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Sunday, December 28, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 31.0° F  A Few Clouds
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Kindred spirits: Jake Miller and Nick Luebke rap so similarly that they seem related
Jake Miller, Nick Luebke
Jake Miller, Nick Luebke

Jake Miller is a nice guy who makes nice rap. His beats are soft, often consisting of synth washes, acoustic guitar or some combination of the two. When he plays the Loft on Jan. 25, he'll be in good company with opener Nick Luebke, a local artist who shares his approach to hip-hop.

Luebke could practically be Miller's big brother. He's also nice, but with a bit more of an edge. He swears a little and drinks with his friends. His beats don't hit much harder than Miller's, but it's cool because he's really more of a singer. The similarities between the two go on, but it's worth noting the minor differences to avoid assuming they're interchangeable.

Swiping beats
Borrowing a beat in hip-hop is commonplace, but in the world of viral video hip-hop, it's best to jack a popular tune to net some YouTube traffic. Miller could have gone with a more obvious choice, but maybe he chose to rep his home state by rapping over Flo Rida's "Whistle." Luebke, on the other hand, goes all out for views by rapping and singing on top of the world-crushing megahit "Call Me Maybe." Thankfully, he makes the lighthearted verses his own. Plus, his version arrived a few months before the insufferable lip-dub craze that song inspired.

Blowing off steam
Miller lets loose with "Beast Mode," a technically impressive and forceful confessional, while Luebke takes a conventional and much more fun route on "Darty," a sunny, beer-splattered ode to daytime partying. One rapper contemplates how fast life can change, while the other wonders how fast he can clear a beer bong.

Delivering a message
On "I'm Alright," Miller recounts the tale of a homeless man he met who was super-cool and positive and stuff. He attributes the glowing chorus to this fellow: "I got life, I got love, I got faith, and that's enough." On "Chasin' Dreams," Luebke's collaboration with locals Kyle & Keem, a dramatic piano loop lets everyone know that nothing should stand between them and their dreams. That's a message both Luebke and Miller can get behind.

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