MON | JAY Z at PEPSI CENTER | 12/2/13 Ever since Reasonable Doubt was released, Jay Z's esteemed career has continued on a path of lyrical and stylistic mastery that leaves no doubt whatsoever. Well beyond the need for braggadocio, the rapper's confidence and long-sustained commercial success are self-evident, which doesn't prevent him from declaring as much anyway. This style of lavish self-aggrandizement, carried out/exhibited by the legendary Kool G Rap and passed on to Jay and his contemporaries, remains a huge part of the current mainstream hip-hop identity.
Jay-Z's brand is the model for success beyond rap, beyond even music. He's not a businessman; he's a business, man, and his sphere of influence extends into fashion, liquor and dining. Although Jay's debut is likely his most treasured album among the hip-hop faithful, followups like The Blueprint and The Black Album are arguably just as influential and probably more fun to listen to. He may be past his musical prime, but his name still commands the utmost respect. Even the relative disappointment that was Magna Carta...Holy Grail, which would be a success for most other rappers, is a testament to his legacy.
Continue on for more on the best rap shows in Denver in December
SAT | ¡MAYDAY! at CASSELMAN'S | 12/7/13 From one of hip-hop's most beloved independent labels, Strange Music, ¡Mayday!'s music is much more than just hip-hop. Although high-minded, heartfelt and technically masterful lyricism from Wrekonize - clearly influenced by Tech N9ne's fast-paced style -- is certainly featured, it is the combination of the rapping with eclectic and exciting production from Plex Luthor that sets ¡Mayday!'s music apart from anything else you'll hear in the current musical landscape. The group bends genres so naturally that you could mistake it for pop music, but there's nothing formulaic about what ¡Mayday! is doing. Last year's Take Me to Your Leader was called the best release ever to come from Strange Music by co-founder Travis O'Guin, and this year's Believers has been welcomed with even more critical attention and fanfare.
THU | PROF at CERVANTES' | 12/5/13 Prof has worked with Brother Ali and Atmosphere but also with swag rappers like Riff Raff -- he raps with the sensibility and composure of the former and the humor and irreverence of the latter, all the while sporting remarkable flow that operates anywhere from slow and sung to rapid-fire spitting. Though he wasn't the headliner his last time in Denver with Brother Ali and Danny Brown, Prof by far got the most enthusiastic response of any artist, sitting back during large portions of the songs and getting word-for-word recitation by dozens in the crowd.
FRI | DEVIN THE DUDE at ROXY THEATRE | 12/6/13 Devin the Dude was born in Florida, but he moved to Texas when he was young and eventually became a part of the famed Houston label Rap-A-Lot Records, which helped put Southern hip-hop on the map with the Geto Boys. Devin ended up being Rap-A-Lot's longest signed act. Although he started his career mostly as a member of groups like Facemob and the Odd Squad, he would eventually lead a long-lasting solo career consisting of seven albums to date. In contrast to many of the gangsta rappers on Rap-A-Lot, Devin was known for his laid-back flow and the relaxed way he saw the world, which he observed through grass-tinted glasses.
FRI | TOO $HORT at CERVANTES' | 12/13/13 Well before N.W.A. brought the West Coast to hip-hop prominence, before even Rakim and Big Daddy Kane were revolutionizing rap in New York, a teenaged Too $hort was signed to a local label, writing explicit, street-level lyrics for the growing audience in California. Less than two weeks after Eric B and Rakim's game-changing Paid in Full was released, Too $hort released what would become his first gold album, and that was followed the next year by what is arguably his best album, the double platinum Life Is...Too $hort. More than two decades later, Too $hort is one of California's most seasoned and most prolific rappers -- and one of the most commercially successful, selling more than ten million albums -- plus, he's still making music, releasing three albums in 2012, including two compilations with one of the few Cali MCs who can match his battle scars, E-40. Too $hort will be supported by Warren G.
MON | BROTHER ALI at FOX THEATRE | 12/30/13 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. The ReMINDers will open for Brother Ali, and the bill will perform again the next day at the Fox.
TUE | WU YEAR'S EVE at CERVANTES' | 12/30/13 More than just creating a free-associative style that would be emulated ceaselessly throughout the '90s and to this very day, the Wu-Tang Clan engineered an aesthetic and model for profitability with only a spiritual guide, the GZA, a mastermind producer, the RZA, and a crew of like-minded individuals whose whole was more than the sum of their parts. Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers is a landmark album that would help recapture the focus of the rap world from the wild West Coast and lead to an outburst of creativity in 1994 with Nas, Mobb Deep and Biggie, signaling an East Coast rebirth. Wu Year's Eve features Raekwon, Method Man and Ghostface Killah. The Foodchain is set to open.
FRI | EVERLAST at MARQUIS THEATER | 12/6/13 Perhaps better known for his feud with Eminem and his membership in House of Pain than his career as a solo artist, Whitey Ford nevertheless has a resume that can't be ignored. He won a Grammy for "Put Your Lights On" with Carlos Santana and boasts a multi-platinum album in Whitey Ford Sings the Blues. Everlast skirts the line between alternative hip-hop and something much nearer to rock and roll or blues, but the hip-hop influence on his musical sensibility, songwriting and lyrical phrasing is obvious and he frequently works with some of the genre's most well-respected members. Everlast is also performing at Belly Up Aspen on Saturday, December 7.
THU | BLACKALICIOUS at AGGIE THEATRE | 12/19/13 Sacramento, California-based hip-hop duo Blackalicious has released three full-length records in the two decades it's been in action: 1999's Nia, 2002's Blazing Arrow, and 2005's The Craft. But don't dismiss Gift of Gab (Timothy Parker) and DJ/producer Chief Xcel (Xavier Mosley) as slackers. Though they might not appear to be a prolific outfit, Gift of Gab crams more rhymes into his three-or-four minute songs than most rappers manage on half an album.
TUE | FLOBOTS at MARQUIS THEATER | 12/31/13 Half a decade after releasing the platinum single "Handlebars," which made rounds on radios across the country, Flobots have grown significantly, both as a musical group and as a philanthropic force within the Denver community. Since parting ways with Universal Records after the lukewarm reception of the act's second major release, Survival Story, the group has released Circle In the Square, a fresh start from a familiar position -- as underdogs -- a position that they're probably more comfortable with anyway.
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