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Mr. Lexicon reminds us that rap can be smart and funny; the crew that produces News Breakz brings the jams; the Last Poets deliver classic agitprop -- and a writing workshop

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Hailing from a country of "undisclosed origin" and issuing scathing critiques of American international policy in the name of "foreign rap," the Bay Area's Mr. Lexicon -- Iced Grille, Tex Binder, and Ron Pipes III -- would appear to be the latest entry into the conscious rap scene. But it's hard to take these guys that seriously. With pasted-on handlebar mustaches, tight cheesy outfits, and an album cover that depicts them wandering in from the ocean, the hip-hoppers bear a closer resemblance to the character of Borat from Da Ali G Show than they do Public Enemy's Chuck D. Despite the initial confusion, though, it's nice to see someone injecting humor into the all-too-serious political spectrum, and once these guys disarm you with a laugh, they'll beat you over the head with their Chomsky-inspired lyricism. It doesn't hurt that a Mr. Lexicon live show is endlessly engaging and draws from the unfermented (and at times self-destructive) energy of the Stooges. Catch the trio when it shares a bill with the diverse sounds of Beatropolis and Broken Family on Thursday, Feb. 10, at Studio Z; call 252-7666 or go to for more info. -- Sam Chennault

DJs Smoove and Donna Matrix (who has one of the best monikers maybe ever) are part of the crew that produces News Breakz, a cheeky photocopied zine about breakbeat music from an S.F. perspective that's distributed at select parties. With it and their bottom-heavy grooves, they are championing a grass-roots form of communication not seen in the dance scene here for a good decade. They'll bring their title plus their funky-as-heck record bags when they host their next jam session on Friday, Feb. 11, at Mighty; call 626-7001 or visit -- Tamara Palmer

Umar bin Hassan and Abiodun Oyewole may have called themselves the Last Poets, but we know them as the world's first conscious rappers. Formed while in prison for dodging the Vietnam draft, the Poets made a name for themselves bluntly addressing the era's most divisive racial issues. Songs such as "Niggers Are Scared of Revolution" and "When the Revolution Comes" are considered classic agitprop. And while much has been made of the fact that their socially conscious "rap" prefigured hip hop by a good five years, an even clearer descendant can be found in the slam poetry circuit. After all, their inflammatory, Black Nationalist rhetoric sounds alien to many of today's hip hop ears. That they're appearing on a new single with Common (the conscious rapper who shills for Coca-Cola) and Kanye West (aka your mother's favorite rapper) signals that the times may be changing. Before you go to their show at Punch Gallery this Sunday, Feb. 13, be sure to check out the Poets' writers' workshop at the Youth Speaks Literary Arts Center; go to for more info. -- Sam Chennault

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