Big Boi
Yes, Andre 3000 is one of the coolest humans ever to grace a stage. But he is only one half of Outkast, the groundbreaking Atlanta rap group responsible for Ms. Jackson, B.O.B., Rosa Parks and ATliens among many bangers. As much as the music world seems determined to cast the group as a one-man show, Big Boi deserves his dues.

Every dynamic duo needs a straight man to hold it down and in that sense Big Boi provides the hard edge counter to Andre’s psychedelia. The beat on General Patton would easily split the seams on Andre’s paisley pantaloons.

Andre tapped out of the music game in 2006 after the group’s disappointing musical and soundtrack Idlewild flopped. He pursued his fashion and film interests instead and has moped around on stage at Coachella with a giant price tag around his neck and contributed the odd guest verse (such as an interlude on Frank Ocean’s last record Blonde in which he complained about the direction rap has taken over his 20-year career). It all feels a bit rich coming from someone who seems to have stopped trying to make any meaningful contribution to the scene.

Big Boi, on the other hand, hasn’t ever really stopped touring and has remained admirably loyal to his old bandmate. He’s released three albums since Idlewild. (These were, admittedly, mixed affairs but each has had its standout moments. And sure, there was a dubious cameo from Adam Levine of Maroon 5 on new album Boomiverse, but at least he’s managed to release something.) He’s a remarkable entertainer and one half of rap’s most remarkable groups. And he still hasn’t given up. Credit where credit’s due.

Big Boi plays at 170 Russell March 13. Tickets here.

Jen Cloher
Listen to lead song Forgot Myself for a taste of the brutal honesty that Melbourne artist Jen Cloher delivers on her excellent self-tilted album from last year.

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In the song she describes feeling isolated while her world-famous partner, Courtney Barnett, is away. The song begins with a simple kick, snare and guitar line. Cloher is resigned to her loneliness and haunted by remnants of her lover – an old hair tie on a bedside table, for example. By the end of the song her feelings of longing and confusion have transformed into resentment and spite at Barnett’s success. The drums and guitar have built to a menacing chug while Cloher snarls with a new-found sense of agency. Cloher has the right mixture of sweetness and acid to keep her songs dangerous.

Jen Cloher plays the Croxton Bandroom March 24. Tickets here.

Peanut Butter Wolf and Ata Kak
Winner winner double biller. First you’ve got legendary Stones Throw Records label head Peanut Butter Wolf. His dedication to the kookier side of west-coast hip-hop and funk has led to seminal releases from Madlib, J Dilla and Dâm-Funk that paved the way for younger acts such as Odd Future. For insight into how deep this guy’s record collection goes check out the 24-hour Valentines Day mix he recorded for Fact magazine a couple of years back. It involves more than 400 soul 45s from his own record collection played in alphabetical order.

Co-headlining the show at the Night Cat is Ghanaian electronic musician Ata Kak, another artist dragged from obscurity by the remarkable reissue label Awesome Tapes from Africa. Ata Kak’s music appeals to adventurous dance-music fans who, in an age of ludicrous high fidelity, appreciate the adventurous spirits of artists who make the most of the limited technology at their disposal. There are shades of house and ’80s electro as well as half-sung vocals that sound like they’ve been recorded through a scooter’s muffler. It’s manic, ecstatic and a hell of a lot of fun.

Peanut Butter Wolf and Ata Kak play the Night Cat March 9. Tickets here.

Daymé Arocena
Cuban singer Daymé Arocena fuses musical traditions from the island’s Santeria religion (which in itself combines elements of Yoruban folklore with the stories of Catholic saints) with ’50s rumba, jazz and her training as a choir leader. She’s been recognised by big names including jazz legend Wynton Marsalis and champion of non-western music BBC Radio 6 Music DJ Gilles Peterson. Arocena’s music is a beguiling and heady mix that encapsulates a wider movement in which geographical borders around Cuba are beginning to open to the rest of the world. You can almost hear Fidel Castro’s death rattle in the percussive ridges of the guiro.

Daymé Arocena plays as part of the Brunswick Music Festival March 4–18.

Motor City Drum Ensemble
The decision to schedule Danilo Plessow (aka Motor City Drum Ensemble) as the closing act of Pitch Music and Arts Festival is either a genius ploy to keep the crowd until the amps get turned off, or a cruel joke on those who have to go to work at 9am the next day. Thankfully there’s a sideshow.

The German DJ is a defining house act of his generation who can easily flip between the psych-jazz of American composer Sun Ra, old-school Chicago house and New York’s mutant disco. This is the first time he’s played an Australian club show in seven years and this show at Brown Alley is Plessow’s only dedicated club show of the tour. Killer support from local wizard Tornado Wallace seals the deal.

Motor City Drum Ensemble plays Brown Alley March 16. Tickets here.