How will this year's edition of rap megaconcert Rock the Bells attempt to outdo its impressive track record? Simple — by having six seminal albums performed in their entirety by most of the original artists. This year offers a chance to see live performances of such classics as Doggystyle, Midnight Marauders, and The Great Adventures of Slick Rick. And while the live-album concert may be more of an indie-rock trend than a hip-hop one, the albums selected really do deserve to be heard from beginning to end.
We put these oft-played classics on pause to compile a cheat sheet to their considerable legacies, along with what to expect.
A Tribe Called Quest, Midnight Marauders (Jive, 1993)
Legacy: The perpetual Caucasian gateway to the funky side of the street
Certified: Platinum (more than 1 million copies sold)
Live wild card: Guard your toes, since Q-Tip knows how to rile up crowds and make hordes of suburban fans bounce. White men can jump after all — and they know every word to this album, so earplugs are a must as well.
Boogie Down Productions (KRS-One performing), Criminal Minded (M.I.L. Multimedia/B-Boy, 1987)
Legacy: Helped start the trend of New York rappers and R&B singers using the Jamaican patois in their songs, as if they came from the island themselves. Meanwhile, this album is still heavily sampled on reggae and dancehall records in Jamaica.
Certified: Ghetto Gold (it sold better than Nielsen Soundscan numbers suggest)
Live wild card: KRS-One has been prone to outbursts in the Bay Area, including threatening local hip-hop journalist Adisa Banjoko at a Stanford University conference in 2006. If someone happens to set him off, whether it's a backstage dispute or a heckling audience member, he could easily set it off.
Eric B. and Rakim (Rakim performing), Paid in Full (4th & Broadway, 1987)
Legacy: Rapping that's far more complicated than simply rhyming the end of each sentence — in other words, the blueprint for modern hip-hop artists like Jay-Z and Lil Wayne
Live wild card: Rakim's orientation. No, we don't mean the way he swings, silly, but the way he doesn't always seem to know where he is when out on the road. At 2008's Rock the Bells, he asked, "What's up, Los Angeles?" of a Mountain View audience, which led to stunned silence. (At least from us.)
Slick Rick, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick (Def Jam, 1988)
Legacy: The art of hip-hop storytelling, plain and simple, began with this British expatriate's ability to weave a verbally agile narrative from gripping beginning to sudden end — and keep his audience totally engaged in the process
Live wild card: Rick was always known for having the fattest gold chains in the game, but even he had to step it up to keep up with the bling era. Nowadays, he flamboyantly sports so much jewelry that we wonder whether it'll affect his stamina to perform an entire album. He may have to lie down through some of it to keep from getting light-headed.
Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle (Death Row, 1993)
Legacy: Blue-waving baby gangstas who "don't love them hos"
Certified: Quadruple platinum
Live wild card: Nate Dogg, the soulful pimp voice who helps lay down the irresistible mack hand throughout Doggystyle, is still quietly recovering from multiple strokes and will be much missed in this live presentation. But Snoop has his tight house band, the Snoopadelics, and a wonderful assemblage of Doggystyle contributors who'll be in the hizzouse: Warren G, Tha Dogg Pound (Daz and Kurupt), RBX, and Lady of Rage.
Wu-Tang Clan, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (Loud, 1993)
Legacy: Brooding East Coast thugs who will stab you with the martial arts of their minds (and maybe a shank)
Certified: Quadruple platinum
Live wild card: The mighty Wu is missing the unpredictability of its most colorful member, Ol' Dirty Bastard, who passed away in 2004, but the group will be performing with Boy Jones, ODB's oldest son. We hope this will be the missing spark to ignite the group's sometimes energy-sapped shows.