I know it may be a little too soon to call it now, but I would like to go on record as saying that 2013 has been one of the best years for music in quite some time. Week after week, accomplished veterans and relative newcomers alike have been churning out some of the most original and refreshing music, much to the delight of both critics and fans. Highlighting this fantastic year has been a talented class of hip-hop acts that aim to remind us that the genre is far from dead.
The Top Hip-Hop Artists You Must See Live
The recent hip hop revival boasts a variety of influences: the recent boom in electronic music, a new-found emphasis on pop sensibilities, and forward-thinking instrumentation/sampling. Paired with intelligent and clever lyrics, these artists have taken an innovative approach to a genre that had arguably begun to grow a bit stale towards the end of the 2000s. In addition to a slew of excellent studio releases, a lot of these acts have also made a name for themselves through their outstanding live performances. Check out our list of the top 10 must-see hip hop acts of 2013!
1. TDE (Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, ScHoolboy Q, Jay Rock)
Following his release of the critically-acclaimed Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, Kendrick Lamar found himself sitting comfortably atop the hip hop throne. Kendrick manages to translate the frenetic energy displayed in his sophomore release to his live performances that is guaranteed to cast a spell over any crowd. His labelmates at TDE (Ab-Soul, Schoolboy Q, and Jay Rock), who have also recently released superb solo material, seem to have adopted Lamar’s approach to live shows and routinely deliver their A-game to hip hop lovers worldwide.
2. A$AP Mob (A$AP Rocky/A$AP Ferg)
Much like TDE, the rise of the A$AP Mob over the past year has been astronomical. Spearheaded by their charismatic leader A$AP Rocky, these rappers have shown they have what it takes to be a force to be reckoned within the hip hop world. A$AP shows can best be described as a glorious fusion between an in-your-face, energetic hip hop atmosphere and that “anything goes” attitude you get at any proper punk show. Trust me, you will leave an A$AP Mob concert feeling like you want to flip over like 5 cars and then curse-out a fire hydrant.
3. Run the Jewels (Killer Mike/El-P)
These two hip hop veterans, known collectively as Run the Jewels, have quietly been responsible for three of the best albums to come out in the past year (R.A.P. Music, Cancer for Cure, Run the Jewels). Backed by EL-P’s trademark aggressive production, these lyrical monsters have crafted some of the most resonant and innovative hip-hop in quite some time. Shows usually consist of a talented live band, infectious enthusiasm, and some seriously heavy bass. Killer Mike and EL-P put on live show that will stick with you for a very long time (seriously, my ears were ringing for days).
4. Action Bronson
Technically speaking, Action Bronson is one of the most gifted rappers alive. Over the past few years, he’s been a machine, releasing an endless amount of new material that further validates his status among the hip-hop elite. He blends complex rhyme schemes, clever lyrics, and infinite pop culture references with a care free attitude that make his music memorable for any hip hop head. Despite his prowess in the studio, his live performances may outshine any record he’s ever made. Simply put, the man doesn’t have a care in the world.
He frequently spends portions of his performances wandering the crowd while rapping, taking hits of whatever might be passed around the audience and swigging drinks directly from the hands of his fans. He has also, on a number of occasions, done his part to keep the crowd in check. In one instance he Rock-Bottomed a fan in Boston for running on the stage. In another, he put an audience member in time-out for throwing a cigarette on stage. Keep doing you, Bronsolino.
5. Danny Brown
After his excellent breakout release XXX in 2011, Danny Brown became known as a drug-obsessed, hip hop wildcard. But as shown in his previous releases, and also his latest Old, Danny Brown is more than the druggie personae he’s become famous for; he’s also an incredible rapper. Like his most recent touring partner Action Bronson, Brown’s live shows further compliment his success in the booth.
Impromptu mosh pits and copious crowd surfing have become a staple for Danny Brown’s high-energy live shows. And let’s not ignore the elephant in the room; he further perpetuated his reputation for orchestrating out of control live shows with the well-documented “gift” he received mid-song during a Minnesota concert. Danny Brown truly is a hip-hop wild card and we’re better off for it.
6. Chance the Rapper
The Chicago native made huge waves in the music world with his breakout release of the mixtape “Acid Rap” in early 2013. Following an equally successful string of performances during SXSW, Chance the Rapper has cemented himself as one of the hottest up-and-comers in the hip hop community. He has recently embarked on his “Social Experiment Tour”, employing a live band to compliment his sometimes bizarre-yet-refreshing delivery and thought-provoking lyrics. Look out for Chance to explode in the very-near future.
7. Chris Webby
Chris Webby hails from Norwalk, Connecticut, a label he proudly wears with the impending release of his EP “Homegrown.” Although the Constitution State isn’t typically known for producing MCs, Chris Webby proves himself the exception to the rule. He grew up studying the disruptive rhymes of Eminem, an artist he’ll always draw comparisons to simply because he’s a white rapper. Webby is poised to dismiss any preconceptions, however, as he sheds the label of mixtape rapper, and becomes an artist.
8. Freddie Gibbs
Killa Gibbs is a monster lyricist and he has shown he possesses the talent necessary to be the new face of gangsta rap in years to come. His debut album ESGN certainly lived up to the hype generated from his consistently-fantastic mixtapes and it received rave reviews from critics. His combative style of rapping demonstrated in his studio releases seems to carry over flawlessly in all of his live shows.
9. Flatbush Zombies
This talented New York hip-hop group seemed to have picked up the torch passed onto them by such legendary groups as The Pharcyde and Gravediggaz. Flatbush Zombies mix dark imagery, humor, and the occasional acid references to create some of the most unique and invigorating hip-hop the world didn’t know it was missing. Their latest release, Better Off Dead, perfectly captures their incomparable sound and something tells me these relative newcomers are only going to get better. Given their eccentric and sometimes terrifying subject matter, you better believe these gifted freshmen know how to put on an unforgettable show.
10. The Underachievers
Also hailing from the Flatbush community in Brooklyn, The Underachievers are another young group ready to take the hip-hop world by storm. Combining aspects of boom-bap and psychedelic hip hop, these young MCs are quickly beginning to turn heads. The Underachievers set out to captivate and entertain audiences in the form of a hazy fog. Just be sure to bring some eye drops for after the show.
Despot, Kool AD, Mr MFN Exquire, and DJ Rashad/Teklife.
Support these artists and go check them out live!
Article by Trevor Ziegler