Breakfast of Champions 3/31: Mary Oliver, bikini-clad dancers and battle rappers



I went to the Twin Cities Battle League intending to blog about it this morning, and I suppose that's just what I'm doing. But this post is going to be shorter than the in-depth review I had planned.

That's not because the event wasn't off the hook, because it was, or that there weren't compelling characters there, because there were.

Battling is a big part of hip-hop culture and history. Battles are also a way for truly underground freestylers to be heard and to gain a following. In two rounds -- one 45 second blast, one minute-long round -- two rappers go at each other with an array of impromptu boasts and disses. At the end of the night, one MC is crowned the winner. He or she qualifies for the final, which will be held this summer.

I did some fun interviews with competitors -- victorious and, um, otherwise -- judges, spectators and event organizers. I was going to write that up today. But this is just round two of five. I think it makes sense to follow this a while, get to know the people involved better, and do something bigger, later. So I think some brief notes now and a longer post after the dust clears is in order.

Start with the slideshow, which gives you the Cliff's Notes on the evening. Then, check out some MP3s from the rhymes of Illab, the evening's champion. Here's a short clip of one of the night's best disses, and this longer rhyme where Illab takes on Mike Starks' skinny frame and Lake Street roots. You can also see videos at the Twin Cities Battle League MySpace page.

So, what else is fresh from the weekend? A ton.

One of the Twin Cities' most well-respected dance companies held a bikini fashion show as a fundraiser, and Carl Atiya Swanson was there. We also have photos by Daniel Corrigan.

On the other side of the art spectrum -- from the physical to the spoken, the visual to the written -- here's a recap of poet Mary Oliver's reading last night at the State Theatre. And it's testament to the busy weekend that Jordan Selbo's review of the Lightning & Thunder CD release party on Saturday has already rolled off the front page.

If you haven't already, check out Beth Walton's heartbreaking Reporter's Notebook for "The Soldier Suicides."

Checked out Complicated Fun lately? Peter Scholtes has a list of his Top 20 Music Videos that's interesting reading and viewing.

Oba-mentum: Amy Klobuchar endorses Barack Obama.

In the mood for something grisly? Watch the video of Wild defenseman Kurtis Foster's fibula fracturing fiasco. After that, calm down with Twins blogger Judd Spicer's MLB season preview.