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Top 10 Twin Cities hip-hop venues

Killer Mike at Fine Line
Killer Mike at Fine Line
Photo by Erik Hess

It's hard to believe with the reputation it now holds that there was a time when the Twin Cities wasn't booking too many hip-hop acts. Once we were still flyover country to many of the national touring acts, and the local underground scene had yet to rise to prominence and prove the power of homegrown rap talent on a large scale. Nowadays one can catch a rap show basically any night of the week -- from the major acts that now consider Minnesota a destination to the burgeoning local movements that are only getting better with time. 

Gimme Noise gathered together a list of the best places in town to catch hip-hop shows. Keep an eye on these venues if you want to take part in the Twin Cities' thriving scene.

See Also:
Top 10 Twin Cities hipster bars featuring local live music
Top 10 best places to grab a drink before a show at First Avenue
Top 10 Twin Cities dance venues

Too $hort at Epic
Too $hort at Epic
Photo by B Fresh Photography

10. Epic Entertainment
110 N. 5th St., Minneapolis

Epic grudgingly found its way onto this list despite a myriad of issues thanks to the consistency of rap shows that come through. The venue definitely has its share of problems -- whoever put the bathroom, coat check, and front door all right next to each other is asking for fights to break out in the never-ending and poorly defined lines that ensue -- but they can be worth tolerating depending on who's playing that night. The former Quest is a larger-sized club that can accommodate acts like Future, Kendrick Lamar, E-40, Young Jeezy, T.I., and stars on this level. Plus, the venue brings new big names through on a regular basis. The VIP section draws most of the people looking to pop bottles and not pay any attention, so the main floor can feel like a more close-knit show even when the place is packed. Regular house DJs Enferno and Advance consistently hold down the show with solid rap mixes. The bookends of the night might be exceedingly frustrating, but the club is known to bring in rappers that at one point wouldn't dream of making the trip up here.

2 Chainz at Myth
2 Chainz at Myth
Photo by B Fresh Photography

9.Myth Live Event Center
3090 Southlawn Drive, Maplewood

While Myth only occasionally brings in hip-hop acts, in the case of rappers like recent 2 Chainz or Nas -- who have both hit the suburban venue in the past -- there is really no better place to house giant acts that could draw enough of a crowd to hit a behemoth like Xcel or Target Center. Rap is all about personality and larger-than-life figures, and when rappers become dwarfed by the space they play, the impact is never the same. Myth's sprawling suburban hugeness matches the draw and ego of rap's biggest names while still maintaining an appropriate club feel. The architecture of the place creates quality sight lines in the building, so there's no need to squeeze behind sweaty drunks and flailing elbows to get a glimpse of the stage. Similar to Epic, it can sometimes be worth the hassle to head to Myth to catch a rap show you likely wouldn't be able to see elsewhere.

Midway Felix at Cause
Midway Felix at Cause
Photo by Zach McCormick

8. Cause Spirits and Soundbar
3001 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis

Known for regular rap events like the monthly Rap Blitz and numerous local CD releases, Cause is a great place to catch a slice of the local rap scene. It's not surprising to find rappers milling about and drinking, randomly hopping on stage to perform, or even conducting important business meetings. The friendly atmosphere and openness to multiple styles of music made this Uptown bar a go-to spot for rappers to host events, and it makes for a tightly knit, though not claustrophobic, crowd for when touring rappers like Psalm One decide to roll through. Mostly you'll find eager music fans in attendance, ready to nod their heads and drink a bunch, and that alone makes for a really great rap experience.

 

Keith Murray at Nomad World Pub
Keith Murray at Nomad World Pub
Photo via Facebook

7. Nomad World Pub
501 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis

The Nomad is a quality straight-up bar to see a rap show, with a patio area and upstairs room that add some diversions from the main room. This place has been the jumping-off point for the rise of a number of local groups, and maintains some of that coming-up hunger even for the returning vets. A good mixture of grungy and classy -- much like rap itself -- makes rap fans and artists alike feel at home at this venue, and the giant Broken Crow mural on the side gives off some Style Wars vibes as well.

