Critic's Choice for the week of May 25-31, 2005 

Our writers tell you what's hot this week.

BIG-SHOT DJS

Back when the members of Oakland Faders started cutting it up on the ones and twos, Brian McKnight and Betty Boo had the hit songs on the radio. Now, years after the four-man crew -- DJs Platurn, Joe Quixx, Mere, and Spair -- started digging for records at Ashby Flea Market, the Faders are garnering awards for creative mixing and musicianship. Most recently, they staked first place in the 2004 Scion "Free Up Your Mix" contest. Come celebrate this Thursday at Two for the Time, a showcase featuring the Faders, 4onefunk, and DJ Zeph. The show kicks off at 9:30 p.m. at SF's DNA Lounge. $7. DNALounge.com (Rachel Swan)

UNDERGROUND FLOWMASTERS

It's a testament to Jean Grae's persona that she, unlike most female MCs, isn't selling sex. While she is cute enough to be considered a dimepiece, you won't find her descending to Lil Kim or Foxy Brown-like depths in her rhymes. Grae -- formerly known as What What, from late-'90s underground NYC group Natural Resource -- has been called the Big Apple's best-kept secret, and while she has yet to make a definitively classic album, you'd be a fool to sleep on her skills. She has crazy flow and catches mad wreck on the m-i-c, and it's something of a coup that of all the places Grae could be playing locally Saturday night, she'll be at the relatively low-profile Oakland spidot 2232 MLK, home of b-boys and girls, graf artists, and true hip-hop heads. Score another one for the subculture, and get there early, so you won't miss opening acts Jennifer Johns, Sol Rebelz, Bumbalo, Theory, Bleez, and J. Myers. Prophet and DJ Sokrates host. $10, 8 p.m. (Eric K. Arnold)

FAT FETES

It's that time of year ... Carnaval time in San Francisco, that is. "Wait a minute," you might be saying. "Didn't Caribbean Carnival happen back in February? So why is SF's now?" Well, it's like this: During the festivities, dancers (both male and female) generally wear as little as possible, and it's hella too cold in the wintertime to even think about sporting something skimpy. Anyhoo, this year's extravaganza takes course over two full days of music (Caribbean, Brazilian, Mexican, and more), dance, song, and general merriment, beginning 10 a.m. Saturday (on Harrison St., between 16th and 24th sts.), and going until sundown on Sunday. The Grand Parade -- a must-see spectacle of various floats, dance troupes, bands, and whatnot -- begins Sunday at 9:30 a.m. at 24th and Bryant. It's much more than a block party -- it's a full-blown fete. 415-920-0125. (E.K.A.)

SURREALIST POP

The eclectic, enigmatic Anticon artist known as Why? is evidently fond of weaving references to East Bay landmarks into his sonic surrealism -- his new EP, Sanddollars, slips shout-outs to Piedmont flower shops and Broadway Auto Row into his oddly but warmly crafted tunes, which mix time-honored Anticon weirdness with surprisingly sunny pop smarts. He brings his full band to SF's Bottom of the Hill Saturday night for a head-scratching/nodding hoedown. The equally splendid Half-Handed Cloud and Restiform Bodies open up. $8, 10 p.m. BottomoftheHill.com (Rob Harvilla)

SOULFUL JAZZ

Currently, guitarist Anthony Wilson is best known for touring with jazz diva Diana Krall, but he is a great player, composer, arranger, and bandleader in his own right. The son of legendary Los Angeles big band leader Gerald Wilson, Anthony writes intriguing melodies with advanced jazz harmonies that emphasize counterpoint, dynamics, and soul. He makes a rare Bay Area appearance tonight at Yoshi's, leading a nonet featuring trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos. $16 (8 p.m.) or $10 (10 p.m.). 510-238-9200 or Yoshis.com (Jesse "Chuy" Varela)

