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Hip-hop’s relationship with a live band has always been an interesting one, though always polarizing. There’s really no right or wrong when it comes to our favorite rappers performing their songs with a live band versus just having a DJ backing them up, but depending on who you talk to, people seem to either love or completely despise rappers creating new renditions with live instruments. Jay Z is one rapper who, throughout the years, has had his fair share of shows performing with a live band in his corner, and that all started for the star in 2001, when he performed for MTV’s Unplugged.
Jay-Z: Unplugged includes songs from Hov’s discography, reworked and performed with a live band. The rapper performed these tracks on November 18th 2001, and the album was released just a month later on December 18, 2001. The live band Jay chose to perform with him was The Legendary Roots Crew, and their drummer Questlove produced all but one of the 13 tracks performed for the live album. The project sold 600,000 copies in the US, and made it to #8 on Billboard’s “Top R&B and Hip Hop” chart.
Jigga wanted to stay away from performing just his radio hits, but of course MTV got a few out of him. When speaking on the opportunity, Questlove told MTV in 2001: “He’s a consummate professional… At the end of the day, MTV was like, ‘[We want] ‘Can I Get A…,’ we want ‘Big Pimpin’.‘ They had to argue Jay down to do ‘Hard Knock Life.’ He didn’t want to do none of that. He was worse than me. … I didn’t think he would touch Reasonable Doubt, but he was like, ‘Let’s do ‘Feelin’ It,‘ ‘Can I Live.’”