Live music and rap aren't often mentioned in the same breath.
Live music and rap aren't often mentioned in the same breath. While groups like the Roots and Black Eyed Peas have long been known for using live instrumentation, few mainstream rappers experiment with live bands. That's why this Unplugged set, the first by a solo rap artist, is so important. Backed by the Roots and Jaguar Wright, the Brooklyn, N.Y., native covers 13 tracks from his six studio albums. Popular songs like "Ain't No" and "Hard Knock Life (The Ghetto Anthem)" come to new life in this live setting. Other highlights include "Song Cry" and "Heart of the City (Ain't No Love)," both of which are only enhanced by Wright's syrupy soulful alto. Mary J. Blige also makes an appearance, teaming with the rapper for a medley of "Can't Knock the Hustle" and "Family Affair." Hopefully, the kinetic energy of this live set will translate into more rap artists experimenting in similar surroundings.—RH