Ten best hip-hop shows in Denver this month
Half a decade after releasing the platinum single "Handlebars," which made rounds on radios across the country, the Flobots have grown significantly, both as a musical group and as a philanthropic force within the Denver community. Since parting ways with Universal Records after the lukewarm reception of the Flobots' second major release, Survival Story, the group has released Circle In the Square, a fresh start from a familiar position -- as underdogs -- a position that they're probably more comfortable with anyway. (Flobots are also slated to appear at the Black Sheep on Saturday, May 4.)
If you take rap really seriously, don't go to this show. Consisting of internet phenomenon RiFF RaFF, ex-porn star Dirt Nasty and manchild Andy Milonakis, nothing here will resemble the pure art of emceeing developed in New York in the late '70s. That's not to say that the group isn't talented, and certainly not to say that show won't be entertaining. It will - so long as you appreciate sophomoric humor, dick jokes, non-sequitor and absurdity.
Close friend of fellow San Francisco legend Mac Dre, the two shared a love of cocaine and a similar rapping style full of that bubbly personality the Bay Area is known for. Nickatina never found too much commercial success and is probably best remembered for the incessantly catchy "Ayo for Yayo," but he is a well-rounded and prolific MC who has been working the underground for years. (Andre Nickatina is also due at the Aggie Theater on Saturday, May 4.)
Founded by Juicy J, Three 6 Mafia cultivated one of hip-hop's most distinctive and alluring aesthetics -- dark and exciting, disturbing yet entrancing. In 2006, the group won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp," from the film Hustle & Flow. Though the group has stopped making music, Juicy J remains influential as a producer, hypeman and occasional rapper, working especially well with rappers like Wiz Khalifa and Future. On this date, he appears with A$AP Ferg.
Since Speakerboxxx/The Love Below showcased Outkast's individual talents, André 3000 has generally been regarded as the auteur of the duo. And while that might be true, there's something to be said for consistency, as Big Boi proves on his latest, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty... Big Boi's sound is frenetic and quirky enough not to confused with merely being a throwback, and Lucious Left Foot is, if anything, more contemporary-sounding and more eclectic than his first solo effort. And the "too artsy" tag: Pretty groundless. In spite of its eclecticism, the record is nothing if not accessible. (Sharing a bill with Killer Mike, Big Boi will also be performing at the Aggie Theatre on Wednesday, May 8.)
Tech is an incredibly gifted rapper technically and a good lyricist, but the most impressive thing about his rise from obscurity to being a household name has been that he's done it by himself, without the help of a major label. He's always traveling, which you've probably noticed, as Denver is one of his favorite places to come, and by all accounts, he puts on an incredible live show -- so incredible that he was famously said to be lip synching by the L.A. Times, an accusation he didn't take kindly to. To say that Tech is one of the hardest working rappers is an understatement. He's one of the hardest working musicians, period.
Logic is a part of the new generation of rappers quickly gaining traction thanks to masses of young fans across the country finding common ground on the internet. Unlike many other internet sensations, Logic is a legitimate, serious lyricist with more raw rhyming talent than personality, not that he has a lack of that, either. Logic was recently picked by XXL as one of 2013's Freshman class along with other standouts Ab-Soul, Joey Bada$$ and Action Bronson. (Logic will also be at the Aggie Theatre on Friday, April 24 and the Black Sheep on Saturday, April 25.)
Mobb Deep has had an illustrious career that spanned seven albums and more than a decade, but, really, they'll be forever remembered for a single, legendary song, "Shook Ones, Pt. II," which took an unlikely Herbie Hancock sample and transformed it into a nihilistic anthem. With tracks like "Survival of the Fittest" and "Quiet Storm," Mobb Deep is far from a one-hit wonder, but, at the end of the day, Havoc and Prodigy will remain the arbiters of who is and who is not shook.
Pusha T first rose to prominence along with his brother No Malice as the Clipse thanks to the single "Grindin'", which sported a minimal Neptunes beat of simple snaps and bangs, allowing it's recreation on lunchroom tables across America. Now, more than a decade later, Pusha T is solo on Kanye's G.O.O.D. Music label. Thanks to features on highlight posse tracks like "Mercy" and "Tick Tock," plus besting Lil' Wayne in a quick musical feud with "Exodus 23:1", Pusha's star is on the rise, though he has yet to release his G.O.O.D. solo debut.
Shabazz Palaces is the brain child of Ishmael Butler and Tendai Maraire. The two met in Seattle when Butler moved back from New York after his stint in the critically acclaimed, jazz inflected hip-hop group Digable Planets. While the Planets have occasionally played since splitting in the mid-'90s, Butler has focused on this project with Maraire since its inception in 2009. Like a finely assembled puzzle or mosaic, the music of Shabazz Palaces draws on numerous sonic ideas to form an experimental form of hip-hop that amalgamates jazz, Islamic music, African music and experimental electronic composition into a vibrant collage. The act's 2011 album, Black Up, was one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the year. -- Tom Murphy
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