First off, a big shout to Lil' Kim; the Queen Bee just got home after her Martha Stewart bid; I just wonder what homegirl will do now: get all Jesus-y (nah), or act like she's really gangsta now... guess where my money's at?

Well, don't be an idjit and miss a night of damn good hiphop—specifically, July 16 at Chop Suey, when Mr. Lif takes the stage, along with fellow Def Jukies Cage and Camu Tao. I promise this one will be packed; I can just feel it. Mr. Lif just dropped a seriously potent new LP, Mo' Mega, packed full of the witty insights and vicious sociopolitical commentary you've come to expect from the dreaded one. Cage, of course, dropped one of last year's best joints—and his finest work yet—with Hell's Winter, and his fellow Weatherman Camu Tao is onto some ill shit, judging from the last time I saw him live. His "Hold the Floor" jam can still elicit a big bow-throwing dork-out from yours truly.

A name you may not know, though, is the local opener for that show, a young cat named LaRue, repping City of Dreams Entertainment. I first caught m'man at Obese's last "Make It or Break It" show, and he got my attention from jump with his confident stage presence and hard-hitting bars. My immediate reaction was, "Why haven't I heard of this guy before"? His debut album, I Can Only Be Me, strikes an honest and oft-neglected balance—street but not gangsta, thoughtful but not emo, underground but not backpack. LaRue's commanding voice sounds good over both the keyboard-heavy and dustier, 9th Wonder–esque beats, his flow is way solid, his punch lines are clever, and his hooks hook you; LaRue is a real MC, and this LP is a further testament to the variety of hungry talent bubbling in Seattle. Some nice guest shots from local up-and-comers Diggz Dime and Tre Kingz as well as L.A.'s Bukue One nicely complement LaRue, but he can clearly hold his own. Watch out for this dude.

You also should check Rhymefest, whose dope debut album, Blue Collar, hits shelves this week. Thank gawd for Chicago! Unlike those crybabies in New York, Chi-Town is delivering real quality hiphop that's not a copy of someone else's formula. With or without his boy Kanye, Rhymefest can write hot-ass songs; off the top, he slays a fiery Just Blaze beat on "Dynomite (Going Postal)," and delivers plenty more heat with "Get Down" and "Devil's Pie," among others, while sticking to his endearing middle-class, every-MC script. The only misstep is his duet with the late ODB, a tragic interpolation of the Foundations' "Build Me Up Buttercup"... I mean, I like There's Something About Mary, too, but can we just leave it at that?

Oh yeah: much love to Chali 2na, but I'm not going to be talking about Jurassic 5 (who'll be at Showbox July 18), like, ever again. Their new single features Dave Matthews, which is absolutely unforgivable. Sorry.