The latest installation of the Brainstorm battle at Neumo's was full of pulse-pounding excitement--hope you caught the action. There were a few surprising upsets in the emcee competition, and some strange occurrences--big thumbs down to the dude who threw the mic on B-Mello's turntables. Cutest moment: Wordsayer's son Upendo and Bad Luk's son Xavier commandeering the mic between rounds. Big props out to Bad Luk for taking it; he and Phenomenal will be going on to the finals at Bumbershoot. I sure hope the out-of-town emcees bring plenty of recycled gay jokes and obvious racial epithets--god knows the crowds out here can't seem to get their fill. I mean, c'mon people, if the zenith of our creativity is making a sport of race or insinuating that someone's homosexual, then aren't we just basically hicks with better shoe game?

The Kool Keith/Slick Rick show wasn't packed as it rightfully shoulda been--of course, that's nothing new in this town, and it was at the super-humongous Premier. It was definitely a good time, though, particularly when Slick Rick came out and blessed the audience. A consummate showman, Ricky D ran thru his many hits and did an entertaining old school vs. new school crowd response thing, so everybody in attendance could feel really good about listening to rap for a long time (or, more likely, pretending to do so). He closed out his set with my favorite song of his, "Hey Young World," and walked offstage, trunk jewelry a-swingin'.

Show-wise, Mr. Crooked Letter himself, David Banner, brings his Mississippi-bred mix of crunk and commentary to the Showbox on August 26; and on the first of September (goddamn, did this summer fly by) the incredibly talented Gift of Gab comes to Chop Suey.

Now, the first thing they taught me as a telemarketer was that everybody's favorite word to hear is FREE, so here's a few recommendations for free and/or inexpensive hiphop DJ nights for your broke ass to check out: For a mere $3 you can catch some real 206 flavor at Temple Billiards, in the form of Foot Traffic with Alpha P (Jerm and Asun) and Mind Movas. On the free side of things there's also Wednesdays at Viceroy in Belltown, where you can catch Wordsayer spinning the joints; there's NBC (Nothin' But Classics) Thursdays at Des Amis, where you can find my man Rockwell from Clockwork dropping hits; there's also Thursdays at X-Factor (big ups to my guy Big Rob), and SuckaFree Friday at Vito's with DJ Tre. Last but not least, Juicy--which has been picking up steam--goes down on Sundays at Chop Suey, and it's only gonna get hotter in there now that the one and only DJ Scene has been added to the roster.

Beef Watch: My favorite underdog, Joe Budden (who should be paying me for pub) is trading barbs with the Roc's newest signee, the supremely cocky Grafh. Both dope, and both (kinda) on Def Jam? This is one to watch, folks--as if you care.

hiphop@thestranger.com

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