The Best Musicians in L.A., 2012
Our Best Of issue just hit stands! We found our fairy tale, and now we present it to you: 435 of the most fabulous things in all of Los Angeles. From the city's most amazing restaurants to its tawdriest dive bars, from its edgiest art exhibits to the top spots for live music, we've got it all covered. It truly is the Best of L.A. -- and, in a city this awesome, that's really saying something.
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Below, peep our choices from the issue for best rapper, best punk band, best Latin alternative band, best rap collective, best DJ, and best singer-songwriter.
A rapper's box of tricks is pretty sparse, consisting of little more than his voice and his rhymes. Fortunately Blu, the underrated rapper originally from San Pedro, has been blessed with the best of both. His voice, smoky and sensual, slides effortlessly through complex lyrics that reference everything from Scripture to Shakespeare to Notorious B.I.G. (Not for nothing, he also has the sexiest descriptions of sex in the rap game.) His collaboration with local dream-weaving producer Exile, Below the Heavens, is one of the few albums from the aughts that made L.A. Weekly's greatest L.A. rap albums list, yet surprisingly few people have heard it. Remedy that. While you're at it, pick up their latest collaboration, Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them, and expect to be spirited away to the duo's magical, nostalgic world. noyork.tumblr.com.
Best Latin Alternative Band
La Santa Cecilia
If there is one band that represents the multicultural mix of Los Angeles, it's La Santa Cecilia. Since its Latin Grammy nomination last year, the Boyle Heights–bred group has been representing L.A. at major festivals in Texas and New York. (It's exciting, particularly for those who can remember them packing La Cita in their early years.) They're also picking up the attention of critics, through pieces on NPR's All Things Considered and Latino USA. Further, their hybrid of Latin, rock and world music has caught the attention of groups like Cafe Tacuba, Lila Downs, Ozomatli and Los Lobos, all of whom have had La Santa Cecilia open shows for them this year. Anyone who has attended their concerts can attest that lead singer Marisol "La Marisoul" Hernandez has one of the most powerful voices in the city, in any genre. lasantacecilia.com.
Best Rap Collective
South Los Angeles rap collective Black Hippy was assembled by Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith, who, via a handwritten sign hanging in their Carson studio, lets them know that they should strive for charisma, personality, swagger, substance, lyrics, uniqueness and work ethic. In an era of one-off dance club hits, it's the "substance" that the group — rappers Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, ScHoolBoy Q and breakout star Kendrick Lamar — seems to take to heart most particularly. Their hard-edged raps pay strict attention to craft and structure, while remaining suitable for car stereos and self-medication time. With members dropping first-rate solo efforts in rapid succession, the collective has linked up with Dr. Dre's Aftermath Records, and a group effort is in the works. So much concentrated talent is a bit dizzying — and supergroups never seem to work — but our money is still on Black Hippy living up to their reputation as this decade's N.W.A. topdawgmusic.com.
Pat Grossi's stage name is Active Child, which refers to his precious, youthful tendency to put his ears right up to the speaker to get a better listen. The moniker is a bit cringe-inducing, and indeed the lyrics on the Pasadena resident's 2011 full-length debut album, You Are All I See, aren't for those too cool to attend school. They're unfiltered, unvarnished, filled with pummeling emotional honesty, through the eyes of sometimes-vindictive characters whose feelings are crushed over and over but nonetheless expect next time to be different. "I fall in love, way too fast," he sings on "Way Too Fast." "You're so damn cold, soon you'll be all by yourself." Produced by composition genius Ariel Rechtshaid, Grossi's songs are often accented by electronic flourishes and harp, and almost all of them feel like climactic scenes in dramatic movies — the part where we learn Bruce Willis is dead, or that the woman in The Crying Game is a man. This is not music for the ironic of heart. activechildmusic.com.
The best-kept music secret in town is the Sunday-night party at Chateau Marmont's Bar Marmont. There, tucked away in the corner by the bar, you'll find the tiny, gorgeous, dressed-to-kill DJ Rashida. A Los Angeles native, her distinctive and irresistible blend of funk, hip-hop, soul, house and new wave has made her one of the scene's most in-demand, make-you-wanna-dance DJs. She began her career in Atlanta before moving back home and landing a residency at House of Blues. After she spun at a party for Prince one night, he asked her to tour with him, and it's no wonder the two hit it off. With her sharply tailored suits, loops of pearl necklaces and signature conductor hat, she looks like a member of Prince & the Revolution, and her grooves are just as funky as the Artist himself. site.djrashida.com
Best Punk Band
Some young music enthusiasts will argue that Fidlar are not punk. But those kids really need to shut up and find gainful employment. Sure, the noisy riffs and shouted lyrics contained within their short, sonic assaults aren't the world's most atonal — many of them even have, brace yourself, melody — but their punk bona fides can't be questioned. Take their name, an acronym for "Fuck It Dog, Life's a Risk," or even better, their intoxicating live shows, from which even those who avoid the pit might emerge with a bloody nose or a black eye. There's little doubt the Highland Park foursome is headed somewhere, having signed to venerated New York indie Mom + Pop and opening for The Hives this summer. Just don't expect them to be sober when they arrive.
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