In an era of ubiquitous iPhones and all-seeing social media, historical concert moments make their way to you, and the type of stuff that was once confined to archival footage, spotty word-of-mouth reports and newspaper clippings is on your timeline in seconds.
The epic moments of yesteryear didn’t get a chance to go viral, and as a result, many of them, some of which sound like fan-created theoretical moments, are underexposed and underappreciated.
For instance, fans probably know The Notorious B.I.G. once worked as an opening act for Tupac Shakur, but they probably had no idea Big used to scream “Thug life” at his shows. While it’s already known DMX was a rap superstar in his prime, his supporters these days never got to see him perform in front of 3 million people at a Woodstock concert. And more recently, the late rapper XXXTentacion performed what would be his final show with his best friend Ski Mask The Slump God in a touching reunion after the two previously fell out. You get the idea.
These moments aren’t exactly lost to history—you can find them on YouTube—but many of them are easy to lose track of because they happened so long ago. If they didn’t happen that long ago, their significance might have been slept-on because they were technically so readily available.
Today, XXL takes a look at 20 rare hip-hop concert moments you need to see featuring Jay-Z, Eminem, Lil Uzi Vert and more just below.
Nas’ Moment of Silence After Tupac Shakur Dies
Despite reports that the two had squashed whatever feud they had at the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards, the fact remains that there was a lot of animosity between Tupac Shakur and Nas when Shakur was fatally shot in Las Vegas on Sept. 7, 1996. So, it must have been very surprising when Nas allowed media personality Ed Lover to interrupt his own show and announce the death of the California rapper on Sept. 13, 1996. Nas proceeded to have a moment of silence for the slain rapper.
Kanye West Announced as Member of Roc-A-Fella
During a 2002 Roc-A-Fella concert, Kanye West was given a Roc chain as he was announced as the latest addition to the team. He’d previously been a producer that worked with the label, but now he was also an artist that had officially signed to the collective. You can spot the moment in the video for his 2003 debut single, “Through the Wire.”
One of Jay-Z’s Early Performances
Some time in the early 1990s, Big Daddy Kane brought out a young Jay-Z to rock the crowd. Clips like the one below are among the earliest recorded performances of the Brooklyn rapper.
OutKast Performs “Elevators (Me and You)”
With it’s an eerie beat, it’s almost hard to imagine a crowd vibing out to OutKast’s “Elevators (Me and You)” like it’s Future’s “March Madness,” but that’s essentially what happened when André 3000 and Big Boi performed their classic song on BET back in 1996.
Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg Perform “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted”
Although he did a lot in his career, ’Pac really wasn’t in the public eye for that long, so you won’t find many clips of him performing some of his most popular songs. Taking the stage at the House of Blues in July of 1996, Tupac performed his All Eyez on Me single “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted” with Snoop Dogg for what might have been the only time.
Kanye West Performs “Family Business” With John Legend
If you were lucky enough to ever catch one of Kanye West’s earliest performances as a rap star, you know that he used John Legend as a sort of utility man for background vocals. One example of this was when Yeezy embarked on his School Spirit Tour and performed songs like “Family Business” in 2004. John’s rich, soulful baritone adds a layer of solemn power to the already emotional song.
Jay-Z and The Notorious B.I.G. Hit the Stage
Two of Brooklyn’s finest were a sight to see when they hit the stage together as they did in this video, which was recorded some time in 1996. In the clip, you can see The Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z trading bars in front of a raucous crowd. Their synergy was real, and a quick look at the video reminds you of what was lost when Biggie was tragically shot and killed on March 9, 1997.
He isn’t thought of as being part of rap’s history of teenage wunderkinds, but Nas did indeed start out pretty young. You can see evidence of this by checking out video of him performing his 1991 guest verse on the Main Source single “Live at the Barbecue.” He was only 18.
The Notorious B.I.G. Shouts “Thug Life” at Tupac Shakur Concert
’Pac and Biggie’s former friendship is something that’s been talked about to no end, but there isn’t a ton of footage of them together. Below is a video of them rocking the stage together in 1993. ’Pac performs then-unreleased tracks like “Thugs Get Lonely Too” and Big performs “Party and Bullshit.” He even yells out “Thug Life.”
