If you're looking to see blues, jazz or rock in Chicago, you'll find no shortage of clubs catering to your needs. But while the city is home to many hip-hop artists of all styles, it's not immediately clear where you should go to hear the stuff. These spots might not call themselves "hip-hop clubs," but they're your best bets for catching the best local and national acts.
Over the past few years, this Northwest Side venue has evolved from a rock-heavy spot to a haven for hip-hoppers. The transition wasn't easy; a few scene-related skirmishes had the owners considering banning the genre altogether, but the robust local market must've changed their minds. You'll find some of the underground's brightest stars commanding the small stage here nearly every week; past performers have included Murs, Brother Ali, Heiruspecs, MF Doom, Madlib and RJD2 (the club has also hosted the city-wide Chicago Rocks showcase).
View upcoming shows at Abbey Pub
If you want to get up close and personal with an MC, this is the place to do it. Fans pack this second-floor club for intimate performances by locals like Earatik Statik and Astonish as well as national acts like Blu and J-Live. If you don't feel like bumping shoulders with the sweaty crowd, you can also get a cool bird's-eye view from the third-floor balcony. You may just end up watching the opening act while standing next to the headliner. Downstairs in the lounge, you'll find several regular hip-hop nights, including The Cold Sweat (featuring the Comeups - DJs Intel, Maker and Pickel - and DJ Trew) on the first three Fridays of each month.
View upcoming shows at Subterranean
Reggie's Rock Club
Don't be fooled by the name; since installing itself on the near-South Side, this club has garnered some major cred from local hip-hop fans by providing a platform for Chicago artists (especially those on the Galapagos4 roster, like Qwel and Robust). The sloping floor might not be the best for breakdancing, but there's plenty of it anyway, so hold onto your Old Style tallboy. Good news, young'uns: most shows here are all ages or 17-plus.
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House of Blues
If your favorite hip-hop act is too popular for small clubs, but can't quite sell out a stadium, this is the most likely landing spot. Common, Wu-Tang Clan, Cypress Hill and even Lil' Wayne have had memorable sets in the velvet-swathed space in recent years. The tickets are expensive, as are the drinks, and the doormen can be pretty strict (no cameras!), but in general you'll see a good show here.
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When North Side hip-hop fans want a good meal and some good beats in the middle of the week, they head to this Rogers Park venue. The Wednesday-night series, Heartbeats, presented by local DJ Lokua, offers a different set of MCs, DJs and musicians each week (e.g. 1773, Radius). If that's not enough for you, come back for Dirty Thursdays, when DJs Serpico, Teebot and Kana Me spin hip-hop, funk and reggae (and sometimes present live acts like Treologic). Oh, and that "good meal" part? Morseland is known for its Southern Creole cooking, with tasty dishes like jerk pork chops and barbecued catfish.
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Want it on wax? Our favorite spots to catch DJ'd hip-hop:
Funky Buddha Lounge