The ten best hip-hop shows this month
The hip-hop, as you know, doesn't stop. It's a new month, which means there's another fresh batch of dope shows for you. And trust: March has plenty of freshness on tap, from revered elder statesmen like De La Soul, Naughty By Nature and GZA to newer cats like Tech N9ne, French Montana and Kendrick Lamar. Keep reading to get the drop on all those shows and more.
All Macklemore has to do is pose dramatically to induce the same frenzied reaction from an audience that a slightly lesser MC would draw with their signature song. Granted, a very sizable portion of his Ogden audience last December was comprised of easily riled high school girls, but that should truly take nothing away from the fact that the stories he tells are utterly compelling, and his performance at the Ogden was not one iota short of exhilarating. His stories are deeply personal, universally relatable and delivered with such poignancy that it becomes impossible not to be moved.
A Stanford graduate, K. Flay is smart and self-aware, which explains the name of her debut album, Suburban Rap Queen. To be certain, she has insecurities, but she is secure enough to rap about humdrum everyday real life, taking Flintstones vitamins and talking politics while boys kiss her neck, rather than project some falsified ultra-glamorous persona. She is a proud nerd, referencing X-Men and Lex Luthor while sporting a certifiably fresh flow, to which she says simply, "no duh," as if it were the easiest thing in the world.
Montana hasn't released his debut album yet (Excuse My French, expected this May), but he is already well known in hip-hop circles, having earned a place in XXL's 2012 Freshman Class, along with the likes of Danny Brown, Macklemore and Hopsin. Last year, he made one of the singles of the year, "Pop That," with Drake, Rick Ross and Lil' Wayne, and he's done a boatload of collaborations since then. French Montana is a name you'll be hearing about in 2013.
With the groundwork for Allen's feel-good, lighthearted brand of hip-hop firmly established by Mac Miller before him, this could very well be the next generation of mainstream hip-hop. It cannot be overstated to what extent the crowd loved his last show in Denver. There was one breathing point during the show, an acoustic rendition of "Lucky Man" about halfway through the show, but that was it. It was energy on top of energy on top of energy and, amazingly, it was never too much!
Tech N9Ne is here so often, you'd be excused for thinking he does live here. He's doesn't of course. His mail is delivered to Kansas City. But that's just where he hails from, really. He lives on the road. And that's precisely how he's risen up through the ranks to command the same level of attention as his much higher profile counterparts. You can be sure that any acclaim he has garnered, he's earned the old fashion way.
To even think of labeling Naughty By Nature "pop" seems almost profane, but this New Jersey group found mainstream success rarely seen by a hardcore act. No matter who you are, you've heard at least one of their songs: "O.P.P." Plus, the guys won the Grammy for best rap album in 1996 for Poverty's Paradise, beating out Bone Thugs, ODB, Skee-Lo and 2Pac. Perhaps no song is more emblematic of NBN's absolute appeal than "Feel Me Flow," which is one of the illest, chillest songs you'll ever hear. If ever you wanted to ease a skeptical friend into the world of gansta rap, you couldn't go wrong with Naughty By Nature.
4. MASTA KILLA @ ROXY THEATRE | TUE, 3/26
Still new to rapping in 1993, and under the tutelage of Wu-Tang mastermind GZA, Masta Killa only contributed one verse to the legendary 36 Chambers album, but Masta Killa was a major player on later projects such as 1997's Wu-Tang Forever. While personalities like Method Man and Redman are larger than life, the unassuming Masta Killa is content to let his lyrics do the talking for him. Since his work with Wu-Tang, he has released three solo albums, including last year's Selling My Soul.
De La Soul exploded onto the scene in 1989 with the release of their debut album 3 Feet High and Rising and their infinitely danceable single "Me, Myself and I." The group is known for their infectious positivity and individualistic, idiosyncratic energy. Though De La has not again found the commercial success that they enjoyed in the 90s, their entire catalog is solid and their legend status in hip-hop is undeniable. First Serve, De La's latest work, is a concept character piece, telling the story of a band trying to make it in the music biz.
Although the "alternative hip-hop" tag is an utter failure as a marketing tool, it actually fits MURS, a performer who embodies much of what's best about the music and very little of what's worst. This L.A. veteran's style is based on hyper-articulate rhymes that are spring-loaded with surprises. Recently, MURS surprised quite a few folks with his unabashed assault on the effects homophobia with "Animal Style," complete with a gripping video that got people's attention for all the wrong reasons: a kiss between MURS and another male actor, thus revealing yet again that not everybody is ready for the normalization of homosexuality.
The key to Lamar's crowd control, which is nothing short of captivating, is boundless energy coupled with a stylish effortlessness. His verses are so meticulously constructed, so labored over, yet the ease with which he speaks his words is almost flippant. He doesn't ride the rhythm so much as bat it around like a cat toying with a dead mouse -- giving a whole new meaning to killing the beat. Lamar could rap ignorant and still be a powerhouse; his intelligence elevates him to a level few in the rap game can say they've seen.
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