6 Best Hip-Hop Moments On ‘MTV Unplugged’

Lil Wayne has hip-hop fans excited for his June 12 “MTV2 Presents: Lil Wayne Unplugged.” After the taping, he told MTV that he wanted the intimate gig to be “flawless” because “if there are any flaws, they will be spotted.” As one of the greatest rappers in the game, we’re guessing he at least comes very close to this goal. And we imagine some of the upcoming show’s moments–perhaps Weezy’s cover of Tupac’s “Perfect Verse“–will end up on future versions of this list.

6. Uptown Records’ finale

Right before Uptown Records became obsolete, when gangsta rap took over and Uptown’s former employee Puff Daddy started Bad Boy Records, the label’s star acts recorded an “MTV Unplugged.” For the finale, Jodeci, Mary J. Blige, Father MC, Heavy D and Christopher Williams performed together. They ripped it up almost like they knew it was their last hoorah together.

5. B.o.B covers MGMT’s “Kids”

With their poppy synths and childlike glee, MGMT’s debut album, Oracular Spectacular, is arguably the catchiest of the decade. Somehow B.o.B captures the same feeling MGMT created in a studio when he covered their hit song “Kids” onstage with an acoustic guitar. It’s the most-overlooked cover in the “Unplugged” series.

4. MC Lyte performs “Cappucino”

MTV’s first experiment in hip-hop unplugged occurred in 1991 with “Yo! Unplugged Rap,” featuring LL Cool J, MC Lyte, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest and Pop’s Cool Love. Critics were cold to all but LL Cool J, who blew it up, and MC Lyte. Shot during a time when rap was still a “passing fad,” hip-hop fans regard De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest with a certain reverence. But MC Lyte’s unplugged performance of her hit “Cappucino” proves she can easily hang with the greats.

3. Lauryn Hill cries

At one point, after Lauryn Hill left Fugees and released her solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, she was the biggest female musician in black culture. Then she took a four-year hiatus. When Hill returned in 2002 for her “MTV Unplugged 2.0,” she only brought an acoustic guitar and a heap of new rough songs. The performance feels like watching a musician in a coffee shop, working things out. It’s fascinating because Hill was unguarded, like a raw nerve. She broke into tears during “I Gotta Find Peace Of Mind” and it doesn’t feel forced at all.

2. Jay-Z brings along The Roots

Jay-Z may be the smartest performer in hip-hop. The reason there aren’t more episodes of “MTV Unplugged” with hip-hop artists is because many don’t know how to re-create their songs without computers and turntables. Rather than figure it out himself, Jay-Z turned to the experts in 2001, bringing Philadelphia band The Roots with him onstage. Long before they were the house band on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” The Roots had established themselves as the best hip-hop act with instruments. As Jay-Z shifted through a medley of his catalog, The Roots were there to back him every moment.

1. LL Cool J’s deodorant clumps

While LL Cool J’s performance of “Mama Said Knock You Out” may be one of the most inspired of the entire “Unplugged” series, it’s overshadowed by the deodorant dingleberries hanging from his armpit hair. Pumping up the crowd before the song, LL took off his jacket (no shirt underneath because it’s 1991) and viewers learned how Cool J stays cool onstage–an entire stick of antiperspirant.

Photos: MTV, YouTube