The best hip-hop shows in Denver this March

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THU | SCHOOLBOY Q at OGDEN THEATRE | 3/27 Schoolboy Q just released Oxymoron, his latest album, to general acclaim. He has embraced a style that is dark and creative, using unique but effective beats and a persona that is difficult to put a finger on. He has definitely carved out a distinct identity at a vital point in his career where he will either be eclipsed by Kendrick Lamar or be able to stand beside him. From the sounds of Oxymoron, it's more likely the latter.

See also: Best jazz shows in Denver in March


The Grouch & Eligh incorporate elements of pop and alternative rock in their infectious brand of feel-good hip-hop. They never quite caught on nationally but have a huge fanbase locally and seem to be here all the time. This time, they stop by with Sweatshop Union, a politically-minded group of MCs and instrumentalists striving to put out positive music addressing real issues in a direct and honest way. Also performing at Three20South on March 4 and the Aggie Theatre on March 5.

THU | B.O.B. at VINYL | 3/6

In 2009, B.o.B announced that he was changing his name to Bobby Ray, pitting his two identities against each other on the mixtape B.o.B vs. Bobby Ray, saying, "I wanted to break away from that and not box myself in. Bobby Ray isn't a character -- he's really me." For a while, it seemed as if Bobby Ray might win the day with his debut album B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray topping the charts from the get-go. Apparently, B.o.B couldn't stand being really him for very long, because by last year's release of Strange Clouds, he had gone back to B.o.B. B.o.B. is performing to celebrate DJ KTone's 7th Annual Birthday Celebration.


Madlib is accomplished both as a producer and a rapper. He produced for DOOM on Madvillainy, one of the most creative rap albums in recent memory, and his debut rap album The Unseen under the pseudonym Quasimoto is an underground gem. Freddie Gibbs, on the other hand, is all rapper. Although he has been releasing mixtapes since 2004, his studio debut, ESGN, came last year. Gibbs is a talented rapper with an old-school mentality.


Ladies love G-Eazy. They absolutely adore him. Whether it's his lazy-smooth flow or Dapper Dan look, we don't know, but last time he was in Denver with Hoodie Allen on the Excellent Adventure Tour, bras were flying onstage like roses at a ballet. G-Eazy's 2011 mixtape Endless Summer first brought national attention to the rapper and is notable for his sample of Denver band Tennis's "Marathon" for the track "Waspy." He's taken a huge step forward with Must Be Nice and looks to be one of the better producers around.


De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising was one of the most radically innovative hip-hop albums in history. Supposedly, the original concept for the album was that the three MCs were microphone plugs picking up signals from mars, which explains their "Plug" nicknames, so a creative product was inevitable. The album is also credited with first using skits as album breaks, a practice which has only recently gone out of style. While De La's music is usually fun first and foremost, it has also been socially aware and progressive, best exemplified by tracks like "Stakes is High" and "Itsoweezee."


There was a time when Nipsey Hussle was considered the future of Los Angeles rap, but a self-inflicted indefinite postponement on his debut album, South Central State of Mind, a professed masterpiece in the making, has cooled his hype considerably. Since then, he has gone through numerous label changes and has found enough in-between work to sustain him until his new debut, Victory Lap, is scheduled to be released in the coming months.


Yelawolf's career -- since blowing up with Trunk Muzik, an outstandingly good mixtape, and signing to the illustrious Shady Records -- has unexpectedly slowed. However, the mixtape Trunk Muzik Returns shows that Yelawolf still has the capacity to make good music, and the short film "Growin' Up in the Gutter" (which is disturbingly graphic) shows that he still has plenty of artistic ammunition. Yelawolf is also due at the Black Sheep on March 20 and Three20South on March 22.


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 on March 29 at the Aggie.


Air Dubai was voted Westword's best hip-hop band three years running, beginning in 2010, for good reason: There's a good chance they are exactly that. They put on a powerful live show that expends every bit of potential energy in a room. Avoiding a common hip-hop pitfall, they understand the strength of live instrumentation and band cohesion, and it shows in their product.

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