputable. Each one of the singer's proper studio albums, released across a period that has exceeded two decades, debuted within the Top Ten of the Billboard 200.
Beginning with his classic debut, Illmatic (1994), Nas stood tall for years as one of New York City's leading rap voices, outspokenly expressing a righteous, self-empowered swagger that endeared him to critics and hip-hop purists. Whether proclaiming himself "Nasty Nas" or "Nas Escobar" or "Nastradamus" or "God's Son," the self-appointed King of New York battled numerous adversaries for his position atop the epicenter of East Coast rap, none more challenging than Jay-Z, who vied with Nas for the vacated throne left in the wake of the Notorious B.I.G.'s 1997 assassination. Such headline-worthy drama informed Nas' provocative rhymes, which he delivered with both a masterful flow and a wise perspective over beats by a range of producers: legends like DJ Premier, Large Professor, and Pete Rock; hitmakers like Trackmasters, Timbaland, and will.i.am; street favorites like Swizz Beatz, Megahertz, and the Alchemist; and personal favorites of his own like L.E.S., Salaam Remi, and Chucky Thompson. Nas likewise collaborated with some of the industry's leading video directors, including Hype Williams and Chris Robinson, presenting singles like "Hate Me Now," "One Mic," and "I Can" with dramatic flair. Nas continually matured as an artist, evolving from a young street disciple to a vain all-knowing sage to a humbled godly teacher, as heard on later work such as God's Son (2002) and Life Is Good (2012). Such growth made every album release an event and prolonged his increasingly storied career to epic proportions.