Nashville’s Rising Hip Hop Scene Is the Music City’s Best Kept Secret


To be clear, Nashville’s hip-hop scene has yet to reach the point where there’s a live show on any given night, where trap beats and drum loops are as commonplace as steel-guitar riffs. But instead of being a deterrent, this fact cultivates an atmosphere of exclusivity, as if every bar spit is a limited edition, an opportunity for discerning locals and in-the-know travelers to say they heard it first.

“Who doesn’t want to know about something before it gets big?” Ewing asks. “Everybody wants to be the one already up on game, so come and be one of the ones up on game. Something’s gotta be next — that’s just the way the market is — and Nashville’s poised to be it.”

Wanna catch a hip-hop show? These music venues help prove Nashville is more than just country:


Elliston Place
When it opened in 1971, Exit/In quickly established itself as Nashville’s go-to venue for non-country performances. Nothing has changed since then, and there’s typically a little of everything on the club’s calendar — R&B, rock, punk, and, of course, hip-hop. The venue is small, so buying tickets in advance (by calling 877-4FLY-TIX or visiting the box office at Marathon Music Works) is advisable. 

Marathon Village
Marathon Music Works is the significantly larger sister venue of Exit/In, with a commitment to musical diversity. Located in a renovated, early-1900s warehouse, there’s standing room for 1500 at shows, and tickets can be purchased in advance. Those who want to arrive early can hang at the on-site bar and lounge up to an hour before a show begins. Upcoming hip-hop shows include Tech N9ne (6/17) and Jelly Roll (7/26),

East Nashville
Like the owners of Exit/In, the team behind the iconic Nashville venue The Basement sought out more spacious digs with this second location. Basement East has room for 400 and reflects the neighborhood’s eclectic personality with a well-mixed calendar. Some shows require advance tickets purchase while others charge a surcharge at the door. And there’s always a smattering a free shows on the books.

East Nashville
There’s nothing fancy about The Cobra, except for, perhaps, the glittering teal snake painted on its exterior. But despite the humble character of this East Nashville pub/concert venue, it’s turning out some of Nashville’s best hip-hop — namely via the bi-monthly Meant for the Milkcrate showcase. Hosted by local emcees AL-D and E.T., MFTM features a changing lineup of fresh talent, as well as open-mic cyphers before and after the show.

In Nashville, boutique hotels spring up as often as dandelions in Centennial Park, and many innkeepers are anxious to stick a toe into the city’s music scene. At the Cambria, the True Music Room provides the intimacy of a coffee shop with the audio capabilities of a standard-sized venue, and artists of any genre are welcome. Beginning in July, Thalia Ewing will host her Urban Writers Round at True Music Room and continue to provide a needed platform for Nashville’s rising hip-hop stars.

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