Rakim performs at Rock The Bells festival at Merriweather Post Pavilion. (Kyle Gustafson)
‘Awesome Tapes From Africa’ and DJ Harvey

Exploring African music is a daunting task. There are burgeoning Afrobeat nights (with interest spurred by the “Fela!” revival) and Web sites hawking hip-hop compilations from Senegal or Ghana. But Africa is home to 1 billion people, 54 countries, and more local and traditional music styles than even ethnologists can catalogue. The easiest entry point for the curious, though, has to be a blog called “Awesome Tapes From Africa.” New Yorker Brian Shimkovitz launched the site in 2006 — after a spell in Ghana studying ethnomusicology — as a way to share the great music he found there on cassettes. He has kept the site going ever since, posting albums from across the continent. Sometimes it’s traditional vocals from Ethi­o­pia; sometimes it’s a rap compilation from Burkina Faso. But it’s never what you’d expect. Shimkovitz is spinning his favorite African tunes at U Street Music Hall alongside English DJ Harvey, a certified king of old-school house, disco and eclectic electronic tunes, and local house duo Beautiful Swimmers.

Wednesday at 9 p.m. U Street Music Hall, 1115 U St. NW. 202-588-1880. www.ustreetmusichall.com. Free.

Return of the Kings of Hip-Hop

Hip-hop hasn’t been around as long as rock-and-roll, but it’s now old enough to get in on the nostalgia kick. Recent tours have featured many ’90s albums (Wu-Tang’s “Enter the 36 Chambers,” a Tribe Called Quest’s “Midnight Marauders,” Nas’s “Illmatic”), but this show rewinds a little more — back to hip-hop’s golden era. Many of the genre’s first stars will be on hand to show they can still bring it. Rakim, whose performance on “Paid in Full” 24 years ago arguably has yet to be topped, headlines the concert, which also will feature ’80s favorites Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick and Kurtis Blow. We predict the biggest singalong will be when Rob Base charges through his 1988 smash “It Takes Two.”

Thursday at 8 p.m. DAR Constitution Hall, 1776 D St. NW. 202-628-1776. www.dar.org/conthall. $49.50-$74.50.

Hail Hail Rock ’n’ Roll Festival

This garage rock fest takes its name from a Chuck Berry song (it’s a line from “School Days”), and although none of the 10 acts playing over three nights sound particularly like the Father of Rock-and-Roll, they all adhere to no-frills, back-to-basic sounds. Acid Baby Jesus, Thursday’s headliner at Asefu’s, comes from Athens — the Greek Athens, not the college-rock hot spot in Georgia — and plays fuzzy psych-punk with the proper amount of swagger. New York’s Sorceress is all about big hair, big riffs and big solos, bringing some glam strut to the proceedings Friday at Comet Ping Pong. Saturday’s headliners at Quarry House Tavern, Sorrows, have been cult favorites on the power-pop circuit for three decades, playing sharp, concise and hook-filled songs that sound good no matter the decade.

Thursday at 8 p.m. Asefu’s, 1920 Ninth St. NW. $5. Friday at 10 p.m. at Comet Ping Pong, 5037 Connecticut Ave. NW. $5. Saturday at 10 p.m. Quarry House Tavern, 8401 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring. www.pinklineproject.com/event/13737. Free.

D.C. Blues Society Battle of the Bands

The artists competing for the title of the local Kings of the Blues at the D.C. Blues Society’s annual Battle of the Bands are all over the map stylistically, from rockin’ Hendrix-influenced ’60s-style blues to slow-burning Chicago blues and chugging boogie-woogies. But they all have songs about no-good women, love gone wrong and bad mojo, and they all want to make you dance. Seven groups will take the stage for up to 30 minutes at a time, and the stakes are high: The winner represents the D.C. area at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis next year. And for everyone else, including the audience, this is a another night that proves the blues are alive and well in Washington.

Saturday from 6 to 11 p.m. American Legion Post 268, 11225 Fern St., Wheaton. www.dcblues.org. $12 in advance on the Web site, $15 at the door.

Fritz Hahn and David Malitz