Onstage: Freestyle Rap Events in Washington, D.C.

By Lavanya Ramanathan
Thursday, April 2, 2009; 12:00 AM

Hip-hop heads and arts-starved types hungry for indie lyricism may find just what they're looking for in the new Engage Festival, a three-day series of events centered on freestyle rap and film.

The festival kicks off tonight with a free open-mike event and party at Asylum called Cake & Kisses. (Yes, there really is cake, and it's vegan. But no, don't take liberties randomly smooching.) This monthly gathering puts a premium on letting the vibe dictate who gets on the mike instead of your standard-issue sign-up sheet.

The series is spearheaded by Tyrone Norris, founder of the local-scene Web site DcRap.com. "I try to make all of my events peaceful and artistic. You get thugs walking in off the street because it's free. Cute girls are everywhere, there's cake and they're thinking, 'I can rap too?' "

Lyriciss and Ra the MC are scheduled to perform; house band the Five One backs the brave lyricists who take the mike.

Tomorrow at Chief Ike's is Mindpower, an improv hip-hop party. Saturday delivers a double feature with two events for all ages: The first is a screening of "Bomb-It," the latest installment of the Hip Hop Cinema Café at the Historical Society of Washington. And at night, Rap Leagues, with performances by groups including Rosetta Stoned (of which Norris is a part), wraps the fest. That event takes the freestyle battle concept to next-level heights: Norris, who studied computer science in college, will try to fuse elements of fantasy football and role-playing.

Cake & Kisses is 9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. today. Asylum, 2471 18th St. NW. Mindpower is 8-11 p.m. tomorrow at Chief Ike's, 1725 Columbia Rd. NW. Both events are free; must be 21 to enter.

Hip-Hop Cinema Cafe is 2-5 p.m. Saturday at Historical Society of D.C., 801 K St. NW.; and Rap Leagues is 7 p.m.-midnight Saturday at the U-Md.'s Nyumburu Cultural Center, Route 193 and Stadium Dr.. Rap Leagues is $5 in advance, $10 at the door and to register. Both events are open to all ages. Register at http://www.dcrap.com/engage.

-- Akeya Dickson

Savor, a massive, near-Dionysian festival -- serving up craft beers and gourmet foods picked for their ability to complement the beverages -- is returning May 30 to the National Building Museum. General admission is $95. Age 21 and older only. Tickets and details at http://www.savorcraftbeer.com.

Let the scramble for tickets begin. U2 hits FedEx Field on Sept. 29 with Muse. Tickets go on sale Monday at 10 a.m. $30-$250. Visit http://www.livenation.com , Ticketmaster locations or call 202-397-7328.

Are we back in high school? Jane's Addiction and Nine Inch Nails play Merriweather Post together this spring with Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello's new band, Street Sweeper. The show is June 9; tickets are $40 to $75 and on sale now through Ticketmaster, 202-397-7328, or in person at the 9:30 club box office (call 202-265-0930).

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