The Live Hip-Hop Album

This is a republishing of a post I wrote for my now defunct music newsletter. Substack sucks so the post is here now.

Recently I was talking about the concept of the live hip-hop album on Mastodon and since that thread was followers-only I want to elaborate here on what favourites are in that specific genre. To clarify, when I mean “live hip-hop album” I mean a recording of a hip-hop album performed live in concert or with a live band and instrumentation.

So here they are!

Denzel Curry

This was the one that got me started on the aforementioned Mastodon thread. Denzel dropped this on May 5th as a nice little surprise. As a Denzel Curry fan I was delighted to hear the Cold Blooded Soul band backing Denzel again along with a couple new tracks I hadn’t heard before (Didn’t Cha Know and Endtroduction).

Denzel is a fantastic live performer and this example is no different. Unfortunately for non-Spotify users, this is unfortunately a Spotify exclusive.

However I’ve got a few more examples of Denzel performing tracks from his 2022 album Melt My Eyez See Your Future.

The first is the extended edition of the album where the second “disc” is live performances backed by the Cold Blooded Soul band.

And if you prefer YouTube, he did another performance with the Cold Blooded Soul band at the Komodo City Cafe:

The second is his performance for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series:

The third is his performance for KEXP:

It truly is a delight to watch Denzel perform his music live and I never get tired of listening to him do it. I loved the studio album but man the live versions of Melt My Eyez See Your Future just have this different vibrant energy to them. To make a bad and obvious pun, the soul instrumentation adds a lot of soul to the experience.

Oddisee

Oddisee’s live album recording Beneath The Surface with the band Good Compny has long been one of my top live album recordings, no matter the genre. I love hearing the lively crowd cheering along in the background and at the end of songs and I love hearing Oddisee interacting with the audience.

The jazz instrumentation here also adds a nice warm vibe to the album and I prefer the live version over the studio album titled The Iceberg.

Also I just now got the wordplay between the two different names for the live and studio albums. The Iceberg and what’s Beneath The Surface. Holy shit. My appreciation of Oddisee as an artist just went up as I write this.

J. Cole

J. Cole’s live album recording Forest Hills Drive: Live from Fayetteville, NC is what originally made me fall in love with live hip-hop albums. Shoutout to my sister who originally shared this with me.

This one’s got it all, a crowd going absolutely bananas, a very enthusiastic performance from Cole, and live instrumentation. Cole is also performing in his hometown of Fayetteville, North Carolina which just adds another layer of potent energy to the performance. The hometown crowd loves him and vice versa and they feed into each other.

Like with Oddisee’s live album I prefer this live version to the studio version. Truly a delight to listen to all the way through.

How about y’all?

So dear reader, what are your favourite live albums? Doesn’t matter what genre, I want to hear about all of them. Tell me!