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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).

Easing down the road, brilliant songwriter/eccentric Bonnie "Prince" Billy (a.k.a. Will Oldham) makes a rare local appearance, at the Birchmere. Tickets for his May 23 show are $22.50. 202-397-7328 or http://www.birchmere.com.

The District

Nightlife A Spring Fling

The downtown art gallery Civilian Art Projects is throwing a fundraiser at Local 16 tonight and it's bringing the art along -- expect video projections by Robin Bell, Luke Wyatt and Kate MacDonnell, in addition to DJs (Kalani, Neville C., Damu the Fudgemunk and others). We'd say it's a good excuse to take to a rooftop bar and see art. Cover is $10 (food is included; there will be drink specials). 6:30-11 p.m. 1602 U St. NW. Visit http://www.civilianartprojects.com.

The District

Exhibit Phillips After 5

Get context for understanding the Phillips Collection's "Morandi: Master of Modern Still Life" -- because still lifes don't seem to have the cutting-edge quality of, say, dead sharks in tanks -- tonight at the gallery's monthly evening event. At 6:30, hear Apartment Zero co-owner Douglas Burton talk about the work of industrial designers (the folks who create all those candlesticks, vases and useful objets of the sort you see in the paintings). Also on tap: a tour of the show, Italian wine tasting, and jazz and Latin duo Unstrung. $12; students and seniors, $10; 18 and younger, free. 5-8:30 p.m. Phillips Collection, 1600 21st St. NW. 202-387-2151 or http://www.phillipscollection.org.

Maryland

"One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest"

Round House Theatre takes on Ken Kesey's tale of a rebellious patient at a mental institution who rallies the ward to stand up against a domineering nurse and the system itself. Best for age 16 and older. $25-$60; ages 30 and younger, $10. Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.; Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 p.m.; also at 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Through April 26. 4545 East West Hwy., Bethesda. 240-644-1100.

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