Rockwell Knuckles
Topping his outstanding 2007 debut album, Northside Phenomenon, was a tall order, but Rockwell Knuckles may have done it with a mixtape called The Glow. Rocky's rhymes were already packed with more movie references than a Tarantino script, and so he made a quasi-concept album peppered with lines from the '80s cult classic Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon. And like Bruce Leroy, the film's kind young kung fu master, Knuckles ended up kicking some righteous ass with "See N Say," a self-described "Mayor Slay diss." Now, thanks to an impressive performance at SXSW and support from influential hip-hop blog the Smoking Section, Rockwell Knuckles' gospel is starting to spread to area codes other than 314. (KH)

Tef Poe
You may have heard about Tef Poe and his "mooning the Nazis" incident earlier this year. But that's nothing new; Tef's been "showing his ass" on the microphone for years. He's one of the area's scrappiest emcees, and when he starts letting the punch lines fly, you'd better get out of the way. His Glory 2 God mixtape is a good example of what he's capable of, and it features production by his brother Black Spade. (CC)
Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, 9 p.m.

Vandalyzm
With his reputation as a talented producer, emcee and performer preceding him, it comes as no surprise to see Vandalyzm back on the ballot this year. His delivery changes as often as his subject matter does — which is definitely a good thing. On one track Van may take the slow, staccato approach, and on the next he's likely to assault the beat with the precision of a sniper. His Bitch, Cause I Felt Like It mixtape is due out this year. (CC)
Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, 9 p.m.

Best Hip-Hop/Rap Artist (Duo or Group)

Earthworms
An urban funk-and-underground hip-hop collective, Earthworms crosses the club-conscious cuddle-thuggery of Nelly with the easy-going spirit of De La Soul to create a distinctively St. Louis style of dance music. With emcees Mathias, Kama and Black Patrick riffing on simple pleasures such as girls on ten-speeds, John Cusack flicks and pot luck (yeah, that kind of pot), and with DJ Mahf on the tables and beat circuits, its charismatic live performances have recently earned the group slots at SXSW and a well-received European tour. (RK)
Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, 8 p.m.

Family Affair
Two catchy songs with grammatically sketchy hooks blew up over the past year: Yung L.A.'s ubiquitous hit, "Ain't I," and the equally addictive single from Family Affair, "Here I Is." It's no surprise, considering that twin brothers Q.B. and Rep are among the most charismatic and consistent hip-hop artists in the city. Whether the pair is breathing fire while helping out close friend Rockwell Knuckles or rocking its own standout material (like the new The Family Blessing EP), it all goes back to what the Walnut Park natives proclaim in the chorus of their hit: "You said you lookin' fo' the best? I'm like, here I is." (KH)
Blueberry Hill's Duck Room, 9 p.m.

Jason and the Beast
Few would have predicted Jason Braun's evolution from ne'er-do-well barfly and open-mic hipster into a full-blown spoken-word beat maestro. As leader of Jason and the Beast, he more than dabbles in hyper-literary, name-check science, declaiming his rhymes over heady hip-hop arrangements, courtesy of Jerry Hill and Mic Boshans (among others), who proudly claim to use "no stolen samples." Braun's heroes remain the Beats, Bukowski and the Bard; his own voice is getting tougher and more musical with every performance. (RK)
Vintage Vinyl, 7 p.m.

Scripts N Screwz
Scripts N Screwz isn't your average East St. Louis rap group. In fact, there's nothing average about the pair, period. For starters SnS produces and acts in films, including The Color of Justice (a documentary about a death-row inmate who may have been wrongfully imprisoned) and The Hunger, a hip-hop musical in the vein of Purple Rain due out later this year. Then there's its music, which runs the gamut from UGK- and Outkast-inspired bangers to downtempo, Joy Division-influenced raps about heroin addiction. Words like "unique" and "eclectic" only begin to describe the duo, which single-handedly shatters any preconceptions about hip-hop from the Ill(inois) side of St. Louis. (KH)
Vintage Vinyl, 8 p.m.

Splitface and June 16th
Producers Nate Womack and Chris Krug operate under the aegis of Splitface and June 16th — and in the process, remind hip-hop listeners that a song's production and construction are at least as important as the words that go over them. By digging up dusty soul and jazz sides and infusing them with lightning-quick scratches and analog drum-machine beats, the duo creates a modern marriage of the old and the new. Last year's Raydeeohh featured guest rappers from the Frozen Food Section and the Deadly Alliance, but the lyricists were just icing on the dense layer cake that Womack and Krug had baked to perfection. (CS)

Best Hip-Hop DJ

The Beat Street Crew
Anyone who thinks that St. Louis hip-hop started with Nelly needs to go directly to Vintage Vinyl on certain summer Saturdays, when the Beat Street Crew is outside spinning old-school jams and break-danceable beats. The collective — which features DJ Needles, G-Wiz, Fly DX, DJ Alejan and occasionally other luminaries such as B-Money — contributes years of experience to its craft, as evidenced by seamless scratching and mixing of tunes and deck acrobatics. (AZ)
Main Outdoor Stage, 1 p.m.

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