By Jeremy Essig
By Jason Robinson
By Hans Morgenstern
By Joseph Hess
By Peter Gilstrap
By Julia Burch
By Jeremy Essig
By Nathan Smith
7 p.m.: If you haven't heard "Lemmehollaatcha" or "Urbody N Da Club Up," you haven't been listening to 100.3 The Beat. Your loss. Those songs have been ruling the airwaves and scorching area dance floors for almost a year now, and the CD they sprang from -- Da Hole 9's breakthrough debut, Out Here -- has been holding steady toward the top of local sales charts for months on end. Not since 1996, when the then-unknown St. Lunatics unleashed "Gimme What You Got," has the St. Louis hip-hop scene been so thoroughly smitten with a new act. It's a goddamned phenomenon, and it's only a matter of time before someone scores these dudes the major-label deal they so clearly deserve. Led by the impossibly charismatic Big Sexy Kool DJ Kaos (drivetime DJ on The Beat), Da Hole 9 delivers the country grammar without imitating you-know-who. See 'em now -- someday you could be watching 'em on BET.
8 p.m.: Considered by many the city's premier turntablist, DJ K-9 plays the wheels of steel like a virtuoso, cutting and scratching the stacks of wax until he's constructed something brand-new, something all his own. Anyone who scoffs at the idea that a turntable might be analogous to an actual instrument will reconsider after seeing this man in action. The regional winner in the prestigious DMC turntablism competition a few years back, K-9 is a well-respected fixture on the local hip-hop scene. Whether he's sitting in with his boys Bits N Pieces or holding court at the clubs, K-9 never fails to surprise and enchant.
9 p.m.: In this city's small but thriving underground hip-hop circles, Bits N Pieces have earned a loyal following among fans of smart, conscious rap. Although they don't get the airplay some of their more party-centric peers enjoy, they've steadily built a devoted fanbase, one that stretches from the clubs to the college circuit. Sibling MCs Cat and Jia have been performing together since they were teenagers, and early influences such as the Temptations and Smokey Robinson lend a sweetly melodic vibe to their beats. Bits N Pieces aren't snobs or purists; their mission is simply to move people. They do just that, thanks to a lot of heart and catchy tracks such as "The New Breed" -- brilliantly produced by producer DJ Crucial -- and the recently remixed 12-inch "Warriors."
10 p.m.: Altered St8s of Consciousness aren't about the bling-bling and big ol' booties. They're more likely to rap about the horrors of globalization than the pleasures of conspicuous consumption, more interested in consciousness-raising than coochie-poppin', more prone to self-questioning than self-aggrandizement. Referring to the erudite Amené, one fan told us, "He makes me want to get out my dictionary." What better praise could you bestow on a lyricist, when you stop to think about it? Amené's MC partner Lyfestile is a bit more straightforward but no less intriguing. Their latest CD, Music for B-Boys and the Women Who Love Them, was released by the Brooklyn-based indie label Sondoo. An astute, incisive blend of political commentary and clever, frequently hilarious rhyming, the seven-song disc features inspired cuts and scratches by faithful collaborator Da Fly D-EX.
11 p.m.: The undisputed king of the old-school jams, DJ Needles is a busy guy: spinning at Churchill's and Blueberry Hill, hosting his fabulous Fat Laces mix show on Q95.5 and regularly cranking out his stellar Freshmixtapes compilations. Eclectic, funky and invariably surprising, Needles' selections reveal not only his great taste but his infallible sense of how to get a party started. If Needles is spinning, you know you're gonna have fun. A refreshingly humble guy, he claims he's just a "wannabe MC," a mixer rather than a scratcher. No matter: He might not dazzle the dance-floor with his fancy pyrotechnics, but he's guaranteed to get your freak on like nobody's business.