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Riffs: How to rock an album set at Rock the Bells

By Sarah Godfrey

The annual Rock the Bells hip-hop festival is coming to Merriweather Post Pavilion on Aug. 29. (Tickets go on sale this Saturday.) The biggest news of this year's tour is, of course, the reemergence of Lauryn Hill (and, yes, she's going to be at the D.C. date). The other big news is that Snoop and Wu-Tang Clan will be performing their respective master works from start to finish. That means sets of "Doggystyle" and "Enter the 36 Chambers" in their entirety. (A Tribe Called Quest, Slick Rick, Rakim, and KRS-One will also give album-themed performances, but none are, as of yet, promising to reproduce the LPs from start to finish.)

Running through entire classic albums is a great idea -- at the very least it will appease fans who complain that these shows are nothing but hit parades that ignore deep cuts and classic material. It will also eliminate the awkward silence that follows when an old school rapper asks the crowd, "Who wants to hear something new?"

But the idea is not without potential problems: how do you work around guests who can't come out? And what to do with all of those charming '90s hip-hop skits?

Click Track has some advice for Snoop and Wu on making the most of their album-length sets.

Snoop, "Doggystyle"

Snoop is bringing Warren G, RBX(!), Tha Dogg Pound, and Lady of Rage with him to D.C., so he won't have to rely on their recorded verses for his live recreation of "Doggystyle." Smart move. We'd like to humbly suggest one additional guest: Slick Rick. The Doggfather should bring him out when it's time for "Lodi Dodi." The Ruler is on the bill, so there's no reason that this collaboration can't happen.

And if Snoop wants to transport his fans back to the "Doggystyle" era, he should lose the chalice and tricked-out microphone that he uses on stage these days, and also drop the moneyed pimp persona he's been enjoying of late and dress as simply as possible -- just Chucks, khakis, and a t-shirt, like Snoop circa 1993.

If the "Doggystyle" set goes long and minutes must be shaved off off, we suggest tossing out "Ain't No Fun." The sex partner-swapping track was kinda, sorta silly and tongue-in-cheek when it was first released, but 17 years later, it just sounds icky. Trust us: no one will miss it.

Wu-Tang Clan, "Enter the 36 Chambers"

The key to a successful set is really very simple: just show up. We want every single surviving member of the Wu on stage. It's the only way to make the "36 Chambers" recreation truly great. Various small grouping of Wu-Tang members have tried to pull off sprawling Clan cuts during live performances over the years, and it just doesn't work.

Also, we suggest that Cappadonna, Killah Priest and the like sit this set out -- or at least play the background. Yeah, yeah, they're Wu, too, but the people are paying to see the RZA, the GZA, Ol' Dirty Bastard (his son Boy Jones is standing in for the dearly departed MC ), Inspectah Deck, Raekwon the Chef, U-God, Ghostface Killah and Method Man.

By Sarah Godfrey  |  June 16, 2010; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  Riffs  | Tags: Snoop, Wu-Tang Clan  
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"We want every single surviving member of the Wu on stage."

Apparently not Masta Killa though

Posted by: agl132 | June 16, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

"Apparently not Masta Killa though"

Also, if Warren G and Nate Dogg are both there, there's no reason for Snoop to cut "Ain't No Fun"

Posted by: soffrin | June 17, 2010 8:08 AM | Report abuse

Sigh. I knew someone was going to come with "What about Masta Killa?!" Well, what *about* Masta Killa? I didn't forget about him, I deliberately omitted him. He had one verse on "36 Chambers!" He wasn't on "Protect Ya Neck!" C'mon AGL -- when people talk about original Wu, they're typically referring to the eight members listed. Masta Killa is hip-hop's Stuart Sutcliffe, and I will argue that point until I'm blue in the face.

Posted by: Sarah_Godfrey | June 17, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Are you serious? You think when people talk about Wu they're talking about U-God but deliberately omitting Masta Killa? He's an original member, not including him only makes you look like you don't know that. Sorry. Plus he's actually put out one of the best late-era solo Wu albums.

Posted by: agl132 | June 17, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Got my tickets! Ticketfly started the presale a day ahead of schedule somehow! PW is "chambers"

Posted by: JA007 | June 17, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

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