El-P at Fine Line
El-P at Fine Line
Photo by Erik Hess

6. Fine Line Music Cafe
318 First Ave. N., Minneapolis

Downtown's Fine Line is a great mid-range level space that has excellent sound and never feels cramped. You'll find big deal of local rap events here as well as touring artists -- the Killer Mike/El-P show, for instance, benefited immensely from the location -- and it's certainly more appealing than some of the other downtown clubs. There's space to dance, stand to the side, or sit at candlelit tables without ever having to sacrifice a view of the stage, and the sound man who spins between sets tends to be on point as far as song selection.

Mixed Blood Majority at Triple Rock Social Club
Mixed Blood Majority at Triple Rock Social Club
Photo by Erik Hess

5. Triple Rock Social Club
629 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis

Triple Rock is a quality place to see shows period, thanks to a great sound system and a well-designed space. But whenever rap rolls through the West Bank mainstay, it's bound to be worth showing up. Local rap acts who feed off the place's punk feel seem to bring an extra edge to their sets, and you'll feel in close quarters with those onstage thanks to a compact but breathable main floor. Tuesdays are especially crazy, when the Triple Double takes over and top-notch local DJs spin rap tracks to accompany your two-for-one drinks. It's definitely a place to figure out what it means to wag.

Yelawolf and Wiz Khalifa at Fifth Element
Yelawolf and Wiz Khalifa at Fifth Element
Photo by Kevin O'Meara

4. Fifth Element
2411 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis

While not technically a venue, the famed Uptown rap record store owned and operated by Rhymesayers throws a number of live events unique to the space. You'll find touring rappers stopping by to do signings or brief performances, open mic nights, and the occasional all-day concerts such as on Record Store Day. Shows happen sporadically but it's more than worth the effort to keep an eye on the store's calendar, as it winds up as host to certain performances that can't be found elsewhere. Fifth Element has built a reputation as the place for hardcore rap fans, and performers recognize this as a great place to display material for the heads first.

 

So Gold at Honey
So Gold at Honey
Photo by Jared Kocka

3. Honey
205 E. Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis

Reminiscent of the late great Dinkytowner, Honey retains the basement party feel that made that venue so prone to hosting underground rap events. Booking staff is particularly courteous and willing to book rap acts of various sizes, so it's a great place to check artists both just making a splash and those who've been in it for ages. Regular hip-hop DJ nights like Turnt Up, Slaps, and Hands High all draw huge crowds ready to get dumb and sweaty. It's everything you should want out of a rap club, and it's quickly become the spot for a number of local rap acts.

De La Soul at the Cabooze
De La Soul at the Cabooze
Photo by Ryan Siverson

2. Cabooze
917 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis

The Cabooze is an excellent space to catch a rap show because there really isn't a bad spot in the house. The space is horizontally aligned from the stage, allowing for great sight lines from anywhere. Shows have the chaotic feeling of a packed show without feeling overcrowded or claustrophobic. They regularly bring in big-name rap acts whose timeless appeal draws a majority of hip-hop heads and hardcore fans. Of the larger venues on this list, Cabooze trumps them all by being a comfortable and enjoyable location without a lot of hassle. You'll find a good number of rap acts coming through this West Bank club, and thankfully so, because it's one of the best in the city.

Death Grips at 7th St Entry
Death Grips at 7th St Entry
Photo by Erik Hess

1. 7th St. Entry
701 First Ave. N., Minneapolis

Besides being one of the better intimate settings for a show in the city, the Entry has a lot of history behind it, particularly for the local rap scene. The confined space was host to some unique local rap events that all but took over the spot: Atmosphere's eight-night run for Seven's Travels featured a string of insane guest stars, Doomtree's Entry occupation saw each of five straight nights curated by the group's five MCs, and I Self Devine essentially claimed a monthly residency for his quad of mixtape release shows last year. Beyond that, they were one of the first to lend legitimacy to the scene early on, and the spirits of early shows still float around the place. The First Avenue Mainroom feels like an obvious choice for this list -- and we'd list it here if it were in a separate building -- but the Entry is actually a much better place to catch a rap show because you're truly up-close and personal. The rapper is right there in your face, and can't rely on much else but raw skill to win over the tightly packed crowd of fans. You owe it to yourself to catch a rap show here (and there are plenty that roll through) because few others will compare.


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