Music Madness: Hip-Hop Shows To See

This fall, Seattle hosts some of the most dynamic rhymesayers in the game.

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Black Star

Where: Showbox Sodo 

When: Doors open at 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 5

How Much: $35 + convenience fee (tickets here)

This undergrund hip-hop duo — comprised of Mos Def (aka Yasiin Bey) and Talib Kweli — won listeners over in the late 90’s with powerful lyrics about love and reconciliation, delivered with a signature, old-school vibe. The group dedicated their craft to promoting non-violence within the hip-hop community, in the wake of shootings that killed 2Pac (aka Tupac Shakur) and The Notorious BIG. They released their debut full-length LP, “Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star,” in August 1998; critical response at the time was quite favorable, and the album has since become a cult favorite among hip-hop and rap aficionados. 

The two Brooklyn-raised MCs separated shortly after their first album was released. Kweli released a string of acclaimed solo albums, including “Quality (2002),” “The Beautiful Struggle (2004)” and “Gutter Rainbows (2008).” Mos Def has made his fair share of music in that time, as well, though he has also turned to acting; he appeared in films such as “The Italian Job,” “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and “Sixteen Blocks,” and can be currently seen in a recurring role on Showtime’s “Dexter.” Though both members have had their fair share of success in their solo careers, it can be argued in this case that two are better than one. This is a reunion you’ll actually want to attend.


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Where: The Crocodile Café 

When: Doors open at 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov 10

How Much: $15 per person (tickets here)

Murs (“Making the Universe Respect and Submit”) isn’t your typical rapper. A consummate critic of guns and gang activity, Murs takes the experimental route and delivers his message through inventive sampling, clever rap-battle tactics and a philosophical approach to hip-hop style. This Los Angeles native knows a thing or two about rapping — he has delivered the goods since 1993.

Currently, Murs is a member of three hip-hop ensembles: 3 Melancholy Gypsies (aka 3MG), with high school classmates Scarub and Eligh; Living Legends, an octet (also including Scarub and Eligh) that LA Weekly described as, “one of the biggest success stories of the indie-rap movement”; and Felt, a collaboration with fellow vocalist Slug of the Minnesota-based group Atmosphere. Lately though, it is Murs’ solo work that has garnered the most attention. On his most recent release, “Love & Rockets, Volume 1: the Transformation,” the artist produced all the tracks with his unique brand of West Coast flair that incorporates both book and street smarts. “Love & Rockets, Volume 2: The Declaration” is forthcoming.


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Where: Neumos Crystal Ball Reading Room

When: Doors open at 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 25

How much: $20 per person (tickets here)

Wale’s newest album, “Ambition,” was released on Nov. 1 after an unprecedented viral marketing campaign, which included an extensive behind-the-scenes documentary about the rapper’s career, daily singles released on Twitter, the sale of album-themed wristbands and t-shirts and a nationwide tour that kicked off in September. When file-sharing site Hulkshare was shut down amid massive downloads of “Ambition” tracks, it became quite clear just how much hype was behind this 27-year-old phenom.

The child of Nigerian immigrants, Wale’s style is heavily influenced by the sounds of 60’s go-go and 70’s disco. He first struck gold in 2006 with his hit single, “Dig Dug (Shake It),” and has since signed to Maybach Music Group, owned by Miami rapper and frequent Wale collaborator Rick Ross. In 2010, his single “No Hands” won a BET Award for “Best Club Banger,” and he earned a nomination for “Best New Artist” at the Soul Train Awards the same year (losing to Canadian songstress Melanie Fiona). His catchy craftsmanship has never been more evident than on “Ambition,” which features guest spots from industry heavy-hitters like Ross, Ne-Yo and Lloyd. As Wale’s stock continues to rise, it’s modest to say he has exceeded his ambitions.


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Kanye West & JAY Z

Where: The Tacoma Dome

When: Doors open at 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 16

Tickets: $60-110 per person (tickets here)

Both Kanye West and Sean Carter (aka JAY Z) cemented their superstardom years ago, but since the August 2011 release of “Watch The Throne” — the first full-length collaboration between ‘Ye and Jay — it’s safe to state that we’re dealing with hip-hop royalty here. These two kicked off their nationwide “Watch The Throne” concert series in Atlanta last weekend. Given West’s penchant for elaborate production and JAY Z’s “Godfather”-esque persona, this tour should set standards for the hip-hop elite for years to come.

The record is an eclectic combination of West’s signature use of dramatic samples and Jay-Z’s token tales of hip-hop rivalry and political injustice, all with a heavy orchestral influence. West enlisted in the help of industry mainstays like the Neptunes, Swizz Beats and RZA to produce the album. The result, as characterized by “Rolling Stone” critic Jody Rosen, is “vast, dark and booming.” Armed with an arsenal of boundary-pushing, braggadocious anthems scored to a killer soundtrack, this dynamic duo is ready to battle for their titles.