For Innerstate Ike, hip-hop is deeper than rap. You won't find this guy spitting melodic rhymes about pretty girls over piano beats; he represents his 'hood and his movement with thought-provoking lyrics. Ike, a legend in the streets, has earned his stripes. And he's the epitome of an enterprising, consistent DIY contributor to the local hip-hop scene, always at the ready with a steady stream of new ideas and moneymaking ventures. His latest album, Moolah Music, due out this spring, represents his hustle and his creativity, which are more than a match for his sharp charisma.

As a local activist raising community awareness of inner-city topics, Cavem Moetavation uses every tool he can. He frequently pops up in person at hip-hop shows to spit out a rhyme or two, and he works with programs such as Art From Ashes. In everything he does, Cavem is an ambassador for the hip-hop world and an upstanding representative of his art — so where does he ever find all the time to update his Facebook status? With videos, songs, notes, constant friend requests, tons of photos and shout-outs, he keeps the community together while pushing it forward.

Spoke in Wordz represents the best of a dying art. The importance of oral history isn't often emphasized, especially in hip-hop, yet there are some performers who can recite the backstory of their favorite MC or most poignant hip-hop moment at the drop of a hat. Spoke is that kind of guy. Not only is he incredibly learned in the foundation of hip-hop, but from a creative standpoint, he puts it down like nobody else. He has a distinct gravel and grime in his voice that makes him instantly recognizable from a song's first strains. Sometimes he rhymes slow and sometimes he rhymes quick, but he never misses the mark. His most recent effort, Power of Wordz, speaks of his ability not only to collaborate with over twenty different artists on original songs, but also to be compelling on his own.

Denver Zine Library

Have zines, will travel. The Denver Zine Library has gone from a garage in the Baker neighborhood to a storefront in Highland to the Other Side Arts on Platte Street into limbo, shutting down in the summer of 2009 when it could no longer pay rent. But a year later, the underground project resurfaced: DZL co-founder Kelly Shortandqueer has unpacked the boxes of DIY music rags, public diaries, comix, chapbooks and other low-tech literary matter at 27 Social Centre, a gathering place and workspace for left-leaning businesses and organizations. And once again, DZL is on a roll, hosting readings with touring zinesters and looking forward to the next chapter.

Plastic Sound Supply has not released a bad record. That's pretty damn admirable, even though the label is only on its twelfth release. But packed inside those dozen albums are some of the best sounds ever to come out of Denver, and like a Fat Cat Records or Warp Records, the label produces a wide variety of music, everything from experimental to folk and electronic. Keenly aware of the state of the industry, Plastic Sound not only releases free streams of all of its records, but also bands together for multimedia efforts, contests and more. It's clear the folks at Plastic Sound Supply are above the curve when it comes to the talent they release, but what truly sets them apart is their penchant for amazing design and promotion.

Lion's Lair
Jon Solomon

Not so long ago, no one would have predicted that these shows would ever have happened. But Andrew Novick and Daniel Wanush put aside any rancor still outstanding from the Warlock Pinchers' 1992 breakup and performed a one-off collaborative show with Wanush's dancehall group, Murder Ranks. When that proved to be entirely too much fun, the Pinchers pulled together all the original members and played a surprise show at the Lion's Lair, followed by three gala shows at the Gothic, proving that reunion shows don't have to just be nostalgic — they can be as great or better than the first chapter.

Best Reunion of a Band That Never Broke Up

Mr. Pacman

At no point did Mr. Pacman actually toss in the towel, but the bit-pop group certainly disappeared for a long while. Then suddenly last year, Mr. Pacman emerged again, this time as a solo act, with a controller and a keytar. Although the band's raw, ridiculous energy and costumes were all intact, one man now had the reins — and as a result, the reinvented Mr. Pacman was something completely new and different and special, even if it featured a lot of the same songs that Denver has come to know and love. And the moon boots, of course.

Gildar Gallery

It's easy to dis a gallery run by the young and penniless. They're young and penniless. They don't know what they're doing. They're taking a gamble on unproven artists. But Illiterate is proof that all you really need to survive the gallery jungle is an unwavering commitment to promoting those very artists who might not otherwise find a niche. And that's just what Illiterate director Adam Gildar, with help from Joe Wall, Sander Lindeke and a bunch of friends, does at this gallery: He's created a welcoming place where young artists can stretch their wings, make a splash and, with luck, even make a sale. By offering studio residencies that culminate in exhibits, the folks at Illiterate support their ideals with real movement and wonderful shows. Illiterate won a Westword MasterMind award this year, and with good reason.

Denver Botanic Gardens

For one of the most important exhibits ever presented in Denver, Moore in the Gardens, curated by Anita Feldman, a substantial group of monumental pieces by Henry Moore, the greatest modernist sculptor England has ever produced, were brought together. The large works, which looked sort of like three-dimensional versions of Picasso's surrealist paintings, were artfully scattered around the beautiful grounds of the Denver Botanic Gardens. During the Blossoms of Light holiday display, it was possible to view them at night and covered with snow — a stunning sight. But even better was the view in the spring, when the gardens bloomed not just with flowers, but with art, too.

A suave, handsome Hitchcock hero in The 39 Steps; the harassed playwright-carpenter Peter Quince in A Midsummer Night's Dream; Adam, a self-effacing academic, in Mariela in the Desert; a brilliant and famous London playwright watching his life spiral out of control in Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing: Sam Gregory is nothing if not versatile, as he showed in the Denver Center Theatre Company's most recent season. Understated, often sardonic, he's one of those skilled actors who knows when to focus attention on himself and when to cede it to others, and who will fit himself into a role rather than twist every role to fit his own persona.

Best Of Denver®

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