Wu-Tang Clan and Nas Bring a New York State of Mind to Montreal

The Wu-Tang Clan and Nas brought a fresh slice of New York City rap to Laval this Monday night, playing to a packed Place Bell crowd.

While the artists have been touring under their New York State of Mind bill since 2022, this year’s run of shows falls during the celebration of hip hop’s 50th anniversary. As the story goes, the genre itself was spawned at a party in the Bronx in the summer of 1973 - giving the tour’s New York State of Mind moniker extra stopping power.

Before any of the artists hit the stage, this anniversary was being celebrated by an introductory video playing on the massive stage screen, which chronicled the evolution of hip hop up until the 1990s, when both Wu-Tang and Nas released their most influential material. Following this, de-facto Wu-Tang leader RZA emerged from the stage’s upper platform, standing at a large central microphone, flanked by musicians arming a drum kit, keyboard, guitar, and turntable.

Like some kind of decked-out priest delivering the hypest sermon of all time, RZA went on to introduce all eight other members of the Wu-Tang Clan one at a time, as they each took the stage rapping over a snippet of either a Wu-Tang song, or one from their solo career. One of the first members to come out was GZA, banging out bars from his infamous Liquid Swords album. It was great to see the solo material of each Wu-Tang member honoured during the show, as ignoring these non-Clan efforts would be a true disservice to the artists on stage and also audience members who live and breathe the broad Wu-Tang universe.

After all nine Wu members performed “Bring Da Ruckus,” Nas swapped places with the small army of rappers - the stage suddenly looking a whole lot bigger with just one person standing there. However, Nas quickly commanded the situation, marathoning through cuts like “Got Ur Self a Gun” and “It Ain’t Hard to Tell.” While Wu-Tang had nine members interchanging verses, Nas sliced through 10 or so cuts with ease on his own, showing off his ability as a performer. For his landmark “N.Y. State of Mind” track, Nas swapped the title line, singing “Nothing’s equivalent to the Canadian state of mind” at the end of the cut. Sounds like a bummer.

Wu-Tang came back on, making it clear that both artists had their sets intertwined. This was hands-down the best run of the concert, the Wu blasting energetically through “C.R.E.A.M.,” “Protect Ya Neck,” and “Method Man,” the latter having the entire Place Bell singing along with the infamous “I got myself a forty” bump halfway through the track. The group also played “Shame On a Ni**a,” except RZA notably introduced the song as “Shame On a Ninja,” giving the diverse audience ability to sing along to the profanity-riddled track. While not explicitly mentioned, the moment called back to the infamous clip of a white fan rapping on stage at a 2018 Kendrick Lamar concert, who was interrupted by the artist after she went over the bars a little too accurately.

Nas came back for his last run of songs, including “The World Is Yours,” “Nas Is Like,” and the decade-defining “If I ruled the World (Imagine That).” While Ms. Lauryn Hill was unfortunately not present for her memorable feature, the audience sure made up for her absence.

The Wu-Tang Clan came back to close the show in epic fashion, notably highlighting Young Dirty Bastard, son of the infamous Ol’ Dirty Bastard (ODB) - cofounder of the original Wu-Tang lineup. While ODB tragically passed away in 2004, seeing his first-born son rapping over his father’s famous Wu bars as well as solo cuts like “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” and “Got Your Money” was a special sight.

While both Nas and Wu-Tang have monumental careers on their own, seeing both artists intertwine their landmark songs in a multimedia show as well put together as this one was quite the sight. Laval truly celebrated hip hop’s 50th anniversary in style.