A Complete Guide to Hip-Hop at CMJ 2014


It’s the most wonderful time of the year as CMJ has once again descended over the good people of New York City. The College Music Journalism festival is bringing over 1,000 acts across all genres to the city, which makes planning a five-day foray into the fires of college radio a touch daunting. Those among you who are hip-hop heads (i.e., the coolest kids) are in luck: We’ve assembled a rundown of everything beats-and-rhymes happening at CMJ this year.

While you’ve probably heard about the Joey Bada$$ and Pro Era showcase on Thursday, or the free Tommy Boy showcase on Wednesday, one of the best parts about CMJ has always been the opportunity to see acts that are never really in New York. Hip-hop especially benefits this week, and this year is no exception, as artists from such exotic locations as Taiwan and Alabama will be showing what they can do with a mic. Here’s a day-by-day breakdown of everything CMJ.

See also: The Top 20 NYC Rap Albums of All Time: The Complete List

Tuesday, October 21

Your first chance to catch hip-hop at CMJ comes from Virginia rapper DP. For those fearing that CMJ has become too commercial, DP’s unapologetic grit will give a very visceral beginning to your CMJ experience. If you can’t catch him Tuesday at S.O.B.’s, he’ll also be rocking Friday at Highline Ballroom.

Kosha Dillz
Tuesday, October 21, 10:30 PM

No stranger to CMJ, Kosha Dillz has been a staple of every mega-sized music festival for about a decade now. With a fan base and profile growing seemingly every year, Kosha’s putting in more work than ever, giving you a chance to catch his feel-good energy on Tuesday, with two additional shows Wednesday at Paper Box and then late night at Pianos.

The Flat
Wednesday, October 22

Baltimore’s biggest contributions to pop culture have been The Wire and John Waters, and halfway between the two of them is emerging rapper DDm. One of the quickest-growing buzzes in all of CMJ, his clip for “Come Thru” captures exactly what the charismatic MC has been intoxicating his listeners with. This looks to be one of those performances that will be a staple of CMJ conversations.

Shaheed and DJ Supreme (with Akil the MC from Jurassic 5)
Lit Lounge
Wednesday, October 22

It wouldn’t be a proper college music hip-hop experience without hearing some member of Jurassic 5, and this year J5’s Akil the MC can be found rocking with Birmingham, Alabama, representatives Shaheed and DJ Supreme. While sonically they’re much closer to the traditional throwback hip-hop of Jurassic 5 than their Alabama contemporaries, Shaheed and DJ Supreme’s unique Birmingham perspective more than helps them stand out as a unique entity.

Tommy Boy Showcase with Dres of Black Sheep, Jarobi, Chi Ali, Soul Khan, Pants Velour, Slim Dollars, and a bunch more new Tommy Boy artists
Wednesday, October 22

Hosted by Vinnie of Naughty By Nature, this year’s Tommy Boy CMJ showcase is pretty outrageously packed. With reliably great live performers like Dres and Soul Khan alongside newcomers like Pants Velour and Slim Dollars as well as a returning Chi Ali, you’ve got a sure-shot great night of pure hip-hop.
Joey Bada$$ and Pro Era, Smoke DZA, Cozz, Vince Staples, SD, Raz Fresco, DP
Highline Ballroom
Thursday, October 23

The biggest spotlight of any hip-hop at CMJ this year seems to be on the Pro Era Takeover showcase at Highline Ballroom. Between Joey Bada$$, Smoke DZA, and Vince Staples, you have three absolute titans of rap buzz from all over the hip-hop map. It’s the only rap show CMJ’s putting on their front page, and should make up for the odd lack of a Duck Down Records showcase this year.

The Bitter End
Friday, October 24

Staten Island favorites 1WAY TKT are taking the ferry to CMJ to show off their DJ/production talents at the Bitter End. You’ve probably heard their production on records ranging from Young Money to Wu-Tang to Dogg Pound Gang, and now that they’ve dropped gems in all three regions, they’re bringing their beats to you.

King Mez
Friday, October 24

North Carolina rapper King Mez is headlining a CMJ showcase at Drom on Friday night. With a sleek righteousness without the heavy-handed morality plays of “conscious rap,” King Mez brings a welcome thought-provoking perspective to the booth. What we love about Mez is how his rapid-fire staccato flow manages to still be so smooth and keep us on his every word.

Highline Ballroom
Friday, October 24

A living legend, Dwagi is the father of Taiwanese hip-hop. Releasing his debut in 2002, which may be the first all-Chinese rap album ever recorded, he’s gone on to spearhead the hip-hop movement in Taiwan, recording tracks with everyone from his holiness the Dalai Lama himself to Nas and DJ Premier. Dwagi is making two incredibly rare New York performances during CMJ. The first is Friday at Highline Ballroom, which also features the other biggest names in Taiwan’s music for one incredible night of the country’s best. He then performs Saturday at Coco SixtySix in Brooklyn.

Lit Lounge
Saturday, October 25

Hyper-creative Chicago MC Serengeti is playing Lit Lounge’s Noisy Ghost PR/Graveface Records CMJ Showcase on Saturday. With an electric, eccentric set list that spans his entire career, including records made under his Kenny Dennis alias, he’s one of the most interesting minds and best writers in rap today. He’ll be fresh off tour with current indie “it” rapper Open Mike Eagle, so the creative energy should be off the charts.

MH the Verb #balloonUP Official CMJ Showcase
Spike Hill
Saturday, October 25

Bronx native MH the Verb’s #balloonUP movement has worked to bring together artists across genres and mediums to build a unique experience, usually every Wednesday in Brooklyn and every Thursday in Philly. Saturday night sees one giant #balloonUP event at Spike Hill. A multi-genre bill, it’s for those looking to both get their hip-hop fix and expand their horizons, as only CMJ can.