This affordable, Manhattan-for-the-holidays, rock-the-jingle-bells hip-hop event doubles as a label showcase for Talib Kweli's excellent Blacksmith Music imprint. Featuring at least 75 percent of his roster, the show billed as "The Night Before the Night Before Christmas" pulls no punches. Jean Grae is still one of rap's greatest storytellers and pretty much the only rapper we've ever believed when she threatened to retire—she was last seen auctioning off her final verse on MySpace and previewing material off her upcoming final album at Joe's Pub. Perpetually solid crew Strong Arm Steady made the trip out from Los Angeles, and are bringing their rugged take on rap, mixing the skeletal flows of the '90s underground that bred Kweli with a little more focus on stripclubs and endo. And then, of course, there's Kweli himself, who's done wonders mixing labyrinthine flow, buckets of cred, and genuine pop hits to transform himself from " '90s conscious rapper" to "your rapper's favorite rapper that you've actually heard of." With Pete Rock!
Wed., Dec. 23, 9 p.m., 2009