Hip-hop pioneers Eric B. and Rakim released their debut album, “Paid in Full,” over 30 years ago, but the record sounds as if it could have been made today. Between Eric B.’s production wizardry, which used sampling impeccably, and Rakim’s poetic rhymes, the duo’s musical matrimony became a blueprint for modern-day rap. There was an unflappable sense of coolness to their delivery that defied the more hard-hitting approach of fellow New York rappers such as LL Cool J and KRS-One. Their current trek across the United States marks one of the group’s first tours since parting ways in 1992. Dec. 21 at 8 p.m. at the Howard Theatre. $42.50-$67.50.
“Buddha,” the opening track on Macy Gray’s latest album, “Ruby,” is a window into her state of mind. Gray isn’t fazed by the critics who dismiss her as a one-hit wonder but is triumphantly forging her own path. Nearly 20 years since the release of her debut album, the framework of her artistry remains intact but has also gracefully evolved with the times. The familiar effervescent spirit and sharp wit of her previous albums can be found on “Ruby,” but Gray also makes a concerted effort to redefine her neo-soul sound by incorporating trip-hop, synth-pop, trap music and jazz throughout. Although “Ruby” hasn’t seen the same level of success as 1999’s “On How Life Is,” it is an admirable effort from a veteran artist who would rather just be herself than concede to trends. Dec. 21 at 8 p.m. at Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club. $67-$87.
This summer, Philadelphia noise punks Empath followed up their thrashing cassette tape “Liberating Guilt and Fear” with something unexpected — a more subdued seven-inch record inspired by Mother Nature. On “Environments,” which takes its name from Irv Teibel’s album series that revolutionized the use of field recordings in the 1970s, the quartet reimagines the calming sounds of nature as a distorted psychedelic spectacle. Soothing chirps of birds in a forest transition into a hazy fog of dreamy pop soundscapes on the track “Polyfoam,” which then takes a sharp detour and sets the atmosphere for the swirling hurricane of distortion on “Wind.” The band’s off-kilter aesthetic will take center stage at 9:30 Club, where it opens for Snail Mail’s sold-out show. Dec. 21 at 8 p.m. (doors) at the 9:30 Club. Sold out.
Margo Price pays homage to time-honored country traditions on “All American Made,” but the Nashville star isn’t afraid to challenge the status quo in the process. The album can be doleful, even downright bleak in moments, but Price earnestly tackles some of the social issues that plague American life today. She sings with conviction and candor as she touches on wage disparities between women and men on “Pay Gap.” On the title track, one of the record’s most beautiful and heart-wrenching songs, Price reflects on systematic socioeconomic barriers set by greedy politicians against the working class. “All American Made” is a soulful and veracious snapshot of the times we’re living in. Dec. 27 at 7 p.m. (doors) at the 9:30 Club. $25.