Damn, it's cold as a mufucka... all the more reason to pack into a sweaty hiphop show and forget those holiday woes. For starters, on December 10, L.A.'s underground kings the ShapeShifters hit the U-District's Rainbow. The Shapes (Akuma, Awol One, Circus, Die, Existereo, Life Rexall, Radioinactive and DJ LA Jae) make b-boy theme music for the new millennium. True to their name, their divergent, often bugged perspectives are all over the map, and delivered with wit, intelligence, and soul... much like their opener--Quannum Projects' newest signer, and Good Life Cafe vet, Pigeon John--they don't take themselves too seriously, which is saying a lot in the underground hiphop sphere. Super-nutty Shape and Mush Records artist Radioinactive are featured on the recent West Coast Scavengers EP (check www.inyoureardrums.com for info) which also showcases the tight track "Telepathy" from none other than Seattle's own rhyme animal Asun (who'll doubtless slang you the 12-inch straight out the backpack), as well as Oly's down-tempo dons Instrumental Ward and Manik Amidst.

Oh, and speaking of the venerable Quannum Projects, I just copped the Maroons EP from Latyrx's Lateef the Truth Speaker and Blackalicious' Chief Xcel... How is it that Quannum can seem to do no wrong? The Bay Area's illest hiphop collective has an enviable track record of quality, innovative music. The Maroon's Ambush EP is another slice of vintage futurist funk, containing some of Xcel's finest production yet--and Lateef absolutely kills it, using his swinging, soulful cadence to beat down wack mufuckas, lambaste King George II-era groupthink, and elevate the masses. Good shit--now can we get a new Latyrx album? Pleeease?

Power of Hope (www.powerofhope.org), a local nonprofit, is holding a release party for Hip Hop Hope Seattle, a CD of original music and spoken word performed by teens in the Hip Hop Hope after-school program. "Hip Hop is a youth-created, youth-sustained, youth-propelled culture... and it should be a vehicle for social change," says an ecstatic Laura "Piece" Kelley. As a teaching artist for Power of Hope, Piece--a internationally known poet and musician (didja catch her doing "Central District" on HBO's Def Poetry?)--has overseen the writing workshops at their arts camps and school-based programs for the last two and a half years. Teaching themes of media literacy and activism, POH's mission is "to unleash the positive potential of youth through arts-centered, intergenerational, and multicultural learning programs that value self-awareness, community, leadership, and social change." Corny as it may sound, the youth are the future, my friend... and though I love to listen to my fair share of rap nihilism, man cannot live on Dip Set alone. So come out to the Capitol Hill Arts Center on Saturday, December 11, to support Power of Hope, and check out sets from the youth who created the music--as well as Piece and Grayskul.

Oh, and before I forget, looks like De La Soul's sense-shattering performance of "Rock Ko.Cane Flow" at the Showbox--where Jake One was pulled onstage by Wordsayer--will be the video for the track. Geah! 206 Up, bitches.

hiphop@thestranger.com

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