There isn’t a more divided musical genre than hip-hop. Indie fans bicker about the mainstream; conscious rap fans dislike Southern trap rap; stoners are too high to notice that Wiz Khalifa’s only talent was knocking up Amber Rose. But these next couple of weeks should satisfy every sect.
First up is J-Live on April 17 at the Bunkhouse. Although the show is free, I’d pay top dollar to see the New York emcee spit. He’s dropped nothing but gems since his lyrically masterful “Braggin’ Writes” in ’95. It still holds up 20 years later, and his new material is just as strong. The former middle school teacher is still kicking wisdom: just listen to “Money Matters” or his cry for human rights, “I Am A Man (American Justice),” from his recently released His Own Self.
The Grouch & Eligh and Zion I bring their California cool to Brooklyn Bowl on April 20. The trio has been making music for the everyman as solo artists, duos or part of larger collectives since the early “aughts.” For the uninitiated, the Grouch is anything but—a laid-back, peaceful brother who raps about health and parenting; Eligh is a master of melodic fast-rap and imaginative storytelling; and Zion I, now a one-man act since the departure of producer Amp Live, is known for his eclectic styles. I’m expecting them to be onstage at once so they can move fluidly from classics such as the Grouch’s “Simple Man” and Eligh’s “Chronic” to Zion I and the Grouch’s “Silly Puddy.”
Start rolling your blunts now—Curren$y brings his audio dope to Hard Rock Live April 23. The former No Limit soldier and Cash Money millionaire has a genuine good time onstage, just vibing out to his own music and smoking weed with fans. Although the New Orleans spitter has dropped countless free mixtapes with his signature chill, jazzy sound, his latest, Pilot Talk III, was released exclusively on USB for $100 and comes with clothing, exclusive videos and a print of the artwork. Because I’m a broke journalist, I’ve had to resort to streaming so I’m eager to hear it on a solid sound system.
Though JMSN isn’t hip-hop, the alt-R&B producer and singer has some serious rap cred, snagging several backing vocal spots on Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City and collaborating with The Game and Ab-Soul. His voice has been compared to Justin Timberlake and his sound to The Weeknd, but he’s far more ethereal. His self-titled sophomore release showcases lush arrangements and smooth, atmospheric production. “My Way” needs repeat listens to appreciate its intricacies, and “Addicted” will get you hooked when he performs it April 26 at Beauty Bar.
Perhaps even further from the center of hip-hop are Canadian artist Buck 65 and Floridian Astronautalis. The two underrated talents are rooted in rap but have such vast influences and creativity that their music sounds more like indie-rock and talking blues. Fans of mature rap will nod their heads in agreement rather than to the beat when Buck performs “Love Will Fuck You Up.” Catch them at the Bunkhouse on April 27.