The road to SXSW 2011 is paved with hip-hop talent. Need help navigating the avalanche of names? We got your back like scoliosis. Here are 22 artists who are not to be missed at this year’s SXSW.
22. Kyle Rapps
Kyle Rapps hasn’t changed his calendar in 18 years. He favors boom bap over cowbell beats, lyrics of fury over Seussical schemes. With his new Re-Edutainment EP set for March 29th, SXSW is a good time to get familiar with this New Jersey MC.
Scoot Inn (Audible Treats Showcase), Thursday 3/17, 8:00 p.m. – 8:20 p.m
21. The Niceguys
The Niceguys drummed up noises of praise last year for the brilliant LP, The Show. Picking up where they left, they dropped “Ari Gold” and scored their first major cover issue on the Houston Press. Catch them at SXSW and see what the buzz is about.
Scoot Inn (Audible Treats Showcase), Thursday 3/17, 8:50 p.m. – 9:10 p.m
20. Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick is one of the most exciting newcomers to emerge from the west coast. Overly Dedicated received rave reviews last year, thanks to his forbiddingly diverse flows.
Venue 222 (Vibe/Respect The West), Saturday 3/19, 1:05 a.m. – 1:20 a.m.
19. Fat Tony
Tony is a natural entertainer who’s not afraid to test the limits of his audience. He’s also a rising star, so you’ll get the opportunity to watch him as he evolves in his craft.
Karma (Born in Flames), Saturday 3/19, 10:15 p.m. – 10:45 p.m.
With a remarkable stateside debut in 2010 (TSOL) and a SXSW appearance this year, Shad’s U.S. transition is now complete. Don’t sleep on the Canadian wordsmith. Flawless emceeing set to gritty retro-soul beats. You have two opportunities to catch him at SXSW.
Venue 222 (Vibe), Friday 3/18, 8:30 p.m. – 8:50 p.m.
Fuze (Decon), Saturday 3/19, 9:15 p.m. – 9:45 p.m.
17. Cyhi Da Prynce
Cyhi is the school jester perched on the corner picking at the kids with holes in their shoes. His witty metaphors always elicit “oohs” from the crowd.
Mohawk Patio (The Agency Group/XXL), Wednesday 3/16, 1:40 a.m. – 2:00 a.m.
Billboard Bungalow @ Buffalo Billiards, Saturday 3/19, 1:00 a.m. – 1:50 a.m.
15. The League of Extraordinary Gz
LOEGz may be the most important hip-hop outfit to sprout from the soil of Austin. The crew is deep, diverse, and rich in talent. With home court advantage and a mixtape premiere at SXSW, the Austin group is definitely a must-see.
Fuze (SF2), Friday 3/18, 10:30 p.m. – 10:50 p.m.
15. Immortal Technique
Immortal Technique is versed in the art of live performance. Energy is always on point. Intellectual improvisations roll off his tongue with ease. A must-see for ardent fans and new converts alike.
Mohawk Patio (Agency/XXL), Wednesday 3/16, 11:00 p.m. – 11:30 p.m.
14. Trae tha Truth
Trae tha Truth had a busy 2010. Aside from hosting his annual Trae Day event, he spent most of it fighting a radio ban in Houston. That battle inspired last year’s Can Ban tha Truth and a batch of compelling tunes. Expect some gritty classics as well as a preview of his upcoming collaborative LP with cousin Z-Ro.
Austin Music Hall (Village Voice), Thursday 3/17, 9:45 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Fuze (SF2), Friday 3/18, 1:15 a.m. – 2:00 a.m
13. DJ Premier (with Nick Javas and NYG’z)
Primo is the only non-rapper on this list because he’s still the most dangerous man with his hands.
Fuze (Quality Control), Wednesday 3/16, 1:15 a.m. – 1:50 a.m.
12. Wu-Tang Clan
Yes, I know, you can’t call it a Wu-Tang show unless the entire clan is present. Well, we could sit here and debate semantics or you could be busy planning how you’re going to see the greatest rap group live. Your choice, Paulie.
