Bio: Chemistry II: Esters and Essays (Birthwrite, 2004), a remastered and revamped version of the 2002 debut by local MC PSALM ONE, sometimes sounds less like a cohesive record than a sampler of her abilities. Luckily, her skill set is enormous. An impressive shape-shifter, she can rap in double time, effortlessly dish out complex rhymes ("On and On" pairs "stressed dudes hate me" and "test-tube baby"), and shift moods smoothly--"Joe Mama" is full of braggadocio ("How many heads do I split? Only God knows / Pissin' on MCs, I got a hole where the crotch goes"), but her rhymes on "Life After Champaign County" are spaced-out and surreal. She avoids the clever punch lines and boasts about rims and Timbs that overpopulate much of mainstream hip-hop, unspooling stream-of-consciousness lines in her slightly gravelly voice with the playful abandon of a child left alone with a few dozen tubes of finger paint. And though she has an ego-inflating amount of talent, she consistently presents a lighthearted, down-to-earth persona. Last October she signed with the Minneapolis-based hip-hop label Rhymesayers, and "The Death of Frequent Flyer," her first album since the deal, is slated for the end of the year--with luck the backing of a heavyweight indie will help her get the wider recognition she deserves. --Kabir Hamid
I SELF DEVINE is a well-traveled journeyman: an LA native, he spent extended stretches in Atlanta and in Minneapolis, where he cofounded Semi.Official, the Dynospectrum, and the recently disbanded Micranots. Self Destruction (Rhymesayers), his solo debut, sounds surprisingly fresh considering he's spent nearly two decades in hip-hop; producers including Ant (Atmosphere) and Jake One (Ghostface, G Unit) contribute to its deft mix of stripped-down underground tracks and R & B-flavored commercial settings. Though Devine's had numerous near misses with success--the Micranots were signed to two labels that went under--he never sounds bitter. Instead he relates stories from his life, including his two brief jail stints, with an informed optimism and street-hardened sobriety that never come off as simplistic or naive. --Peter Margasak
I Self Devine headlines and Psalm One plays fourth; DJ Spontaneous, P.O.S. with Doomtree, and Matlock open. Wed 8/10, 8:30 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $12 in advance, $14 at the door, 18+.