Best of Denver

The twenty best hip-hop shows of 2012

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20. Kreayshawn at the Fox Theatre, 12/5/12 At the Fox Theatre, Kreayshawn came on stage looking a little tore up -- or just less fashionably done up than her flashy, glammed-out crowd was possibly expecting -- and it was endearing. In fact, the slight woman from Oakland was perhaps better to see casually hollering "Can't hear haters, blasé, blasé," from underneath the reality of a hot-pink beanie, instead of the waves of Ombré weave and fake eyelashes she's so meticulously photographed in. Kreayshawn and her unnamed hypeman took to the stage almost immediately after Rye Rye's opening set, pushing out "Blasé, Blasé" to a more-than-ready audience. She bounced freely in short shorts and a long-sleeved tie-dye T-shirt that quickly became too warm to wear - and Kreay decided to parlay it into scarf for the duration of the show.

19. Cypress Hill at the Ogden Theatre, 4/20/12 Cypress Hill gets it. After coming to town last year on April 19, the premier stoner rappers of the last two decades intentionally made a 2012 performance in Denver on the actual weed holiday of the year: April 20. As B-Real shared with a sold-out Ogden Theatre crowd, he had inadvertently discovered our secret: Marijuana plus altitude makes us "high-high." By 9 p.m., the Ogden resembled a casting call for a cliché stoner movie: men in tie-dye T-shirts and blinged "420" jerseys mingled with women in smiley-face tank tops with crossed-out eyes. Security haplessly policed the situation by shining flashlights on lit joints, but there seemed to be no point: The crowd was there to get high with Cypress Hill.

18. Black Star at Cervantes', 5/11/12 The first strains of the Beastie Boys' "No Sleep Til Brooklyn" started blaring through the speakers as Yasiin Bey shook himself onto the stage to thunderous screams of applause. Wielding an red old-school "drop mic," the Brooklyn MC fist-pumped and enticed the crowd while theatrically mouthing the hook to the infamous track. Talib Kweli, back like he never left, raised his hands in acknowledgment of the more-than-packed house. His debonair style (Fedora clad, he was rocking a thin-cut vintage suit) was in stark contrast to a more pared-down jeans and tucked-in button-up from Bey. While he held his own black microphone, the sweat commenced to pouring, as did the righteous rhymes.

17. 2Chainz at the Ogden, 9/17/12 The moment 2Chainz took the stage, it became very clear why this show was moved from the Bluebird Theater to the Ogden at the last minute. When the ATL rapper finally placed the mic to his lips and dropped his verse from "Mercy," the crowd went absolutely insane as a music video played on an LED screen behind him. The B.O.A.T.S. (Based On A True Story) tour punched Denver right in the mouth, despite the rapper's declaration of the first rule of the tour: No fighting. Immediately following the opening verse of the hit song, 2Chainz rolled right into "Got One," and the show was officially under way.

16. Public Enemy at the Ogden Theatre, 12/8/12 Public Enemy took the stage around midnight last night with a bass line so loud it made your ears ring and eyes water. After serving as host for the evening for this traveling hip-hop classic caravan, Chuck D took the stage as the funky whistle from "Don't Believe the Hype" blared. The group's chemistry still seemed very sharp as the crew moved through its more than hour-long set, rocking "Can't Truss It," "Rebel Without a Pause," and the first verse of "Fight the Power," before Chuck demanded to hear only the bass going into a funky remix of the song. The energy level was high and the performance was sharp.

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