Even in the digital age, hip-hop isn't meant to only be enjoyed on ear buds, computer speakers, and car stereos. Yes, rap history has played out on wax, on the radio, on TV, and even on YouTube. But like any genre of music, to fully experience hip-hop's power, you need to see it live.
Even if rap is often disappointing to see live, when you do go to that perfect show and see that unbelievable moment, it's something you never forget or stop talking about. There's been a ton of great hip-hop tours (Glow In The Dark, Hard Knock Life, and No Way Out all come to mind, just to name a few) but this list isn't about tours. Rather it's about those epic moments that only happen once in a blue, sometimes during a famous tour, but often not.
On stage, legends have been born, careers have been extinguished, and history has been made. We've assembled 20 Legendary Hip-Hop Concert Moments that spans the course of rap history to highlight some of the classic live performances rappers have put on. Some altered the course of rap, others merely the careers of those involved. Either way, they'll be etched in our memories—and now, hopefully, yours—forever.
Written by Alex Gale (@apexdujeous)
RELATED: The 10 Best New York City Rap Albums of the Past 10 Years
RELATED: 10 Underrated Albums by Great Rappers
RELATED: The 50 Best Selling Rap Albums of All Time
RELATED: Pigeons & Planes - The Best Uses of Horns in Hip-Hop
Kool Moe Dee Sons Busy Bee at Harlem World
The Fantastic Five, Treacherous Three, and More Rock East River Park for Wild Style
Run–D.M.C. Land Rap's First Endorsement Deal After Getting Fans To Hold Up Their Adidas
Boogie Down Productions Mourn Scott La Rock at Madison Square Garden
2 Live Crew Arrested After Defying Judge's Obscenity Ruling
2Pac and Biggie Freestyle at Madison Square Garden
KRS-One Throws PM Dawn Off Stage
Ol' Dirty Bastard Terrorizes Roots Show at Irving Plaza
Gangsta Rap Legends Old and New Reunite in Cali for Up in Smoke Tour
Jay-Z Unveils "Takeover," "Ballerina P," and Michael Jackson at 2001 Summer Jam
Fresh-Out-of-Jail T.I. Humiliates Lil Flip at Birthday Bash 9
The Fugees Reunite For Dave Chappelle's Block Party
Dave Chappelle has done a lot of great things for hip-hop, including regular rap guests on his hit show, The Chappelle Show. But nothing tops the block party he threw in 2004 and the subsequent movie he dropped after, Dave Chappelle's Block Party. Originally, the highlight of the night was supposed to be a performance by Lauryn Hill.
But after her label, Columbia Records, refused to release her songs for use in the film, she opted to reunite with the Fugees instead. On stage, the Refugee Camp did their damn thing and even lived through a short lived reunion. However, it wasn't meant to be and they ended up breaking up again. But still, seeing a group reunite on stage is always a special thing.
Jay-Z and Nas Make Peace
Jay-Z, Kanye West, 50 Cent, T.I. and Diddy Join Forces at Screamfest
Nicki Minaj Rocks Out With Jay-Z and Kanye West At Yankee Stadium
Kanye West Plays My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy at Small NYC Venue
The day afer Kanye unleashed My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, arguably his best album, he took over New York City's Bowery Ballroom to perform it in its entirety, in sequence. After his massive, revolutionary Glow in the Dark arena tour in 2008, this 550-capacity was downright intimate, but Yeezy, in signature fashion, made it an epic night for the ages.
Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, Swizz Beatz, Pusha T, CyHi Da Prynce, Teyana Taylor, John Legend, Ryan Leslie, and Bon Iver joined him to perform the album. And just to make the show even more Kanye-ish, he ended it with one of his best rants of all time, apologizing to George Bush and Matt Lauer, dissing Taylor Swift again, and signing off with "I like clothes and I still like girls, I don't give a fuck what you think." Mercy.
Kendrick Lamar Crowned West Coast King by L.A. Legends
Sometimes seemingly iconic musical moments start to fade a little bit as time goes on. But the significance of this night is only growing proportional to Kendrick Lamar's impact on hip-hop. In other words, quickly.
A month after Section.80 dropped, Kendrick packed the Music Box in Hollywood with already devoted fans. Game and Snoop Dogg each emerged with a surprise performance, and then told Kendrick that he was carrying "the torch" for West Coast hip-hop now. Kendrick choked up, and was engulfed in a group hug by Snoop, Game, Warren G, and Kurupt while the crowd erupted. Some called the coronation premature...but then good kid, m.A.A.d. city came out. In retrospect, this was prophecy.