2008 Music Award Nominees: Best Rap/Hip-Hop Artist

May 27, 2008 at 6:32 pm

(Thanks to bands for permission to post music!)

(Earthworms, by Ben Shepard)

Earthworms www.myspace.com/earthworms Earthworms has long been a leading light among the city’s hip-hop scene, and the collective’s recent work represents a pinnacle of sorts. This year’s Bottle Full of Bourbon builds off the funk-heavy, catch-all vibe of the group’s debut; Mathias, Kama and Black Patrick trade verses, while DJ Mahf cooks up a stew of smooth old-school soul and hard-edged beats. The Earthworms’ live performances infuse a new energy into these tracks, as funky keyboards, skronking horns and a crack rhythm section back these rappers. -- Christian Schaeffer Blueberry Hill’s Elvis Room, 11 p.m.

MP3: Earthworms, "Bottle Full of Bourbon"

Family Affair www.myspace.com/stlfamilyaffair The gravelly vocals of identical twin brothers Q.B. and R.E.P. of Family Affair lend menace to aggressive, fast-paced rhymes and set a gritty tone for their laid-back grooves. The frenetic, synchronous pacing of the siblings during live shows can double the energy of a venue – while their mixtape, Daily Situations, offers both hip-pop accessibility and laid-back street talk, exhibiting surprising versatility for such a young duo. -- Kristy Wendt Blueberry Hill’s Elvis Room, 7 p.m.

MP3: Family Affair, "You Gon Love the Family"

Midwest Avengers www.myspace.com/mwa314 It’s no small feat to make rap-metal cool again, but the two emcees and three instrumentalists in the Midwest Avengers do their best to revive the sub-genre. Brothers BC and So’n’So trade verses and rhymes over live guitar, bass and drums instead of relying on the DJ to provide the backdrop, and the group’s versatility allows elements of rock and funk to smooth out the rough edges. Last year’s Evil Superheroes proved that live hip-hop need not rely purely on soft-touch soul music to be successful. -- Christian Schaeffer Blueberry Hill’s Elvis Room, 6 p.m.

MP3: Midwest Avengers, "Creepshow"

Rockwell Knuckles www.myspace.com/rockwellknuckles Despite an under-promoted, online-only album release and a dearth of live performances, the reclusive Knuckles still managed to make waves in the local scene simply because he’s so damn good. On his debut solo album Northside Phenomenon, Rockwell describes his style: “I remember when I found my flow, it was soulful yet oh so rock and roll, with a touch of folk singing.” Add a whole lot of Tupac, a hint of the Beatles and lyrics that are as introspective and clever as they are gritty, and you get Rockwell Knuckles. -- Keegan Hamilton Blueberry Hill’s Elvis Room, 8 p.m.

MP3: Rockwell Knuckles, "Northside Phenomenon"

(Rockwell Knuckles, by Jennifer Silverberg)

Vandalyzm myspace.com/vandalyzm These days every emcee that owns a laptop and a pirated copy of ProTools thinks he’s a “rapper/producer.” For most people it’s a recipe for disaster. Luckily for us, Vandalyzm isn’t most people. The University City native is St. Louis’ answer to Kanye West: He’s as adept at crafting dope beats as he is at writing rhymes. Van shows off his double-threat skills on his debut album, Megatron Majorz, which features a slew of guest appearances by members of his critically acclaimed clique, the Justus League. -- Keegan Hamilton

MP3: Vandalyzm, "Hands High (featuring Big Pooh of Little Brother)"

Gotta Be Karim www.myspace.com/gottabekarim“In life, we go through a lot of individual struggles that build character; that’s the sort of thing that defines my music,” says emcee Gotta Be Karim, encapsulating both the street credibility and widespread appeal of his raps. In “Swagger Back” his voice crackles, whines and flows over hustling lyrics; like Biggie, the softened consonants and syllables of GBK’s loose, smoothly effusive rhymes restrain his frenzied stage presence and generate addictive tension. -- Kristy Wendt Blueberry Hill’s Elvis Room, 9 p.m.

MP3: Gotta Be Karim, "Swagger Back"