It's so refreshing seeing the Lifesavas start to get more attention focused on them of late. They've been a Northwest staple for years--rocking shows all over the country, touring with the likes of Blackalicious and Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, among others, and converting entire audiences who weren't hip to their music beforehand. These cats have one of the illest stage shows in the game right now, even making Seattle crowds get wild. All their hard work is finally paying off with their debut album, Spirit in Stone, set to drop in early July on Quannum. If you haven't already, check them out yourselves on Thursday, June 5, when they'll be performing with Zion I, Oddjobs, and fellow crewmate Lyrics Born of Latyrx at Chop Suey.

This Friday, the Simmons family will be swinging by Seattle for their Baby Phat fashion show. As one of the most inspirational and influential movers and shakers in the hiphop community, Russell Simmons will be attending the Rock Salt event along with his superfly honeydip Kimora Lee and his brother Reverend Run, one-third of the legendary group Run-D.M.C.

There's always been a dedicated cult following for one of b-boys' favorite pastimes, the rankfest--otherwise known as emcee battles. The art form has definitely evolved into a much more organized performance over the years, and the best battle emcees are the ones who are able to balance humiliating their opponents with sounding fresh doing it. Ever since Amerikkka's golden boy, Eminem, won over mainstream audiences in the movie 8 Mile, it seems like everybody's trying to get in the mix with their own emcee battles. Prior to 8 Mile, there were plenty of well-known events in the battle circuits at festivals--Rocksteady Anniversary, Scribble Jam, Brainstorm, Blaze, and even Bumbershoot--where whoever took the title, achieved props, or scored a record contract was the talk of the moment. But post-8 Mile, emcee battles are spreading everywhere: They're all over BET's 106 & Park every week, and MTV even collaborated with Def Jam to try one recently. You can take away the spotlight and the cameras, though, and there will still always be room for emcee battles, because for many people out there, there's nothing more entertaining than seeing others get humiliated--as long as it ain't them. This Saturday at the Vera Project, the Downtown Showdown Battle Series will showcase hiphop in its truest form, without the major-label endorsements, without big corporate sponsorship, and without all the cameras and politics. DJ Scene will be playing instrumentals, Dirty Devin will be hosting, and a huge group of emcees will test their skills for a $300 cash prize and priceless props on the street. No doubt these types of events are exactly what the scene needs to grow and help us measure ourselves against other communities.

Bumbershoot has definitely stepped up its game this year, finally recognizing hiphop as the most popular musical and cultural art form by booking a purist's wet dream. With the return of the legendary DJ/emcee competition (Battle of Bumbershoot), Rennie Harris' Legends of Hip-Hop, the Special Edition Freestyle Session B-Boy Competition, and Hiphop 101 featuring the Black Eyed Peas (the openers for this Sunday's Justin Timberlake/Christina Aguilera tour at the Tacoma Dome), fellow Okayplayer Common, and one of the first crews from the Native Tongues, De La Soul, it's sure to be four days of freshness rarely done this well elsewhere in the country. All eyes will definitely be on Seattle Labor Day weekend.

Speaking of the Native Tongues, though, this upcoming Tuesday, June 10, two of the Native crews--the Jungle Brothers and Black Sheep--are on the prowl again, performing at Graceland with Vitamin D, E-Rok, and the Massive Monkees. It's been a while since we've heard anything from these two acts (or in the case of the Jungle Brothers, since we've been able to tolerate hearing anything). It's pretty safe to say that the Brothers' latest album, V.I.P., definitely didn't include their original fans, as their sound took a completely different direction from when they first started on their debut classic, Straight out the Jungle, with songs like "Jimbrowski" and "Black Is Black." Their counterparts, Black Sheep, don't quite have the discography that the Jungle Brothers do, but their debut album, A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, really put Dres on the map, and there's no question the minute the bass line for "The Choice Is Yours" kicks in, the entire place will be going bananas, as that can be argued to be one of the greatest rap songs ever recorded. SAMUEL L. CHESNEAU

REQUIRED LISTENING 1. Black Sheep, "Flavor of the Month" (Polygram)

2. Inspectah Deck, "City High" (Wu-Tang)

3. Freddie Foxxx, "The Konexion" (BBE)

4. Libretto, "Dirty Thangs" (One Drop)

5. S.A. Smash, "Gangsta" (Def Jux)

6. Baby Blak feat. Planet Asia & Obie Trice, "No Coast Allstars" (Rapster)

7. Murs feat. Shock G, "Risky Business" (Def Jux)

8. Ludacris, "Act a Fool" (Def Jam South)

9. Jungle Brothers feat. Q-Tip, "Black Is Black" (Warlock)

10. Pharrell Williams feat. Jay-Z, "Frontin'" (Star Trak)