Bradd Young
In recent years, Bradd Young has stepped away from performing, as he and partner Orlando Watson (a.k.a. "Pretty Boy") made a name for themselves as producers for acts such as Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Akon and Talib Kweli. But Young's foray back into solo-artist-dom has been successful: "Grown Man" is a sultry, snapping slow jam with torchy rock guitar, while "Girlz," a Ne-Yo-meets-St. Louis-hip-pop song, showcases Young's falsetto. (AZ)

Best Hip-Hop/Rap Artist (Solo)

Joka
Street-oriented rap is Joka's specialty — in fact, his raspy voice and repetitive chants would feel right at home on a Young Jeezy song. After his win at DTP Madness last April, the breakout member of local group tha Deck was signed to Ludacris' Disturbing tha Peace label. Joka has since released the Born Wit Haters mixtape, but to date his biggest single is "Swing on 'Em," a high-energy brawler's anthem that received heavy radio rotation in 2007. (CC)

Murphy Lee
With a quick smile and easygoing wit — along with tireless hustle and a Twitter account that can't be beat — Murphy Lee is helping the St. Lunatics get its name back on the national map. In December, he self-released the CD/DVD You See Me, his first official solo album since parting ways with Universal Records last year. In just two weeks, See sold enough to be Vintage Vinyl's top-selling album of 2009. (AZ)

Nato Caliph 
Nato Caliph is a classic thinking man's emcee. "I like everything to mean something," he says when asked to describe his soulful yet forceful style. "It's more than just rapping. I like to have a purpose." He reps F5 Records and the Force and rhymes in an unassumingly sincere manner that makes weighty and abstract subjects seem engaging and easy to understand. His latest record, The R.E.A.C.H. EP, should be released in June on his own label, Cipher Music Group. — Keegan Hamilton
7 p.m., Shiver Vodka Bar & Champagne Lounge

Nite Owl
A staple of the local hip-hop community for years now, "Nitro with the nice flow" is one of the only local emcees to regularly play shows with a live band. Nitro's laid-back delivery and soulful beat selection offer a certain sense of sophistication not commonly present in much of today's rap. The latest addition to his catalog is the new album, Jewelry, a collaborative effort with James Christos (from KC) and DJ Sno under the name Academy Hill. (CC)
6 p.m., 11th & Washington Outdoor Stage

Cassie Morgan
Cassie Morgan

Prince Ea
St. Louis rappers have often been stigmatized as being too simple or "bubblegum." Expect Prince Ea to shatter any such notion. On a mission to "make smart cool," Ea routinely crafts some of the wittiest metaphors to be found with the precision of a lyrical neurosurgeon. Since winning Vibe magazine's "Vibe Verses" contest in 2009, Ea has collaborated with underground heavyweight Canibus and has caught the attention of emcees such as Immortal Technique and Black Thought. (CC)

Rockwell Knuckles
A local favorite and a regular on the RFT Music Awards ballot, Rockwell Knuckles continues to grind with unrelenting energy. Rocky released Choose Your Own Adventure earlier this year, his third project to be backed by influential hip-hop website the Smoking Section. His work is pleasantly unpredictable, ranging from traditional hip-hop to the experimental. Rocky does more than just recite lyrics over a beat, however; he uses exaggerated intonations in his voice to color his music, and he sings many of his own hooks. (CC)
7 p.m., Shiver Vodka Bar & Champagne Lounge

Tef Poe
The title of Tef Poe's stellar, DJ Trackstar-produced, Smoking Section-endorsed mixtape, Money Never $leep$, is more than just a catch phrase — it's a guiding principle. Tef helps wake St. Louis up every day with a freestyle verse on the Rickey Smiley Morning Show on WHHL (104.1 FM), meaning he's busting rhymes before most rappers have even finished breakfast. Add to that the fact that Money was released just six months after his impressive debut, The Redeemer, and it's no exaggeration to say that Tef is easily one of the most talented and hardest-working members of the Force. (KH)
7 p.m., Shiver Vodka Bar & Champagne Lounge

Vandalyzm
It's been two years since Vandalyzm burst onto the local scene with Megatron Majorz. Since then the University City rapper/producer has dropped beats and verbal bombs on tracks by underground heavyweights such as Khrysis and Donny Goines and scored a deal with New York-based Soulspazm Records to re-release his standout debut as Megatron Majorz Redux. His latest mixtape, Vandalyzm Is Not the Father, is yet another fine example of his uncanny ability to crack jokes, dis haters and express himself with songs that are catchy, clever and cool. (KH)
7 p.m., Shiver Vodka Bar & Champagne Lounge

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

Earthworms
Earthworms has managed to make quite a name for itself in the past few years. Its 2008 release, Bottle Full of Bourbon, led to a European tour (and RFT award) in 2009, and in late December the group released Midnight at the Capricorn, its first album on the IndyGround label. With production by Ben Bounce and DJ Crucial, Capricorn remains true to Earthworms' penchant for mixing feel-good lyrics with a vintage hip-hop sound. (CC)
10:15 p.m., Shiver Vodka Bar & Champagne Lounge

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