5 Tips On How To Put On A Live Show – Listen Up, Rookie

Between pleasure, work, and the combination of the two, I find myself out at a good deal of live shows. Inevitably, sometimes the artists rocking I actually know and am fans of, and other times I’m unfamiliar with them (whether it’s ‘cause they’re opening and I’ve never heard of them or I know their name but have never had a chance to fully check out their music).

I’ve learned what does and doesn’t work—for me, at least—when it comes to performing in front of a crowd who may be unfamiliar with your music. So here, in no particular order, are some dos and don’ts.

1) Don’t bring twelve of your mans and them on stage with you. We’re already trying to figure out who you are and if we fuck with you, so don’t bring a bunch of random dudes up with you. I know they’re not random to you, but they’re random to us. Shit, you’re random to us. So use this little moment that you have on stage as yours and only yours to shine.

2) There’s one exception to the above statement. If there’s one particular song that you have that, for whatever reason, you feel like you need to perform, and it features one (tops, two, but that’s really pushing it) other artists, you can do that. But be careful is all I’m saying. And make sure your man isn’t yelling out some long list of the sets he reps after the record cuts off and it’s time for him to exit stage left. We don’t really care. Let’s cap it at “Shouts to [insert hometown], and [wildcard].” The wildcard could be his crew, mom, girlfriend, or latest mixtape available for free Internet download.

3) If you can actually rap—and we all know that not everyone can—show us. This sounds obvious but I’m completely serious. One of the best things for dudes who can really spit to do is astound us with your bars. The best way to do that is with an a capella. Take a quick break and turn the music off. Okay, good, now we can actually hear you. Alright, now drop some lines that will truly grab us. Punchlines, similes, crazy flow—I don’t care how you do it—just stay in your comfort zone and flex your lyrical muscles, if you have them. I’ve found this the most effective way to win over a crowd (and me) that doesn’t know your music. There are benefits to doing it early in your set and benefits to doing it at the end, but, honestly, just do it. If you can rap.

4) If you have one, show us your personality. Crack some jokes. Interact with the crowd beyond just saying, “Throw your hands up.” Which reminds me, don’t say that. If no one’s fucking with you, they’re not gonna do it, and then things just get uncomfortable for everyone. The most you can ask of a group of people that doesn’t know your stuff is some call and response for the chorus of one of your songs or something, and even that’s a little risky. I’m not saying that there’s harm in telling the crowd to throw their hands up, I’m just saying that if you do it and get thrown off your game when they don’t, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

5) Interact with the crowd. That last bullet turned unexpectedly negative, so I’m gonna take this one where that was supposed to go: Make eye contact. If someone out there is indeed rocking with you, acknowledge them somehow. Point at ‘em. Give a head nod. Something. Everyone wants to be a star and feel like they’re a part of what’s going on, so showing love to some people that are messing with you can cause a domino effect.

There are plenty more dos and don’t, but that’s where we can leave it for now. It’s a good jumping off point, and it touches on some of the most common stuff that I see.

What do you guys like/dislike to see from artists whose music you don’t really know? What works and what doesn’t? —Adam Fleischer

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  • http://www.twitter.com/Pierzy Pierzy

    Co-Sign. I went to the Duck Down 15th Anniversary show last week and those dudes know how to do it, especially Sean Price and (my biased opinion) Skyzoo.

  • http://www.facebook.com/iamjappyj Jappy

    Go to a Tech N9ne concert and you will see the best live performance of your life. Tech, Krizz Kaliko and Kutt have their own part of the stage as they have their own choreography (they have some dope dance moves), they all have crazy flows and lyrics and they entertain the crowd like no other. Numbers don’t lie and he’s up their in tickets sold as he’s was in the top 3 for most tickets sold for a hip hop concert with Kanye and Jay-Z last year. Good and fun interaction is good too. I saw Drake yesterday and he started to point at random people in the crowd for 15 minutes. It was a bit too long but he called out more than 50 ppl which I found pretty cool. If you can get dope lighting at your concert…then do it. Shit looks so professional lol. As an emcee, if you have the energy and move around, that can help.

    Oh yeah, instrumental arrangements are very key too. Smoothly transitioning from one song to another is awesome.

    • http://www.amazon.com/How-Rap-Art-Science-Hip-Hop/dp/1556528167 JamesM


      Also, there are a ton of people like Tech N9ne, Big Daddy Kane, etc interviewed in that book “How To Rap: The Art & Science of the Hip-Hop MC”, and they drop all the above knowledge and more

      In fact, it sounds like this article was cribbed from that book, lol

  • http://www.djgraffiti.com DJ Graffiti

    And stop rapping over your recorded song. Real Emcees Use Instrumentals (shout to Mosologist).

    • http://@spaceb Dre

      some times the mics are some trash

    • http://twitter.com/federalranga Federal Ranga


      THANK YOU! Somebody fucking gets it. I’on wanna hear a dub of you the whole record.


  • TT

    Listen to this dude Fleischer dishing out tips like it’s a strip club. You need to start getting stage at xxl shows. Teach em how it’s dne.



    6) DONT CHOKE!!

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