By Jeremy Essig
By Jason Robinson
By Hans Morgenstern
By Joseph Hess
By Peter Gilstrap
By Julia Burch
By Jeremy Essig
By Nathan Smith
Best Rap/Hip-Hop Artist
Earthworms. Earth...worms. Such a humble, unassuming, just-crawlin'-along-don't-mind-me name for such an incredibly vibrant group. Then again, maybe the guys in this whip-smart collective Mathias, Black Patrick, Kama and DJ Mahf are thinking about the earthworm's other characteristics. You know: Tough. Able to thrive in the underground. Always regenerating, nearly undefeatable. Yeah, we get it now. If you're not hip to the Earthworms yet, you're missing out on one of the city's most exciting crews. The live show is a raucous party, and the album No Arms, No Legs, Just a Head and a Body is a rap-funk amalgam of the highest order. These guys took top honors last year, and they're worthy contenders again. You owe it to yourself to check out Earthworms but please don't send us the bill when your feet are sore from dancing. We gave you fair warning, after all. (BF)
Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room, 11 p.m.
Family Affair should've blown up huge by now. Their solar-flare-hot single, "U Go Luv tha Family," is as tight as anything playing on national radio at the moment. In fact, it's better, because the duo twin brothers Mr. REP and QB tha Classic laid this track down over a year ago. That means that, instead of biting the string-section samples and the chill-yet-menacing flow, these guys presaged it. Family Affair received plenty of spins on The Beat (100.3 FM), which is awesome. But it'd be great to see these talented emcees take it to the next level. After all, how many twenty-year-old rappers do you know who confide that "confidence came from my Moms and the ghost of my Granny?" Talk about respect. (BF)
There's no getting around it: Most rap-rock sucks a big one. So what are the Midwest Avengers to do? They produce hip-hop with a rock & roll foundation and it's amazing. They sound nothing like the obnoxious Limp Bizkits and Linkin Parks of the world. The Midwest Avengers flow smooth, intelligent lyrics over propulsive hip-hop beats with a freeing rock & roll style. Unlike many other local bands, its recordings and live shows sound phenomenally professional. Slick and dignified, the Avengers' primary genre of hip-hop is gently skewed as they embrace elements of funk, jazz and even a little classic rock. (JL)
Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room, 7 p.m.
The self-proclaimed "Midwest Underground King," Ruka Puff organized the Midwest Monsters Music Conference in January to help his peers and loyal subjects perfect their industry hustle. He also extends advice to his enemies: In April, the thunder-voiced emcee left the message "If you're hating, kill your fucking self" on his Web site. Ruka's latest single, a club-ready ode to "thick" ladies called "Peanut Butta," combines massive bass drops, a melodic whistle and a seductively sung hook ("I know you wanna touch me.") (AM)
There aren't enough female emcees in the game, period. So we're incredibly lucky to have one of the best right here in St. Louis. Toyy, a quick-spitting, deep-thinking rapper from north city, has brought her skills to the underground scene for the past several years. The sister of Jia (and the late Katt) Davis, Toyy furthers the family legacy with her smoky voice and take-no-prisoners rhymes. She performs with Jia in the Committee (for our money, one of the absolute best St. Louis crews) and also takes the stage solo. Tired of seeing women in hip-hop treated as little more than bootylicious props? Yeah, so are we. Let Toyy show you what real talent is. It's about damn time. (BF)
Blueberry Hill's Elvis Room, 6 p.m.
Best Reggae Band
When dub is done right, it evokes a strange combination of the futuristic and the archaic: futuristic because the genre's sci-fi soundscapes anticipated so much that was to follow, and archaic for the originators' creative use of relatively primitive recording technology. Taking what is essentially a studio technique, Dub Kitchen channels the spirit of dub legends such as King Tubby and Lee "Scratch" Perry in its live performances, starting with riddims reminiscent of the rocksteady and roots-reggae eras to which Andy and Jen add their soulful vocals. And while the band grooves along, Bert Dub Kitchen's on-stage dubber performs special-effects voodoo on the sound with a mix of delays, spring reverb, and an old analog synth's gates, envelopes and filters. Tom Carlson Brandt's, 8 p.m.
Dubtronix Led by singer/guitarist DJ Ranx, the 2008 version of Dubtronix ("always looking ahead, not behind," he says) features Karl Acon (also in Yard Squad) on keys, Terry Goetz (one of Murder City Players' guitarists) on bass and longtime scenester Eric Brown on drums. Its interpretation of classic reggae hits by artists such as Black Uhuru, John Holt and Bob Marley can go from a hard-rockin' skank one minute to a spacey dub jam the next. Whether he's performing with his band at its frequent shows, spinning dub discs on KDHX (88.1 FM) between 2 and 4 a.m. every Saturday or hosting Culture Vision on Double Helix TV with fellow KDHX DJ Erica Lewis, Ranx is a man on a mission to keep dub reggae alive in St. Louis. (TC)