Written by Emilee Lindner / pHOTOGRAPHY BY kAYLA mERRILL, oNE nATION / April 30, 2017

J. Cole - Forest Hills Drive, Live From Fayetteville, NC (2016)

After the success of 2014 Forest Hills Drive, which went double platinum with no features, J. Cole took his album out on the road, recorded each concert, and unveiled it to fans at home with an HBO series. The live album was released on his 31st birthday, and includes hits “Wet Dreamz,” “No Role Modelz” and “Apparently.” If you haven’t witnessed J. Cole in person, check out this excellently mixed live set before you catch him on the road this summer.

The Roots - Come Alive All Access (1999)

Most die-hard music fans have heard of Frampton Comes Alive, so when it came time for The Roots to name their own live album, they decided to pay homage to the seminal recording with The Roots Come Alive. The Philadelphia hip-hop ensemble fused jazz and funk, giving their songs the live treatment in Zurich, Switzerland, and New York City. They also brought along some special friends — Common raps on “Love of My Life,” longtime friend Dice Raw hops on “Adrenaline!” and Jill Scott takes over Erykah Badu’s parts on “You Got Me.” Come Alive is a must-have for fans of Black Thought, Questlove and the crew — a band that shines brighter when they’re playing live.

Boogie Down Productions - Live Hardcore Worldwide (1991)

“If anyone ever asks you the question, ‘Who is the number one set and sound?’, you will quickly reply, ‘Boogie Down Productions.’ And if they have any questions on what you are talking about, please, play them this album.” KRS-One opens BDP’s Live Hardcore Worldwide with a braggadocious intro, prepping listeners for the revolutionary cyphers and “lyrics sharp as a machete” to follow. Performing songs from their first four albums, where they mix dancehall with hip-hop, BDP preached the realities of living in the South Bronx and originality in hip-hop.

2Pac - Live At The House Of Blues (2005)

2Pac’s Live At the House of Blues was the Cali rapper’s last recorded performance, put to tape just months before he was fatally shot in 1996. The album was released nine years later and includes the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame rapper's beloved hits "Hit 'Em Up", "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted" and "So Many Tears.” Outlawz and Tha Dogg Pound provided backup on the first and second halves of the album, respectively, and Pac brought in even more help with Snoop Dogg, Jodeci, K-Ci & Jojo and Nate Dogg. The set also includes “Troublesome,” which takes Nas’ “If I Ruled The World” instrumental for a subtle diss when 2Pac said he wanted to “whoop his ass with his own motherf--king beat.” At some points, the screams are so loud, you can hear them even after the song is over.

Run-D.M.C. - Live at Montreux (2007)

For years, Run-D.M.C. dominated the ‘80s rap scene, giving music lovers hits like “It’s Tricky” and “King of Rock” — those songs appear on their live album recorded in Switzerland. Somewhere near the middle of the setlist, they ask, “People wanna know is Run-D.M.C. still a group… let’s show everybody how dope we are,” before launching into the “Soul of Old” freestyle, complete with old-school record scratches and bombastic raps. On one listen you can hear that the trio’s energy at the 2001 recording of Live at Montreux was through the roof. Released six years later, the album dished up favorites with crazy amounts of vigor, like their cover/remix of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way.” The LP was produced by the group’s Jam Master Jay, who died in 2002, so the delayed release served as thoughtful way to honor the late great.

Wu-Tang Clan - Disciples of the 36 Chambers (2004)

In 2004, it wasn’t exactly common to have all nine of the original Wu-Tang Clan members all in one room, performing together, but that’s exactly what Disciples of the 36 Chambers did. Even Ol’ Dirty Bastard was at the Rock the Bells concert in San Bernardino, California, where it was recorded. The 27-track set includes picks from their group albums, like “C.R.E.A.M.” and the anthemic “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthin’ Ta F’ Wit,” along with cuts from their solo albums, so you’ll be thoroughly entertained.

Jay Z - MTV Unplugged (2001)

“Welcome to Jay Z’s poetry reading,” Jay deadpans calmly at the beginning of his Unplugged session at the intimate MTV Studios. You gotta admit — it’s not every day that Jay’s rhymes gets remixed with live strings and soulful backups singers. The Roots came in to give hits like “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)" "Girls, Girls, Girls" and "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)" a different spin, with Questlove producing the album to inject a little funk. There are surprises all over the LP, like the impeccable acoustic “Big Pimpin’” and cameos from Mary J. Blige on "Can't Knock the Hustle/Family Affair" and Pharrell on "I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me),” which explores the flawless use of a glockenspiel. The Roots thought of everything when it came to transforming an electronic beat into purely acoustic tones.

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