The best rap shows in Denver in January

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MON | EARL SWEATSHIRT at CERVANTES' | 1/13/14 After releasing his prodigious self-titled debut at age sixteen, Earl Sweatshirt was exiled to a Samoan disciplinary program by his mother during the most exciting years of Odd Future's meteoric rise, depriving the act's rabid fans of his music. As a result, Sweatshirt's Doris was easily one of the most hyped rap albums this year. Because of his incredibly deep voice, occasionally repetitive flow and moodiness, Earl can come across as monotonous, but he is an incredibly gifted poet who has the ability to infuse his words with dark-ness and mystique while baring his soul with a refreshing honesty. (Earl Sweatshirt is also due on Sunday, January 12, at the Aggie Theatre in Fort Collins.)

See also: All upcoming shows in our constantly updated Denver concert calendar

FRI | JURASSIC 5 at ICELANTIC'S WINTER ON THE ROCKS | 1/31/14 More than misogyny or materialism, intelligence and verbal skill are championed by Jurassic 5; the vocabulary is impressive and the verbal acrobatics the guys perform are outstanding. J5 carries the energy and excitement of a newer era group but bring the flavor of an old hip-hop act (the crew strongly echoes the legendary Cold Crush Brothers), and it follows musical cues that are classic in the truest sense. (Ghostland Observatory and DJ Sam Spiegel of N.A.S.A. are slated to share the bill.)

FRI | DELTRON 3030 at SHREDDED BEATS/CERVANTES | 1/31/14 Deltron 3030 isn't so much a group or an album as it is a mode of thought, and there are few hip-hop albums (or albums of any genre, for that matter) with the cinematic quality of this group's self-titled debut. Dan the Automator created deeply textured and darkly evocative soundscapes, aided by Kid Koala's turntablism, as a backdrop for Teren Delvon Jones (aka Del tha Funkee Homosapien, aka Deltron Zero) to tell the tale of how he becomes Galactic Rhyme Federation Champion. Similar to Dan the Automator's earlier work with Kool Keith, Dr. Octagonecologyst, but more coherent and accessible, this album proved that hip-hop could successfully travel to where only geeks had gone before -- silly non sequiturs, outer space fantasy and ridiculous characters all became fair game, and so did the out-crowd that relished them.

THURS | HOPSIN at AGGIE THEATER | 1/30/14 Through his "Ill Mind of Hopsin" series, Hopsin has been unafraid to touch on a wide range of subjects from industry fakers, to played-out, real-life archetypes and drug addiction. When Hopsin stays away from corny wordplay and triteness, he has demonstrated a firece independence backed up by a solid flow. (Hopsin is also due at the Black Sheep on Friday, January 31, and at Cervantes' on Saturday, February 1 for Shredded Beats night three.)

FRI | MURS at GOTHIC THEATRE | 1/24/14 A prolific artist and collaborator, rapper spent a dozen years grinding before scoring a major label deal for 2008's Murs for President. Since then, he's released nearly half a dozen albums, and the flurry of activity is typical of Murs (born Nick Carter), who's always been a hard worker, inspired in part by his single mother. Throughout his career, Murs has proved equally capable of grim street-level reality and heady consciousness -- without resorting to the often preachy elements of "conscious hip-hop." Often, he'll rhapsodize about the banal, like hanging on the porch with homies smoking weed, and like a chameleon, he'll adapt to any situation. He partially credits a nomadic childhood that never found him in the same place for more than a few years at a time. (Murs is also due at the Black Sheep in Fort Collins on Wednesday, January 22.) -- Chris Parker

MON | NIPSEY HUSSLE at GOTHIC THEATRE | 1/13/14 Largely due to his sheer perseverance and business acumen, Nipsey Hussle (born Ermias Asghedom) has rejuvenated his existence as a rapper. Jay Z's buying his albums in bulk and fans are rushing to shell out a hundred dollars to get copies as well. The rapper's devoted fanbase, who have staunchly stuck with the young emcee throughout his entire career, have ensured his hundred-dollar-a-copy release Crenshaw sold out a pop-up shop in LA last year. The overall concept behind the "$100 dollar album," referred to by Hussle and his team as the "Proud2Pay" campaign, originally stemmed from a section in the book Contagious, where business owner Stephen Starr successfully began selling and marketing a $100 cheesesteak at his restaurant Barclay Prime. One of Nipsey's business partners and mentors, known as "Big Bob," handed him the book during the completion of Crenshaw, and the idea behind the business of selling a hundred dollar cheesesteak almost instantly struck a chord with him. -- Patrick Montes

SAT | RAS KASS at ROXY THEATRE | 1/11/14 What can you say about Ras Kass? You either love him or hate him -- or you have no idea who he is. His debut, Soul on Ice, is a certified classic in the West Coast hip-hop underground, anchored by the eight-minute revisionist epic "Nature of the Threat" and "Sonset," an indictment of New York hip-hop bias during the '90s. Accusations of racism and label disputes grounded Ras's career almost before it began, but when he's on, he is as intelligent and bold a rapper as you'll find, as evidenced by mind-bending tracks such as "Interview With a Vampire."

THURS | NAPPY ROOTS at CERVANTES' | 1/9/14 It has been a long journey for Nappy Roots -- the hip hop group formed in 1995 as sextet of friends, spent some time in the early 2000s on Atlantic Records during the radio boom of Southern rap and now run their own label as a five-piece. Once the less-than-satisfying major label jaunt was over, the Kentucky-based dudes found freedom in their Nappy Roots Entertainment Group imprint, touring and putting out albums on their own.

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