Most of us are aware that rap is a genre raging with a legendary testosterone level and a lot of cooked-up beefs full of hyperbolic misogyny. A crotch-grabbing braggadocio has long dogged hip hop's heels, for better or worse. But if you think freestyle battling (the phenomenon of improvisational rhyming that usually pits one rapper against another) is solely the terrain of caustic greats like Biz Markie or KRS-One, think again. The male-dominated world of verbal warfare has often been populated by lyrical minxes like Jean Grae and Medusa, whose spontaneous dime-dropping talents reveal a craft that can't be eclipsed by booty-shaking beats. Oakland's "LIP: An All Grrrl MC Battle" gives female rappers and spoken-word poets the chance to showcase their talents by spitting off-the-cuff manifestoes. Round 1 has artists reciting original written work over randomly selected grooves; and Round 2 has them ad-libbing their flow after being given a topic. The last woman standing wins $500, studio time, and local airplay -- definitely more scintillating than a catfight. Witness the verbal chops starting at 10 p.m. at Club Anton, 428 Third St. (at Broadway), Oakland. Admission is $8-12; call (510) 595-5504 or visit www.grrrlbattle.com.
-- Nirmala Nataraj
Barr hits the circuit
Roseanne Barr graced the cover of almost every tabloid magazine during her tenure on her groundbreaking sitcom Roseanne. Surprisingly, she did this without the use of oversize sunglasses and a frail, cocaine-thin body. Bizarre, indeed. And what would happen if Roseanne shrieked out the national anthem today, like she did 15 years ago? More than public scorn, perhaps. But that act pretty much summarizes her work as a comedian: ugly controversy stemming from her brilliant comedy. She never meant to be political, merely blunt and honest in recapping her life as a housewife and woman.
Although she crashed through the looking glass of fame into nutsville (reports of multiple personalities, pre-fame prostitution, and a Tom Arnold marriage), she returns to stand-up, and you can catch the legend live starting at 8 and 10:15 p.m. this Friday and Saturday, and at 8 on Sunday, at Cobb's Comedy Club, 915 Columbus (at Mason), S.F. Admission is $27-30; call 928-4320 or visit www.cobbscomedyclub.com.
-- Brock Keeling
Sonic blasts from Japan
Like Mogwai, Japan's Mono features somber, tender guitars, recalling the sun setting in a smoky sky, perhaps during a nuclear holocaust, along with the electric anticipation of a rushing sound-wave, which hits like the hand of God when you least expect it. Things are more subdued on the band's latest, Walking Cloud, Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered and the Sun Shined, with sustained atmospheres trumping distorted barrages, but one or two bursts, notably the midsong explosion on "Halcyon (Beautiful Days)," will have you seeing your maker when Mono plays live. The Drift and Bellini open at 10 p.m. at the Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Missouri), S.F. Admission is $10; call 621-4455 or visit www.bottomofthehill.com.
-- Michael Leaverton
The Booze Explosion
"What ever happened to H. Rap Brown?" screams John Wilkes Booze in "White Guilt." (Good question: Sadly, the man who said, "Violence is as American as cherry pie," is in prison.) This Indiana band's shrieky, torn-apart rock is heavily laced with radical politics; soundwise, think Frank Black sucks helium and sings for a tight, pounding garage gang. Kool Teen! opens at 9 p.m. at Thee Parkside, 1600 17th St. (at Wisconsin), S.F. Admission is $6; call 503-0393 or visit www.theeparkside.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser