|Matt Oliver / OC Weekly|
|Cam'ron at Paid Dues 2012|
A few months into 2013 and we're less than a week away from the first big live hip-hop experience of the year. Last year was filled with immensely enjoyable shows all across Southern California, from Nas at Rock the Bells to Juicy J and ASAP Rocky at the Observatory. And, here we are, ready to start the festival season all over again and at the beginning of a year already stocked with great performances. Times goes by fast when you spend lots of time drinking and unleashing your energy deposits at rap shows, right?
Guerilla Union has been generous enough to give us a Paid Dues bill as enjoyable and as diverse as ever, with up-and-coming oddballs like Speak taking stage alongside politically-minded rappers Killer Mike and Immortal Technique and west-coast party-rappers Problem & Badlucc. There's a lot of performers to sift through and only so much time in a day, especially if you have to wade through the fog of alcohol and contact (or deliberate) highs, so we have gone ahead and made this list of acts you absolutely can't miss out on. Spoiler alert: we're not exactly thrilled to see Trinidad James or Macklemore.
5. Vince Staples
As of this moment, Los Angeles/Long Beach lyricist Vince Staples only has a few smaller releases to his name, but even a passing listen to his work should catch any hip-hop fan's attention. He can be introspective and ignorant on the same track ("Martin Ruger King") and tell short stories with bars worth putting on paper to reread ("Twitch"). He's rapped that "the way we make them choppers bang, you would think Nirvana came," and the way him and his Cutthroat Boyz cohorts riled up the Roxy recently you would think Kurt Cobain had been momentarily resurrected. Interest in Staples is currently at an all-time high, with more and more people realizing his worth as a rapper and his newer collaboration with Long Beach rapper Joey Fatts and Lakewood's Aston Matthews giving us hope that there's talented groups outside of the usual suspects. As an added bonus, Joey Fatts has also tweeted he will be performing alongside him.
4. Flatbush Zombies
Eccentricity and exploration are themes that are stronger than ever in hip-hop right now, and NYC trio Flatbush Zombies -- Juice, Meech, and Erick Arc Elliot -- are perfect representations of that. Their tracks can sometimes be more like psychedelic excursions rather than exercises in golden era lyricism, with most of their work littered with references to everything from LSD and Shrooms to every rapper's favorite go-to strain of smoke, Weed. Don't let the outright drug use dissuade you and your straight-laced friends though; in the Zombies' case there's more than meets the third eye. Rappers Meech and Juice have some of the best flows on the market right now, and their lyrics bare multiple layers and can be interpreted different ways, just like the experiences the hallucinogenic drugs they rap about produce. Even if you end up not being too fond of their sound, we're sure you can see at least see the appeal in watching a bunch of hyperactive, intoxicated rappers go crazy on a large stage.