Austin Music Hall (Village Voice), Thursday 3/17, 11:45 p.m. – 12:45 a.m.
11. Pharoahe Monch
Pharoahe Monch needs neither introduction nor a SXSW showcase. Monchichi has been wrecking stage shows since the Clinton administration. And when it’s all said and done, he’ll go down as one of the greatest MCs of all time. His latest LP, W.A.R., will be on its way to your neighborhood Best Buy while he rocks SXSW.
Emo’s (Biz 3), Friday 3/18, 10:30 p.m. – 11:15 p.m.
10. Jay Rock
You can always count on L.A.’s Jay Rock for abrasive hood tales and combustive beats. Street anthems like “Still in the Hood” and “Diary Of A Broke Nigga” will have fans throwing up their hands like it’s a stick-up.
Venue 222 (Vibe), Saturday 3/19, 12:50 a.m. – 1:05 a.m
9. Freddie Gibbs
Gibbs is pushing boundaries with cold rhymes reminiscent of a young Ice Cube. As an added bonus, his anti-major attitude makes him a favorite at an indie-friendly festival like SXSW.
Fuze (Decon), Saturday 3/19, 1:00 a.m. – 1:50 a.m.
Alabama’s Yelawolf has a new pep to his step these days, thanks to a newly minted contract record contract in his pocket. The twangy rapper dropped killer rhymes on Game’s “Rough” and Eminem’s star-studded “2.0. Boys,” showing that 2010’s Trunk Muzik wasn’t a fluke.
Austin Music Hall (Village Voice), Thursday 3/17, 10:10 p.m. – 10:40 p.m.
7. Jean Grae
Jean Greasy never fails to entertain. She could give a play by play of a chess game and still have you on the edge of your seat. Imagine what you’ll do when she grabs the mic and takes you on a whirlwind tour of her shockingly underappreciated catalog.
Scoot Inn (Audible Treats), Thursday 3/17, 1:15 a.m. – 2:00 a.m.
Don’t let his brief hiatus fool you. Blu has been quietly cooking new material away from the limelight. Unlike his peers, he’s not caught up in the mp3 saturation game. The benefit is that when he eventually drops a whiff of new music you’ll be forced to pay attention.
Venue 222 (Vibe), Friday 3/18, 9:00 p.m. – 9:20 p.m.
5. J. Cole
Hollywood Cole is going mainstream on his own terms. Now a minor celebrity, expect the smooth-flowing NC poet to deliver standouts from his widely lauded mixtapes The Warm-Up and Friday Night Lights.
Kiss & Fly (BET) Thursday 3/17, 12:00 a.m. – 12:45 a.m.
4. Big K.R.I.T.
Blazing through the industry doors like the bastard child of UGK and OutKast, Mississippi’s Big K.R.I.T. built considerable buzz with K.R.I.T. Wuz Here. Catch K.R.I.T. live for southern-fried raps and a heavy dose of soul.
Venue 222 (Vibe House), Thursday 3/17, 12:40 a.m. – 1:10 a.m.
Four superemcees for the price of one? Yes, please bag that up. As long as Royce and co keep writing rhymes about hip-hop’s need for lyricism, their audience may someday shrug and believe them.
Venue 222 (Vibe), Friday 3/18, 12:05 a.m. – 12:35 a.m.
2. Odd Future
The psychodynamic hip-hop outfit OFWGKTA is mostly novelty, but it’s an entertaining one. If you’re not familiar with Odd Future’s body of work, here’s our OFWGKTA primer should help get you started.
Billboard Bungalow, Saturday, 3/19, 12:05 a.m. – 12:45 a.m.
1. Danny Brown
Detroit’s Danny Brown is the MC of the moment. Brown raps in two tones, high-pitched and the occasional mellow flow. You’ll swear you’re listening to two different rappers. Regardless of his tone, this Detroit MC has proven himself incapable of wasting bars. Don’t miss one of the best new hip-hop acts not named Odd Future.
Beauty Bar Palm Door (Fool’s Gold), Friday 3/18, 11:00 p.m. – 11: 20 p.m.