The "Controversy" 32-Bar Challenge Is Igniting Denver's Hip-Hop Scene

Flickr user Larry Johnson
Denver feels more and more like a city on the brink of something big, musically.

Denver rapper Demario "Lil Bad" Gentry has been busy recently, releasing The Colfax District, Bad News and Shark Syndrome 2.0. He's also played shows all over the country, from Los Angeles to Miami, and he hasn't always found support for his home town during his travels. "This is my home, and I love Denver," he says. "And when I go to these other cities, the way they perceive us is disappointing, as far as the music goes," says Gentry.

So he decided to instigate a show of Denver's hip-hop strength, releasing a song called "Controversy." It's a bold statement, two and a half minutes of lines like "I'm the king 'round here." It ends with a message to his peers: "I challenge you. You have 24 hours to give me 32 bars. Okay? Okay. Controversy!"

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How Flatbush Zombies got upstaged by their less-talented opener

From the "Thug Waffle" music video by Flatbush Zombies
Even diehard rap fans will tell you: There's something about recorded rap music that often doesn't translate well to the stage. It makes sense for a lot of artists; for those who rely on a carefully chosen vocabulary, much of what makes an artist great can get completely lost in a noisy venue. Some rappers are magnetic in the first place because of their personality and energy, such as Flatbush Zombies, who were backed by Dizzy Wright and local artist Rimes on 4/19 at Cervantes'. Coming into the show, and even after seeing Wright perform, who had the audience in the palm of his hand at all times, I thought the Flatbush Zombies would somehow be even better. They weren't. They weren't bad, as far as rap shows go, but as seems to happen so often in this genre, with some exceptions, they didn't hold up to their recorded quality.

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One label controls almost all of hip-hop, and that's a problem for music fans

Image via YouTube
Jay-Z, trying to convince us his favorite thing about Magna Carta Holy Grail isn't the Samsung deal.
It's common knowledge that the popular music industry is dominated by a few huge companies, sometimes referred to as the Big Three: Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group. It used to be the Big Four, until EMI was subsumed into the other three. Before that, it was the Big Five, which followed the Big Six, etc. As time has gone on, the music market has becoming more and more restrictive in the choices you can actually make as a consumer. According to Nielson SoundScan, these three companies controlled roughly 90 percent of the music market in 2012, and this is a number trending upward. The problem for rap fans, though, is even more severe.

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Should rap lyrics be used in criminal trials?


Legions of angry parents were already up in arms when gangster rap arrived on the scene. After the 1985 PMRC Senate hearings helped institute "Parental Advisory" stickers, albums by Ice-T and N.W.A. were among the first to be branded. Since then, rap as a musical form has continued to take its lumps for what concerned onlookers deemed questionable content. Many rappers, though frustrated with the America in which they had grown up, sought refuge in one of the most fundamentally American ideals: free speech -- an issue apparently unresolved, because 25 years later, rap lyrics are being used as evidence in criminal trials, and the New Jersey Supreme Court is about to weigh in on the issue.

See also: The fifty best rap lyrics of all time

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Ten reasons I love Lil B, and why you should, too!


I'm a huge Lil B fan. Now I wouldn't call myself a Stan -- although that would probably be entirely accurate -- but that's only because I don't reference my love for Lil B in the context of other rappers' songs. That would be an affront to The BasedGod. Lil B must be held in a category apart from all other rappers because he isn't like other rappers, and that's why I love him. Keep reading for the ten reasons I love Lil B -- and why you should, too!

See also: Ten rappers and the artistic movements they exemplify

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Nipsey Hussle on his game-changing Proud2Pay $100 album campaign and how it came about


A couple months ago, our sister paper LA Weekly published a piece entitled "It's Crunch Time for Nipsey Hussle." In it, writer Justin Tinsley examined the 28 year-old LA rapper's career, and how he believed it had come close to a stall. Barely three months later, and already Nipsey Hussle (born Ermias Asghedom) appears to have broken through the barrier of a slumping career. Largely due to his sheer perseverance and business acumen, Nipsey has rejuvenated his existence as a rapper. Now, Jay Z's buying his albums in bulk and fans are rushing to shell out a hundred dollars to get copies as well. With his latest release Crenshaw, Nipsey may even be at a career high.

See also: Nipsey Hussle at Gothic Theatre, 1/13/14

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Ten rap acts to watch in 2014

Taylor Hinds
Jon Connor is one of the ten rap acts worth keeping an eye on in 2014

While MCs like Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore and Chance the Rapper are running the game right now -- and will likely continue to do so until the next batch of hungry rappers rises up to give them a run -- there are a number of MCs who are poised to grab the spotlight, many of whom are still flying beneath the mainstream radar despite having made significant moves in the past year. Here are the ten rap acts worth keeping an eye on in 2014.

See also: The fifty best rap lyrics of all time

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The best rap beats of 2013

Britt Chester
Diplo made one of the best rap beats this year

Traditionally, lyrics have been the most important element of rap music, and while the most talented producers may not be as recognizable as the most famous rappers, they are becoming just as in-demand for their beats. In rap's earliest days, the MC was secondary to the DJ. The increased focus on the sonic qualities of rap music over has resulted in some of the most interesting rap beats. Here are the ten best rap beats of 2013.

See also: The ten best rap lyrics of 2013

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The ten best rap lyrics of 2013

Eric Gruneisen

Oh, what a year it's been for rap. Kanye reached new levels of originality, and kinda went off the deep end at the same time, Kendrick put every other relevant rapper on call, and Eminem came storming back. Although this past year was one that focused, in general, on the sonic qualities of rap more than lyric detail, it wasn't hard to find ten great examples of poeticism alive in music. Here are the ten best rap lyrics of 2013.

See also: The fifty best rap lyrics of all time

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Rap is in a new golden era

Britt Chester

The progression of music will always be weighed down by periods of stagnation. Although new rap acts are presented into the mainstream every year, the actual newness of the music is generally overstated. The prime exception to this rule is the so-called "golden ages," pockets of time where innovation is rampant, and from this innovation comes new styles, movements and sub-genres that maintain the genre until the next radical paradigm shift arrives.

See also: From UGK to Chief Keef: A look at the history of trap in rap and its subsequent influence on drill

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