The timeline leading up to Nas' album release was rather quiet. Just days before the album we know now as NASIR's release, it was revealed a party similar to the vibe of Kanye West's ye would take place in a remote area in Queens, New York on Thursday (June 14).
There were blended assumptions on how it would go down and what the album would sound like. Would it happen at Nas’ restaurant Sweet Chick? Would his music address the domestic abuse claims from Kelis? All we knew was Kanye's role in the album as the executive producer, and that it would also follow the formula of a seven-song stimulus package.
The album would be played last night under the starry lights of the Queensboro Bridge. Project Wyoming was now in a nearly gentrified Queens and the aura was anything but serene. The finesse gods were in effect, where a few guys embodied Keyser Söze to the fullest for the thrill of being on the scene. Kanye was all smiles as the rest of the G.O.O.D music ensemble like Pusha T and 2 Chainz came out to support the veteran rapper.
Two VIBE writers arrived at the event and ended up on both sides of the large green plated gate.
Below, check out two very different tales of how it went down.
Inside (William Ketchum III)
8 p.m.: I arrive at the location given to attendees in the RSVP email. A few hundred people are waiting inside of a large, fenced off lot, with two lines. One line is getting wristbands, the other is standing alongside the fence, taking turns piling into buses at 15-20 at a time. Once I’m inside my bus, we’re driven around the corner, where we wait. Our News Editor, Desire, texts me and says that she and Billboard Hip-Hop Editor, Carl Lamarre, are on their way.
9 p.m.: After waiting inside a stationary bus for one hour– at 9 p.m. on the dot–we finally take off for a 15-minute drive. We arrive at another outdoor area that’s fenced outside, and we line up along the fence. Peeking through the holes, we see that there are already several hundred people inside.
10 p.m.: I see the rapper Kyle waiting by us outside, and with his permission, FaceTime my girlfriend’s daughter so she can meet him and have a few words with him. She was listening to him moments before I called. A highlight of my night.
10:10 p.m.: We begin to see a few celebrities arrive as we’re waiting in line. Swizz Beatz and Steve Stoute get to the venue and are welcomed inside.
10:26 p.m.: I finally get inside (and stub my toe on the door of the fence in the process). The environment is an army vibe; military green and light brown tents, and stones on the ground (horrible look for sneakerheads).
I briefly speak to Desire, and get an update of her whereabouts outside by the gate, waiting for her to get inside. I begin to spot other celebrities: DJ Clue, Wale, radio host Big Boy, Consequence. I see a green hummer, which I learn that Nas rode in to make his grand entrance. There’s a huge group of people with their phones out, so I presume that that’s where Kanye and Nas are standing. I also realize that all of the free merch is gone, smh.
10:30 p.m: The music begins. Pusha T, standing by Steven Victor, smiles excitedly and daps up friends as the first song plays. I see Kim Kardashian in a corner, perched on higher ground alongside two people who I don’t know. She’s taking selfies with them as gawkers stare from below.
It’s tough to process music in a thoughtful way at events like this, but so far so good: 'Ye laced Nas with heat, including a few beats that feel completely out of character for him to rap over. And while I’d need a headphone listen to really hone in on the lyrics, Nas sounds comfortable vocally on each song.
11 p.m.: When the album plays for the second time, I decide to go toward the group to see if I can get a glimpse at 'Ye and Nas. I see 2 Chainz towering near the back of said group, and get a couple quick looks at Kanye, but I never see Nas the entire night.
11:25 p.m.: I leave a little early, attempting to beat the 1 a.m. rush of people leaving at the same time.
I walk to the outskirts of where the cops are, call a Lyft and head home.
7:30 a.m.: I wake up, and the album still isn’t on streaming services yet and my toe still hurts.
Outside (Desire Thompson)
8 p.m.: Myself and Carl are at a free-for-all happy hour. We're supposed to be at a lot in Queens for Nas' album release party, but folks are convincing us to stay. There's booze flowing, warm pita bread for veggie eaters like myself and sliders for everyone else. After my second whiskey ginger and Carl's fourth glass of cabernet, we're just about ready to go.
9 p.m.: An Uber mishap causes us to get there even later than intended. We're not too worried since there's a line full of folks at this very mundane parking lot in Queens. As the buses line up, we're told that the event is at capacity. Someone mentions their plan to roll into the event with Wale who is en route.
I feel like I let Nas down.
9:30 p.m.: We stick around to chat with friends and I'm texting William to see what's happening at the listening. He explains that he's actually on another line and it's club style: only women are getting inside. Oy vey.
After a large number of people disperse, more buses line up. A woman dressed in all black looks at the crowd and says, "If they have a black wristband, they can get on the bus."
A guy in crutches pulls the "I'm a guy with crutches, let me on" card and successfully gets on the bus.
10:19 p.m.: "We're not in Sunnyside anymore," Carl says as we pull up to the Queensboro Bridge. I have a feeling the listening event won't happen here since it seems there's a lazy effort to keep the allure of Kanye's Jackson Hole, Wyoming gathering going. I text William for his location. Turns out, he's not inside yet.
10:25 p.m.: After getting through the obstacle course that is young Nasir fans, we hit another line under the bridge. Cops are directing folks away from the entrance (including Diddy's son Justin). There are more folks in black pulling people from the random lines into the event. Justin and his crew get in while I see members of the press from earlier in the evening still in line.
Another guy in crutches eases his way inside the event. My mind is full of thinking emojis.
10:30 p.m.: I hear a boom from the amplifiers inside the event. As the album kicks off, Carl is over it and we decide to leave. From the muffled sounds, the album doesn't sound bad.
A cop suggests we go to the hotel balcony across the street. I look up and see wypipo bobbing offbeat while looking into the event. Not too far are the projects.
I guess happy hour (or the live stream) was the best option after all...
10:48 p.m.: Someone from Def Jam gives me a call, trying to get us in, but at this point, we're walking away from the event. There are two women straight out of a Fashion Nova Instagram post also walking away. Carl asks them how long they were waiting. They say ten minutes.
We spot Shy Glizzy with his crew rocking vintage jerseys hop out of a van. They're going to shoot their shot for the event.
11:30 p.m.: I text William and ask his thoughts about the event. He says, "I f*** wit it."
11:57 p.m.: I get home and notice I have a blister on my foot from all the walking. Instead of pulling up the live stream, I pull out the cabernet I swiped from the happy hour and watch Desus and Mero.
Nas let me down.