The twenty best hip-hop shows of 2012

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Britt Chester

15. Lupe Fiasco at City Hall, 5/17/12
Lupe Fiasco loves his fans, and clearly the feeling is mutual. The more he gave, the brighter his Lasers shone. The connection Fiasco has with his fans is unmistakable. At one point he stopped the show to ask a fan if he was enjoying himself before allowing him to choose the next song. For his part, the Chicago MC looked right at home with his newly dreaded hair and baby-faced smile. As he spit, his voice sounded notably better than it does on record. There was a halo-like glow surrounding his mike -- which very well could have been a laser -- and he wielded it like a king with his scepter.

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Aaron Thackeray

14. Atmosphere and Common at Icelantic's Winter on the Rocks, 1/27/12
Under a star-speckled sky and amid freezing temperatures, Atmosphere delivered a greatest-hits compilation at Red Rocks Amphitheatre for the inaugural Icelantic's Winter on the Rocks. Nostalgia aside, when he greeted everyone at the venue and opened into "God Loves Ugly," 10,000 winter-ready people joined in the lyrics and seemed to appreciate the beautiful chance of a lifetime to see raw, independent hip-hop displayed for the first time, during winter, at one of the most famous venues in the world.

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13. Big K.R.I.T. at the Bluebird, 7/18/12
Big K.R.I.T. calls himself the King Remembered In Time, an appropriate name, because he truly is timeless. When the big king stepped on stage, all stern-faced, save for the occasional wry sideways grin, and started spitting his somehow simultaneously dirty and smooth southern slang, his aspirations were immediately clear: to bring the South and the rest of the country back to the days of OutKast, 8Ball & MJG and UGK. As he proudly (and accurately) boasted while opening the set, he makes it cool to be Southern. For a night, at least, for the lucky souls at the Bluebird for the Live from the Underground Tour, Denver was a part of the South.

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Antonio Valenzuela

12. Hopsin at Cervantes', 10/18/12
Rocking his signature white contacts, Hopsin came back to the stage a couple of songs later in a Spider-man hoodie. The crowd sang, "Oh, hell no!" in unison during "Baby's Daddy," and remained equally hyped during "Pans in the Kitchen." At this point, crowd surfing turned into crowd walking, the first time we've ever seen such a thing. Hopsin, propped up by upraised hands, walked across the crowd before being delivered back to the stage to perform "Am I a Psycho?," his track with Tech N9NE and B.o.B., shirtless. As it had been all night, the crowd was electric and willing to do whatever the performers demanded.

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Eric Gruneisen

11. KS Classic: Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube at Comfort Dental Amphitheatre, 8/24/12
With a lineup in which the youngest performer was Bizzy Bone of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, at 35, one might assume that this show was doomed to an early bedtime and fading energy as the night wore on. In reality, the crowd got more and more hyped as legend after legend graced the stage, finally culminating about halfway through Snoop Dogg's set with total audience involvement, in perfect cadence, answering the night's ultimate question: What is his motherfucking name?


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