The best rap in Denver in September
Kid Cudi headlines this all-star lineup fresh off the release of his most recent, polarizing release, Indicud. Though his decision to self-produce has rubbed some the wrong way, he remains one of the premier hookmen in the rap game. Tyler, the Creator is no less intriguing, having incited "riot situations" in Boulder the last time he was here. At only 22, but with so much experience leading the Odd Future collective, Tyler is simultaneously a veteran and a greenhorn; his latest release, Wolf, was his most mature and refined release to date. Throw in Three 6 Mafia founder Juicy J and young gun Logic, plus the most awesome outdoor venue in the country, this show is a definite must-see.
With the viral mega-hit "I Don't Like," Chief Keef was the first of what will probably be many Chicago drill rappers to gain mainstream attention. Kanye recognized the cold magnetism of drill, an extension of trap rap, and Keef in particular, so he remixed the track to great success and began to court other rappers who championed the style. Critics have largely panned Finally Rich, Keef's studio debut. Then again, they hated trap when it started, too.
Along with OutKast, Goodie Mob was one of the first rap acts to bring a more introspective self-awareness to the Dirty South, as indicated by the act's full name, "Good Die Mostly Over Bullshit." Before Cee-Lo Green was cursing ex-girlfriends or getting crazy with Gnarles Barkley, he was a legit powerhouse rapper. The Mob's debut, Soul Food, is regarded as a southern classic.
Though he is a legend in every rap fan's book, Nas suffers an inescapable qualifier of his own making: the inability to escape the shadow of his legendary debut. This had even led some to label Nas overrated, saying the rest of his work is only weak in comparison to his greatest. It's clear that no rapper could have adequately followed Illmatic because the album remains, to this day, hip-hop's greatest, most perfect treasure. And even if he hasn't made another classic album, per se, Nas has earned plenty of other accolades that would make a lesser rapper's career.
Before he gained notoriety as an MC with his 2011 studio debut Dr. Lecter, Action Bronson was well respected as a New York chef (his lyrics are still garnished with references to foods of all sorts). But while he shares a profession with Raekown, another well known New York Chef, the Wu-Tang member he most frequently draws comparison to is Ghostface Killah, thanks to his luxurious subject matter, exaggerated persona and piercing voice. Danny Brown's voice, meanwhile, makes it sound as if he's disgusted with everything, and it just adds authenticity and grime to his already obscene lyrics. In his performance of "Monopoly," when Brown says, "I done served fiends on they menstrual/Ain't even had pads, stuffed they panties with tissue," the image is so disgusting, and Brown sounds so disgusted, you just know it's a true story. Brown's upcoming release, Old, scheduled for September 30, is one of the most anticipated releases this year.
Rakim has been dubbed the God MC for his innovation with flow, particularly internal rhyme. Also a sax player, Rakim cites John Coltrane as an influence, "I was trying to write my rhymes as if I was a saxophone player." The phrasing that resulted was the like of which had never been seen, influencing, by proxy if not directly, every MC to come, including the future architects of unconventional flow, Big Daddy Kane, Nas, Eminem, etc.
Brother Ali has a remarkable presence that is composed and venerable yet friendly and approachable. He's humble but still utterly confident and self-assured, which reflects in his powerfully uplifting lyrics. His delivery is almost like a pastor's sermon: fiery, impassioned and with a soulful voice that hangs on his most important words, but amazingly, he rarely sounds preachy or condescending. His passion for hip-hop is palpable: "The music is still alive," he says, "because it's making us alive." And that's really what Brother Ali seems to want -- to enliven people, to make them question themselves, but still allow them to love themselves, to perpetually push into spaces of uncertainty and grey area, because that's where life really occurs. Immortal Technique is opening for Ali.
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. It is not surprising, then, that Tech is also performing at the Black Sheep in the Springs on September 11 and 12, and the Aggie in Boulder on September 12.
How High is not necessarily one of the best movies featuring rappers, unless you're in the right... ahem... mind state. Nevertheless, it's a carefree, fun back to school romp that extols the virtues of every rapper's favorite plant. The stars, Method Man and Redman, while not the most refined actors in the classical sense, manage to enchant the screen with their sophomoric magnetism. As an added bonus, Cypress Hill makes an appearance to DJ a college house party that the two Wu-students throw. "Study high, take the test high, get high scores" -- this is the logic that permeates How High. Given their proclivity for one of our state's favorite plants, Method and Red are about the perfect tandem to help Colorado celebrate one of its favorite holidaze.
Ever since his pancake-making, pop culture-spackled spoof of Chris Brown's 2011 club hit, "Look At Me Now," went viral, Mac Lethal, already a fierce, fast rapper, has had the attention of internet/rap crossover geeks everywhere. An obviously funny guy, Mac's lyrical prowess shouldn't be underestimated; he is lethal. After four albums and a boatload of mixtapes, he's amassed a considerable underground following, but little to no mainstream success. Attribute that to his refusal to water his music down.
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