CLASSIC RAP

Poor Righteous Teachers, or PRT for short, are easily the best pro-black Islamic hip-hop trio ever to emerge from Trenton, New Jersey. Surfacing out of Brick City in time for the crest of the now-fabled Afrocentric wave of the early '90s, PRT contributed a catalogue's worth of conscious rap classics in a three-album span, including "Rock Dis Funky Joint" and one of the all-time positive sistah anthems, "Shakiyla." They've been on the down-low for a minute, but with the ongoing revival of classic rap (and the dearth of good new groups), it was only a matter of time before famed MC Wise Intelligent and his cohorts Culture Freedom and Father Shaheed dusted off the Africa medallions and the dreaded "stumma step" style. Bonus 120 degrees of knowledge if you request "Holy Intellect" Friday night at SF's Club 6. $10-$15, 9 p.m. ClubSix1.com (E.K.A.)

EXPERIMENTAL JAZZ

St. Louis native Oliver Lake is best known for his storied tenure in the World Saxophone Quartet, a precedent-setting group that taps the polyrhythmic energy of the African diaspora. New York trumpeter Paul Smoker is a virtuosic improviser and composer whose sound ranges from hot, bright, pinpoint-sharp, and lyrical to cool, dark, splattered, and ferocious. These world-class jazz vets team up with the Bay Area's own titans Lisle Ellis (bass) and Scott R. Looney (piano) for a single night of dynamic improvisation Saturday at Oakland's 1510 8th St. Performance Space. $16-$20, 8 p.m. 510-893-2840. (Sam Prestianni)

BLUES FOR THE SCHOOLS

The Robert Cray Band's eclectic influences -- rock, jazz, soul, and a touch of ska -- have made them one of the top blues bands in the land, known for truly incendiary live performances. Austin's Marcia Ball, meanwhile, is known for her fierce keyboard attack, her uninhibited vocal style, and a far-ranging musical curiosity equal to Cray's. They're joining up Thursday at 8 p.m. in SF's Herbst Theatre for a Music in the Schools Today benefit. $38.50-$60. 415-392-4400 or CityBoxOffice.com (j. poet)

BUMMERS

David Bazan, he of Pedro the Lion fame, remains the most dourly beautiful singer of his mopey indie-rockin' generation, cataloguing life's devastations and mere disappointments in a glorious, rock-solid baritone. Now he has a new band with Pedro cohort TW Walsh -- Headphones won't shock anyone, but it has a slightly more fluid, electronic feel, sorta like the difference between Sebadoh and Folk Implosion. The 'Phones hit Cafe du Nord in SF Monday with the Crystal Skulls. $12, 8 p.m. CafeduNord.com (R.H.)

CLASSICAL

Though there's no shame in spending your entertainment dollars on upcoming big-shot gigs by the fabulous Broadway diva Audra McDonald or jazz phenomenon Kurt Elling, those desiring more traditional fare need look no further than the Novello String Quartet. To commemorate the bicentenary of Luigi Boccherini's death, the talented Novellos are joined by cellist William Skeen, violist Katherine Kyme, and oboist Debra Nagy for quintets by Boccherini and Mozart Saturday in Berkeley's Trinity Chapel ($8-$12, 8 p.m.) and Sunday in the Berkeley Arts Center ($8-$10, 7:30 p.m.). 415-794-1100. (Jason Victor Serinus)

MULTIMEDIA

Recalling the "happenings" of the '60s when visual art mixed with music, two of the East Bay's most expressive musicians -- violinist Carla Kihlstedt and clarinetist Ben Goldberg -- lead their own bands, then collaborate to the accompaniment of projections of artist Molly Barker's work Friday night at Berkeley's Starry Plough. Kihlstedt's group, 2 Foot Yard, features cellist Marika Hughes and drummer Shazad Ismaily performing her compositions and songs; Goldberg's Plays Monk trio features bassist Devin Hoff and drummer Scott Amendola. Then both ensembles unite to play their leaders' compositions, with a slide show of Barker's artwork projected behind them. 9:30 p.m. 510-841-2082 or StarryPloughPub.com (Larry Kelp)

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