by Rachel Siemens & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & W & lt;/span & hen you've tired of the abrasive degradation that is the signature of so much of today's mainstream hip-hop, musical relief awaits, and closer than you might think. Spokane's Freetime Synthetic raps about personal experiences as opposed to the more popular themes of contemporary hip-hop (his family rather than gang life, his poetry rather than video vixens and gold diggers), consciously evoking the positive. Rapping this intimately never sounds inauthentic, and helps dispel the notion that being "real" means being thuggish. While "there are classic things that songs are going to be about," the emcee, whose real name is Jason Corcoran, always tries to push his journey through life and music to its limit

His sound compliments this, fashioning a laid-back ambience defined by melodic rhythms overlaid with smooth and distinctive beats. The softer, liquid beats and engaging, socially conscious lyrics represent the fracturing of the West and East Coast sounds. Channeling the likes of Abyssinian Creole and Common Market, Freetime Synthetic is among those working to give our region its own thoughtful, unique Northwest sound.

He does that with his rapping, certainly. He also reps the Northwest scene as a hip-hop impresario with his now yearly series Bad Penmanship. A firm believer in the right to perform and the need for hip-hop artists to speak to their community, Corcoran and friends have worked to create a showcase for like-minded local and regional artists. Way back in the day (four years ago), when Spokane hip-hop was lacking a secure fan base, Corcoran says he felt like the rappers only had each other. After an unfortunate number of "failed shows in between," he felt Spokane was in need of something unprecedented.

So, in jumped Synthetic, creating a platform upon which local artists could stand -- Bad Penmanship. The first show was at the (now) long -- dead Detour. That first gig proved to be a rushed, under-promoted affair -- getting a spot last-minute -- but Corcoran was able to pull it off. Now, four years later, it's become an annual thing, with Corcoran and his compadres regrouping and reliving. Bringing up-and-comers with them as they go, they're honoring the past and building the future.

We're sitting on the eve of Bad Penmanship 4. Four years in, the original motivation still exists. Corcoran now also relishes the event as an "excuse to play some ... old songs". Along for the ride is Drew Slum, a musician from Portland with a sound marked by distinctive beats and layers of phat lyrical tones. Also playing are Seattleites Tulsi (who brings playful, buoyant tones and creative beats), Cursive Adonis (a master of listener engagement who spits heavy, astute rhymes), Quiz 10 (who layers socially aware lyrics pregnant with meaning over yawning, sometimes mournful melodies) and Elemental Science Project (an acutely experimental group incorporating world sounds).

Also playing are locals P-Wrecks, Amilayze, Temper T and Uncle Scams, whose work intersects at a conceptual level, each an attempt to break down and rebuild the sound. P-Wrecks is a young-sounding speak-rapper whose flows often come off as robotic. Temper T delivers a big-beat sound and uses multi-instrumentalism frequently. Uncle Scams incorporates Eastern European sounds with a particular awareness. Amilayze mixes complex tempos with electronic beats. Tranch 1, meanwhile, balances a simpler cadence with expeditiously nimble flows.

Conjuring a noise of epic proportions and dripping with uncommon talent, this gig will have unique vibrations to say the least. Freetime Synthetic will be there, of course, keeping it all in check.

Bad Penmanship 4 featuring Drew Slum, Freetime Synthetic, Cursive Adonis, Tulsi, Quiz 10, Elemental Science Project, P-Wrecks, Temper T and Uncle Scams at Prago on Saturday, March 24, at 7 pm. $7. Call 443-0404.

Sunday Fundraise @ Flatstick Pub

Sundays, 1-4 p.m. Continues through Feb. 26
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