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Where to see live hip-hop music in NYC

Looking for New York City’s best live hip-hop shows? Here are the clubs you need to check out stat.

Written by
Curtis Rowser III

New York City is the birthplace of hip-hop—the world’s most popular genre of music. Everybody who’s anybody in hip-hop must enter the concrete jungle at some point and put their skills to the test in a live setting. And if you don’t believe us, just name an established rapper worth mentioning who’s never performed in New York. Don’t worry, we’ll wait. 

New York City is the biggest media market in the world and each year, the city hosts huge annual festivals like Afropunk Fest, Governors BallHot 97 Summer Jam and more, in which artists of all kinds look to captivate the heart of the city. But what about the times of the year in between the festivals? Luckily, hip-hop lovers can get their fill right here in NYC year-round.

Here are a few of our picks of the best venues in the city to experience hip-hop in the flesh. 

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best live music venues in NYC

NYC's best live hip-hop venues

  • Things to do
  • Concerts
  • Williamsburg
  • price 2 of 4

The Williamsburg bowling alley/music venue is known for its stellar funk, rock and Afrobeat offerings as well as rap acts looking for a big stage—often with a live band in tow. Expect a range of danceable pop and soul mixed with rap classics. In the past, Roots drummer and preeminent hip-hopologist Questlove has spun at Bowl Train on Thursday nights. 

  • Music
  • Music venues
  • Gramercy
  • price 4 of 4
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Irving Plaza is primarily knowns as a rock venue—having hosted punk and new wave acts since the ’70s—but its stage has played an important role in the history of hip-hop as well. De La Soul played its first gig there in 1988, and the spot still hosts semi-regular throwdowns with rap talent old and new.

  • Restaurants
  • West Village
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Since 1982, the cozy Soho venue has been the place for up-and-coming rappers to announce  their arrival to an NYC audience. It’s a welcoming place to see hip-hop’s rising stars and that’d be more than enough, but not-uncommon surprise appearances by vets like Drake and Busta Rhymes sweeten the deal.

  • Theater
  • Flatiron
  • price 1 of 4

Gramercy Theatre, which has become one of the premiere music venues in New York City, showcases rising stars and solidified acts, offering a unique and intimate setting to experience the raw passion and creativity of hip-hop culture. It’s located in the Gramercy neighborhood of the city at 127 East 23rd Street. Along with Irving Plaza, which is nearby and also featured on this list, it is one of two concert halls in NYC owned and operated by Live Nation. Gramercy Theatre is conveniently located around a handful of subway and bus stops, which makes it easily accessible no matter where you’re coming from.

  • Things to do
  • Event spaces
  • Chelsea

Having opened to the public in October 2018, Chelsea Music Hall is relatively new, compared to many of the popular music venues that span NYC. Nestled in the Meatpacking District of the city, Chelsea Music Hall is in the basement of Chelsea Market. It’s an underground space that provides an immersive experience that brings you up close and personal with the artists. The atmosphere is vibrant and amplifies the spirit of the city that never sleeps.

  • Bars
  • Crown Heights

Located in the heart of Crown Heights in Brooklyn, Friends and Lovers is a haven where camaraderie and creativity meet. The space is warm and inviting with inclusivity at the forefront of its existence. Friends and Lovers “is a project of passion, friendship and love” and captures the essence of Brooklyn’s soul. With its cozy corners and lively dance floor, it’s the perfect venue to experience your favorite up-and-coming New York hip-hop artists in a live setting. Though it may be considered somewhat of a hidden gem, it’s sure to feel like a place that’s oh-so-familiar on your first visit there. For those who prioritize experiencing live music in a safe environment, Friends and Lovers is the ideal spot to take in a show you’ll remember.

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