J. Cole Venue TBD, June 24
J. Cole knew his new album Born Sinner was going to be one of 2013's hottest rap albums no matter what, so he had no problems releasing in on the same day as Kanye West's Yeezus. He even said as much on its track "Forbidden Fruit": ""I'ma drop the album the same day as Kanye/ Just to show the boys the man now like Wanyá." Now it is; Born Sinner's Miguel-featuring first single "Power Trip" (featuring Miguel) has already topped the 500K sales mark.
The first artist signed to Jay-Z's own Roc Nation label, Cole debuted with a splash on Hova's 2009 LP The Blueprint 3 and topped the Billboard charts his first week with his own first album Cole World: The Sideline Story in 2011. For his current "Dollar & A Dream" tour, Cole (@jcolenc) is tweeting the location of each city's show the day of -- we'll RT from our own @hprocksoff, of course -- and donating some of the proceeds to his Dreamville Foundation. Tickets are indeed $1 but will only be available on-site, wherever that turns out to be. CHRIS GRAY
Bonnie Bishop McGonigel's Mucky Duck, June 25
As 12-year-olds go, Bonnie Bishop had a pretty good reason for moving away from the Houston area: her stepfather, former Texas A&M head football coach Jackie Sherrill, relocated the family to Starkville, Miss. to take the head job at Mississippi State University; he eventually took the Bulldogs to the 1999 Cotton Bowl. Bishop, a singer in her church choir in those days, wound up at UT-Austin (who actually beat Mississippi State in that game) and then pursued the musicians' path in Nashville.
Nowadays she belongs to a pretty elite circle of Music City songwriters -- she co-wrote "Not 'Cause I Wanted To," from Bonnie Raitt's 2012 LP Slipstream, with Raitt herself -- including Al Anderson, Mike Reid and Lee Roy Parnell. Though not included on her own LP Free, that song, which Bishop co-wrote with Anderson, was named by The New York Times' Jon Pareles as his No. 1 track of last year. CHRIS GRAY
Leon Russell House of Blues, June 26
Though he's not quite a household name, Leon Russell's gospel-soaked style has infiltrated so much rock and pop of the past 40 years it's practically a genre of its own. The Lawton, Oklahoma native has been a go-to keyboardist, songwriter and partner in crime for almost too many stars to count -- Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker and Willie Nelson chief among them -- and his mellow honky-tonk keys made Russell a crucial player in the Tulsa scene that produced JJ Cale and Dwight Twilley.
Not so long ago Russell got to enjoy a little time in the limelight with The Union, his 2010 tandem album with Elton John that the Rocket Man admitted was his way of saying "thank you" to one of his main mentors. Russell's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame followed in 2011. CHRIS GRAY
NKOTB, Boyz II Men, 98 Degrees Toyota Center, June 27
The trifecta of late-'80s and '90s boy-band nostalgia, dubbed "The Package Tour," sees three of the biggest boy bands that have ever existed taking the stage on the same night. There's likely to be an overabundance of harmonizing and gyrating taking place from those aging "boys." Let's just hope no one throws out a hip, as NKOTB's Donnie Wahlberg has already warned the ladies that not only is he coming for them, he's ready to give them the package. ANGELICA LEICHT
DJ Screw tribute SOHO (5901 Hillcroft), June 27
Approaching 15 years after his death, the late DJ Screw's influence is more prevalent in hip-hop than ever before, with the genre's top stars from A$AP Rocky to RiFF RaFF and Mac Miller lifting from Robert Earl Davis' (R.I.P.) slow-rolling, heavy-lidded flavor. Locally, meanwhile, Screw Music has become Houston's 21st-century blues, hard livin' and high times set to that uniquely syrupy pace. With stewards like Swishahouse around to ensure Screw's legacy remains alive and robust, it falls to acolytes like Lil Keke, ESG, Big Pokey, 97.9 The Box's Kiotti on the fader and SOHO's many other guests Thursday night to celebrate "June 27" in style. CHRIS GRAY
Mac Miller Warehouse Live, June 27
Humor in hip-hop is always welcome but relatively rare, so let's all be glad Mac Miller came along. The Pittsburgh-raised MC, who turned 21 in January, is following the same idiosyncratic path as his mentor Wiz Khalifa, but his music is a lot more complex than just "Easy Mac with the cheesy raps."
He's certainly no gangsta; "all I kill is sound," he raps on brand-new album Watching Movies With the Sound Off, which was enough to earn Miller a recent mention in Rolling Stone's new summer issue that catalogs all things "hot." Thursday, hot on the heels of another blazing rapper in town this week (see above), Miller headlines Scoremore's "The Space Migration" tour over Chance the Rapper, The Internet, Vince Staples and NJomza. CHRIS GRAY