Kanye West Performs in 1996
In the late 1990s, rapping was the most important thing to Kanye, and based on some of his earliest recordings, you can tell he was someone who worked on having well-rhymed, clever bars. In this video of him performing in 1996, a time he would have been around the age of 19, ’Ye spits over a boom bap beat and lets loose some pretty dense rhymes.
Tupac Shakur Performs “Dear Mama”
As he notes in the performance, Tupac was locked up in prison when his Me Against the World album was going double-platinum and his emotional single, “Dear Mama,” was becoming a surprise hit. So when Death Row Records had their special Mother’s Day event in June of 1996, ’Pac took the opportunity to perform the song for the crowd. Unfortunately, this appear sto be the only recorded instance in which ’Pac performed the song live.
Kanye West Previews “So Appalled” at Kid Cudi Concert
Just about a year before he’d release his critically acclaimed My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album in 2010, Kanye used a surprise appearance at a Kid Cudi concert on Dec. 22, 2009, to preview “So Appalled” for fans. The beat is a little different and Kanye’s got an extra set of lyrics and it all sounds epic. Come for Kanye’s special premiere, stay to see Cudi fulfill his hype man duties.
Dr. Dre Pays Homage to Tupac, The Notorious B.I.G. and More
For the 2000 Up in Smoke Tour, Dr. Dre made sure to pay homage to rap superstars, including Eazy-E, Big Pun, Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. He plays a snippet of their songs for each shoutout.
Lil Uzi Vert Performs “XO Tour Llif3” for the First Time
Lil Uzi Vert’s biggest song ever, “XO Tour Llif3,” was unceremoniously released on Feb. 26. 2017. The track immediately exploded in popularity, and when he performed it live for the first time less than a month later, you knew it was a moment.
Nas Performs “If I Ruled the World” With Lauryn Hill in Germany
Back in 1996, Nas joined Lauryn Hill for a performance of his It Was Written single, “If I Ruled the World.” It was one of the first times they performed the song together live, and it was electric.
Ski Mask The Slump God Performs With XXXTentacion for Last Time
About a month before XXXTentacion was shot and killed during a robbery in Deerfield Beach, Fla., in 2018, he graced the Rolling Loud Miami stage on May 13, 2018, with Ski Mask The Slump God, his best friend he’d been estranged from in the months prior. The two hadn’t been on good terms due to some unspecified reasons, but once they saw each other at the event they couldn’t help but rock the crowd once again. Over the course of about 20 minutes, the two performed earlier career collabs like “Take a Step Back,” “R.I.P. Roach” and more. Fans didn’t know it at the time, but this would be the last time X and Ski would hit the stage together. The fact that their reunion wasn’t planned made it feel more like it was a matter of destiny than anything else.
Chief Keef Delivers Epic “I Don’t Like” Performance
There’s nothing more drill than Chief Keef commanding the stage with what appears to be at least 100 people behind him. In this clip, which was shot in April of 2012, Keef performs “3Hunna” and “I Don’t Like.”
DMX Performs “Ruff Ryders Anthem” at Woodstock
1999 was pretty much the peak of DMX mania, and if you wanted an accurate snapshot of that, just take a look at video of him performing “Ruff Ryders Anthem” at 1999 Woodstock. Peep the way the crowd moshes in the July of 1999 video.
Lil Wayne Performs “I Miss My Dawgs” With B.G. on Stage
Before Lil Wayne was a superstar, he was a member of Cash Money’s Hot Boys with Turk, Juvenile and B.G. However, in subsequent years, most of the members left the label, and after that, some of the members exchanged diss tracks with Weezy. In 2004, Wayne made something of a peace offering with “I Miss My Dawgs,” a Tha Carter song on which Weezy reminisces on his time with the crew. Some time between 2004 and 2005, Weezy had B.G., one of the former members who’d dissed Weezy, join him onstage as he performed the song. Staring straight into B.G.’s eyes, Weezy rapped his heart out and it’s clear that his message was felt.
A Young Eminem Rocks the Stage
Eminem wouldn’t get his big break for a little while longer, but in 1996, he was rocking the stage and flaunting the same verbal pyrotechnics that would make him a star within just a few years.