MAC MILLER @ OGDEN THEATRE | TUES, 7/30/13 Following in the footsteps of fellow Pittsburgh native and Taylor Allderdice graduate Wiz Khalifa, Mac Miller is well known for making feel-good music. His breakout mixtape K.I.D.S. (Kickin' Incredibly Dope Shit), an homage to the notably dark Larry Clark film, and followup Best Day Ever were beloved by casual and hard-core hip-hop fans alike for their fleeting yet satisfying jams about being young; Mac Miller's greatest strength and the chief reason for his success has always been that he raps about what he knows. His first studio album, Blue Slide Park, debuted at number one but received mixed reviews. Watching Movies With the Lights Off, his newest album, is his best yet. With Chance the Rapper, Action Bronson and Vince Staples sharing the bill, this is a loaded lineup.
UNDER THE INFLUENCE TOUR @ FIDDLER'S GREEN | TUE, 7/23/13 The Under the Influence Tour may be technically Wiz Khalifa's tour, but it's hardly his show. Though he probably still commands the largest and most diverse audience of anyone on the tour, Wiz's 2012 mixtape, Taylor Allderdice, was his last worthwhile project, while A$AP Rocky, Joey Bada$$ and Trinidad James, who share the bill, are strictly on the rise. Also performing are B.o.B. and Joey Bada$$'s crew Pro-Era, but no matter who you're most excited to see, you're gonna have a good time.
CASEY VEGGIES & TRAVI$ SCOTT @ GOTHIC THEATRE | SAT, 7/25/13 Casey Veggies first appeared as a part of the polarizing new-school hip-hop collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. He has since distanced himself amicably from the group for artistic reasons. Though he has yet to release a studio album, he has gained significant buzz through a number of solid mixtapes and performances with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Big K.R.I.T. and Mac Miller. Travi$ Scott, on the other hand, has been most successful as a producer, with a credit on Yeezus, though he has recently forayed into the rhyming side of the business. Scott's debut, Owl Pharoah, was released under the guidance of T.I. and Kanye West, among others, and it shows in its sound.
DESSA @ BLUEBIRD THEATER | FRI, 7/26/13 "It's been assumed I'm soft or irrelevant/'Cause I refuse to downplay my intelligence." So raps Dessa on "Bullpen," from her debut album, A Badly Broken Code, released in 2010 on the Doomtree imprint. Although her inherent "hardness" has yet to be tested, it's clear that Dessa is an intelligent MC who clearly has something to say. Hailing from Minneapolis, the home of a vibrant underground hip-hop scene, Dessa brashly raps about the struggles she faces being a female rapper, a businesswoman and a published author. (Dessa is also playing Thursday, July 25, at the Aggie Theatre in Fort Collins.) -- Andy Thomas
BLKHRTS (RELEASE SHOW) @ MARQUIS THEATRE | SAT, 7/27/13 BLKHRTS have crafted an utterly riveting hybrid sound that centers on retro-futuristic production that is both unique and progressive. Live, the crew brings an unbridled energy that's as ferocious as Onyx, as primal as Body Count and as frenzied and unhinged as Bad Brains. On this night, BLKHRTS, one of the most exciting acts to emerge in recent years in any genre, is celebrating the release of its eagerly awaited new album, Death, Romance and the ColorBLK, due out this month on the Federal Prism imprint, a label run by Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio.
R.A. THE RUGGED MAN @ ROXY THEATRE | SAT, 7/6/13 Though R.A. the Rugged Man has been in the rap game for roughly a decade, his recently released Legends Never Die is only his second official release. He is perhaps best known for one incredible verse -- one of the best you'll ever hear -- on the Jedi Mind Tricks track "Uncommon Valor: A Vietnam Story." That's not a bad thing to be known for, but it is also perhaps a little unfair, because the Rugged Man has much more personality than is revealed in that one song; it's a shocking, unapologetic one that is not afraid to throw the kitchen sink at an industry that has, in some ways, rejected him. Live, the Rugged Man should be nothing short of a spectacle.
THE UNCLUDED @ MARQUIS THEATRE | FRI, 7/5/13 Aesop Rock has always had a twinge of darkness to his lyrics and sound. If his twisted tone and often abrasive melodies aren't enough to scare the delicate away, his convoluted vocabulary and abstract speech probably are. So you can imagine the hip-hop world's surprise when we learned that Aesop Rock would be collaborating with the whimsical and child-sounding Kimya Dawson as the Uncluded. The result is an intriguing tension of innocence and the dreadful feeling of I've-seen-too-much.
KOTTONMOUTH KINGS @ SUMMIT MUSIC HALL | SAT, 7/13/13 Kottonmouth Kings has been ruling its own corner of the musical stoner universe since 1994, carrying with it a fan base equally obsessed with weed culture. Coming up in the post-Sublime mid-'90s, the Cali dudes easily found a niche market for their dirty smoke raps. Since issuing Royal Highness, their 1998 debut, the Kings have pretty much dropped an album a year. From the looks of it, Kottonmouth Kings could keep on for decades, as long as fans are around to pass it from the left-hand side. -- Bree Davies
MICKEY AVALON @ GOTHIC THEATRE | FRI, 7/26/13 Just because a star was bred in Hollywood doesn't necessarily mean he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Just take Mickey Avalon, the unlikely king of Los Angeles's swanky clubs. He came from beginnings far beyond dubious and well into deranged, a fact he's celebrated in his music. His unique glam-punk take on hip-hop features lyrics forged of the most brutal honesty you've ever been bludgeoned with. -- Christopher Lopez
CYPRESS HILL @ RED ROCKS | MON, 7/29/13 Headed by B-Real, this California group is known best for its ardent love of weed with songs like "Legalize It," "Hits From the Bong" and "Dr. Greenthumb." It's the darker, more serious side of Cypress Hill, however, that earns them respect as one the West Coast's greatest acts. The group's self titled debut went double platinum thanks to singles like the calloused "How I Could Just Kill a Man" and "Latin Lingo," which showcased the MCs' competence in bilingual rhyming with verses that seamlessly transition between English and Spanish. The groups followup, Black Sunday was even more successful, featuring "Insane in the Brain," which appealed to both rock and rap fans and seemed to be playing everywhere in the '90s, as well as "I Ain't Goin' Out Like That," which was nominated for a Grammy. A later single, "Rock Superstar," cemented the outfit's status as a crossover act, landing it on tours with the likes of MxPx and the Offspring. Cypress Hill is performing with 311 and G. Love & Special Sauce.