The 10th annual D.C. Hip-Hop Theater Festival begins and ends with events for the purists: an “Old School Hip-Hop Jam” at Marvin on July 11 and a night of battle raps and break dancing on July 16 at St. Stephen’s Church. Both events are gratis.

Hip-hop’s a lifestyle more than a genre, so the entire festival is a tribute to its evolving history. Highlights include a free July 12 dance class at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage featuring choreographer Maija Garcia (“Fela on Broadway!”) and the free July 13 concert “OKAYAFRICA: Hip-Hop From the African Diaspora” featuring Tabi Bonney; Maimouna Youssef, shown; and Bajah + the Dry Eye Crew.

The plays “Seed” at Arena Stage (free, July 13-14) and “Word Becomes Flesh” ($20, July 15 &16) are the fest’s centerpieces, but the July 12 “J Dilla Annual Benefit Concert” is its heart: The beloved producer died in 2006 at age 32, and D.C.’s finest rappers will honor J Dilla — and hip-hop — with a night of his pioneering music.

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Check out for full festival details, and stream music by Maimouna Youssef at

Photo courtesy soulbounce