5. Grooves of Houston
Grooves is an apropos name for this Third Ward hot spot: It's groovy. Besides hip-hop and R&B, the club also also plays jazz, which probably accounts for the mixed bag of ages found here. One word of caution, though: Get there early, and dress to impress. Grooves' popularity means the line can get long, and after 11 p.m., both the parking-lot and door prices rise drastically.
2300 Pierce, 713-652-9900, www.houstongrooves.com.
4. Double Cross Lounge
This place is a hidden treasure. Taking The Tasting Room's old Midtown location, Double Cross Lounge is made up of a tiny little lounge with a laid-back vibe inside, with a big-screen TV to watch a game on the breezy patio in the back. If you're not feeling too claustrophobic (this place really is small), you can step to the old-school hip-hop playing overhead (Yay, Blackstreet!). Double Cross is known for its seven-time distilled vodka, but if you want, the "mixologists" on staff can whip you up something new and creative based on ingredients that you like.
114 Gray, 713-526-3488, www.doublecrosshouston.com.
3. Lucie's Liquors (Bayou Place)
We don't mean to jump too much on the Bayou Place bandwagon, but this club's location is what makes it so great: You can catch a meal, or catch a show at Bayou Music Center, then spend the rest of the night dancing yourself into a stupor at the Lucie's. This place is fun, fun, fun: Bartenders who hold you up by your legs while you (attempt) to do a beer-bong shot, a stripper pole near the DJ for those who've considered a career in "live entertainment" and great hip-hop music -- both old and new-school.
534 Texas, 713-836-2277, www.luciesliquors.com.
2. Bayou Music Center
Sure, this music venue also features rock, country and alternative artists, but when it does hip-hop, boy, does it do hip-hop. There's a reason why some of the genre's biggest fans right now are flocking to the venue's stage: Nicki Minaj (above), 2 Chainz, Travis Porter, and A$AP Rocky coming up, just to name a few.
It's also a place where, if you look fast, you can spot a celebrity or sports star slipping in for a night of great tunes; we spied Texans defensive end Connor Barwin making his way up to the VIP Lounge last Friday to catch The Weeknd concert. In addition to your music and local celebrity fix, Bayou Music Center offers up multiple stations for eating and imbibing; one stand sells your everyday Bud Light beers; the other offers specialty shots (Sex on the Beach, anyone?); while in the back, you can get your fill of greasy nachos before the show - or tote them in with you. (Although why anyone would want to stuff their bellies before jumping around the venue's expansive ground floor is beyond us.)
520 Texas, 713-230-1666, www.bayoumusiccenter.com.
1. Warehouse Live
Best of Houston winner, 2012:
Warehouse Live is hardly Houston's "best hip-hop club" per se -- legions of emo and hardcore bands would beg to differ -- as much as it is simply the city's place to see hip-hop. However, it does have a few features that make it especially well-suited for hosting a rap show: Big and small rooms for hosting either headliners or up-and-comers (lots of local stuff); a sound system that keeps the lyrics audible above the floor-rattling bass; and a no-nonsense security staff that won't hesitate to kick out any knuckleheads they need to, but aren't assholes about it either.
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But honestly, Warehouse Live is where the rap is: The venue's open-door policy to promoters such as Scoremore and Pegstar has created a steady stream of quality national acts, from A$AP Rocky and Yelawolf to El-P and Killer Mike. But Warehouse Live really rolls out the red carpet for the locals, with triumphant packed houses this spring for reunions of Paul Wall, Chamillionaire, Slim Thug and Z-Ro and then Screwed Up Click alums Lil Flip, E.S.G. and Lil Keke (among others) to honor unofficial H-Town holiday June 27.
813 St. Emanuel, 713-225-5483, www.warehouselive.com.