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It’s easy to see the DMV as both a crossroads and a wild west: It’s where disparate hip-hop sounds come to cross-pollinate, or at the very least coexist. Tabi Bonney is the city’s most visible back-packer, Fat Trel reps the streets, and Wale—well, his genre’s always been “all of the above.” But the hip-hop renaissance of the last several years, notable in both ferocity and breadth, has shown D.C. doesn’t need a dominant sound to be interesting. Look to the overachievers: Last summer, Forestville, Md., trio Gods’Illa’s CPR: The Blend Tape was an all-in effort hosted by neo-soul mainstay Erykah Badu. X.O.—one-third of the Diamond District—will soon release a new mixtape, The Color Grey, and Pro’Verb—an impressive lyricist showcasing some dazzling wordplay—will release his next mixtape by late summer. All three, along with Bonney, Asheru, RAtheMC, and others, share a bill at the Lincoln Theatre June 16 celebrating the 25th anniversary of Def Jam Records ($35–$42.50) Similarly disparate lineups will highlight J-Scrilla’s new VMD Hip-Hop Concert Series at Club One in Alexandria. Lyriciss has gone from an ever-present hustler to an MC worth watching in recent years; his excellent The Balance EP: Money brings a striver’s patience to an overworked hip-hop motif. Sean Born is another up-and-coming rhyme-spitter: His Behind the Scale is an uncommonly vivid depiction of the drug game and its harsh entrapments. They join Tese Fever, Boobe, and others May 21 (Club One, $10 at DMVlife.com.) In two showcases, you’ll glimpse six or seven microscenes—not a terrible look.
May 27: Afrika Bambaataa with All Good Funk Alliance and Fort Knox Five (DJ set)
The Godfather of Hip-Hop’s use of synthesizers shaped the genre’s early electro-funk sound. Locals Fort Knox Five spice their electro-funk with some hip-hop. It’s a perfect pairing. U Street Music Hall, $10.
May 28: Busdriver and
Busdriver’s style, which combines tongue-twisting rhymes and frenzied beats, can be tough to decipher. Still, he’s an animated performer, whether or not you know what he’s saying. DC9, $12.
June 21: Slick Rick with The Soul Rebels
The resuscitated Howard Theatre has trotted out no shortage of legacy acts in its first months, including George Clinton and Bad Brains. With his flashy jewelry and trademark eye patch, Slick Rick looks much as he always has. He’s also one of the greats of the golden age of hip-hop. Respect. Howard Theatre, $25.
July 15: El-P with Killer Mike and
Mr. Motherfucking Exquire
By now El-P may be a veteran, but he’s also a perennial iconoclast, whether he’s crafting spacey break beats or infusing them with his offbeat flow. His blend of alternative hip-hop is downright raucous. Bring your ear plugs, just in case. Rock & Roll Hotel, $25.