Colorado rapper A.V.I.U.S., producer Es-Nine and DJ Cysko Rokwel each had their own thing going on before they came together as 3 the Hardway: Cysko Rokwel was taking out DJs nationwide in the DMC Championships; Es-Nine was producing for local and national artists; and A.V.I.U.S. had just dropped his solid debut album, Patience. But with all three talents combined in one package, you couldn't ask for a more thorough project, from Es-Nine's hard-hitting beats and A.V.I.U.S.'s heart-on-his-sleeve lyrics to Cysko making the DJ essential in hip-hop albums again. If you cop one Colorado hip-hop disc all year, this is the one to get.
The L.I.F.E. Crew is a small collective of Colorado hip-hop artists who blew the doors off the scene in the past year. First up, Ichiban won Best Hip-Hop Solo Artist at the 2008 Westword Music Showcase, then dropped a slammin' debut album, Psycle Analysis, a few months later. That album was followed by ManeLine's sophomore effort, ...And Sew It Seams, a rock-solid project that cemented the trio's relevance in Colorado hip-hop. Then the Pirate Signal dropped a first-class mixtape, Of Gods and Gangsters, Vol. 1, rocked the Warped Tour and opened for 3OH!3's national tour. Is there a crew that has put in more work in the last year? We think not.
For the fans who've played out the Pirate Signal's EP from 2006 like it was the only CD they owned, the duo's mixtape Of Gods and Gangsters, Vol. 1 was a breath of fresh air. The tape, entirely mixed by DJ A-What!, features Yonnas spittin' over original beats as well as beats used by M.I.A., 50 Cent and Kanye West, but rocked with a pure Pirate Signal energy. Yonnas and A-What! had been performing selections from the mixtape at their shows, so for the fans to finally get their hands on a copy to listen to in their cars and iPods was a good thing.
He's produced tracks for the likes of KRS-One, Dilated Peoples, Braille and Killah Priest, but that's not why people are talking about Es-Nine. His group, 3 the Hardway, recently released its debut album, Set in Stone, which was entirely produced by Es-Nine and features some of the hardest head-nodding beats to come out of Colorado in some time. But it doesn't stop there: Es is also working on his own solo album as well as projects with Mane Rok and a new solo album from A.I.V.U.S.
Back in 1908, the Democrats trucked in piles of snow to amuse delegates to the Democratic National Convention. A century later, the best entertainment inspired by the 2008 Democratic National Convention may leave a more permanent legacy. Celebrate 1908 was a two-day, multimedia festival of political and historical flashbacks that brought the issues and arguments of 1908 back to the Tivoli Turnhalle on the Auraria campus in late July. Technically a benefit for Auraria Casa Mayan Heritage, an organization that commemorates the Latino community that centered on the Casa Mayan restaurant, Celebrate 1908 was a true celebration of the people who've contributed to the melting pot of Denver over the past century.
If you've listened to any hip-hop radio station in any major city recently, chances are you've heard some of Frank E's music — that's how big he's getting. He was the man behind the hit records "Please Excuse My Hands," from Plies featuring Jamie Foxx and the Dream; "Me & U," from Flo Rida; and a DJ Khaled/T-Pain mixtape joint called "Superman." He also co-produced one of the most played records so far this year, "Right Round," from Flo Rida; that cut was even used to promote the new season of Dancing With the Stars. And Frank E isn't done yet. He just finished creating joints for T.I., Gym Class Heroes, Sean Kingston and some other major urban artists that he can't discuss quite yet. Be proud, Denver!
Old Curtis Street Bar
A few years ago, the Old Curtis St. Bar had terrible sound and a nearly sub-dive vibe. But it's steadily become a better place to play. There is now a small stage — outfitted with gear from the 15th St. Tavern  — and a rudimentary sound system that provides for decent vocals and kick-drum sound. With Joe Ramirez, Andy Wild and Steve Lawson doing their best with the sound levels, Old Curtis St. has gone from a bottom-of-the-barrel venue to a viable one.
MCA Denver
JC Buck
Wouldn't it be nice to step inside the thoughts and inspirations of your favorite artists? You can do just that at MCA Denver's Open Shelf Library. Composed of books, digital works, found objects, games, journals, models, movies, music and sculpture contributed by MCA artists, the shelves are a physical catalogue of the artifacts used to shape their realities. Computerized information allows museum-goers to dive even deeper into the minds of the artists. The museum also hosts an Open Shelf Book Club for members and weekly Open Shelf Films from late fall to early spring. Maybe you can't be John Malkovich, but the Open Shelf is the next best thing.
Dazzle
After twelve years, Dazzle has definitively proved that it has what it takes to make a successful jazz club. Whether it's bringing in a steady stream of outstanding local jazz talent like Ron Miles and Kenny Walker (or the blues of the Shuffletones on Saturdays) and nationally recognized players like organ ace Joey DeFrancesco, Schoolhouse Rock composer Bob Dorough or alto saxophonist Richie Cole, you're sure to hear stellar music most nights of the week. Sundays are the ideal time to hear big bands like the 9th & Lincoln Orchestra, the Chie Imaizumi Jazz Orchestra and Elevenet. Not only is the music world-class, but the food swings, too: The $5 happy-hour menu alone is reason to check the place out.
Dazzle
Dan Schwindt definitely knows a few things about jazz guitar and improvisation, and he's performed with a ton of the region's heavier players. He's also carved out Tuesdays from his schedule for the past few years to head up the jazz jams in Dazzle's Dizzy room. One of the best ways to learn is through playing with other cats, and these jams give younger students a chance to hone their chops in a live setting and to learn the language of jazz. Schwindt offers a low-pressure, casual atmosphere, and instrumentalists and vocalists alike find the sessions quite comfortable.

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