Week Ahead in New York Music: May 21 to May 27

El-P CANCER4CURE Release Party with Despot, May 21 at Santos Party House, $20
After a period of relative dormancy, the heart and soul of the dearly departed Def Jux label is back with hands in two of the finest albums of the year. Last week saw the release of Killer Mike's astoundingly good R.A.P. Music, featuring the Atlanta spitter going in over top-to-bottom El-P production, and Monday's party celebrates the release of El-P's own CANCER4CURE. Full of nervy, obstinately intricate production and El's signature apocalyptic rhymes, it's a totally different experience from the more straightforward R.A.P. Music, but no less astounding. It's great to see that rappers can be making the best music of their careers twenty years after they've started. -Drew Millard
The Afghan Whigs, Joseph Arthur, May 23 at Bowery Ballroom, $34 
Jack White once said something to the effect that because he knew he couldn't be a 80-year old bluesman from the South, he'd have to be an indie-rocker and sneak his beloved genre in through the back door. By the same token, Afghan Whigs frontman Greg Dulli must have realized that a Cincinnati white boy would have trouble being taken seriously as a straight-ahead Stax-soaked soul singer, so he melded "Track of My Tears"-style anguish with punk rancor and grungy guitars, and then shot it all through a self-lacerating lyrical strainer. The mix has aged well, making The Afghan Whigs one of alt-rock's grooviest heartbreakers. After a decade-long break, Dulli and company kick off their reunion run at the Bowery Ballroom before playing All Tomorrow's Parties in the fall. -Michael Tedder
DIIV, High Highs, Killer Mike, Beat Culture, Awesome Tapes from Africa (DJ Set), May 24 at Brooklyn Bowl, Free
For this lineup we have the above-mentioned Killer Mike, who as we noted put out one of the hardest hitting albums of the year, and a set from buzzing locals DIIV, who are buzzing in the sense that their full-length debut is both eagerly awaited and their urgent pop tunes are coated in cotton-candy fuzz so thick you can practically see the Kevin Kerslake video. Throw in a mind-expanding DJ set from Nonstop fav Awesome Tapes from Africa and a can't-be-beat price (free) and you have no excuse not to RSVP. Also, pro-tip: the bourbon milkshake here is next level. -MT
David Johansen, May 26 at Highline Ballroom, $25 
The New York Dolls, the band Johansen fronts, set the tone for so much of what would happen musically in New York during the 1970s, their gender-confused proto-punk burning bright, fast and furiously, before burning out. If you've never paid homage to one of the city's unique voices, you have no excuse not to attend. Fun fact! Johansen is also Buster Poindexter, best known as the guy who made the song "Hot Hot Hot." -DM
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