Desmond Gecho is a busy man. He calls himself a producer, a hip-hop organizer of sorts. In the past few months, the Vancouver, Wash., native has helped move an informal, outdoor gathering of would-be rappers to a more formal indoor venue. He's built a buzz about it without spending a penny on promotion. Not bad for a kid who just got his driver's license.

That's right--Gecho's 16 years old. And he's on a mission.

The mission to build something--and this something has to do with a hip-hop renaissance for the kids.

Just before 5 o'clock on most Wednesday afternoons, Gecho piles his friends into his car and heads downtown. For months, the destination was under the Morrison Bridge. Since November, it's been the Backspace, a coffeeshop-meets-art gallery that straddles the Pearl District and Old Town.

He moved the Wednesday-night gathering to the Backspace primarily because of weather. "It was getting cold," he says. The move may have been to avoid inclement weather, but Gecho's also helping legitimize a crucial aspect of hip-hop culture. The name of the event, "Microphone Fiends," is an homage to Eric B and Rakim's old-school rap song, and the night is, in essence, an homage to old-school street rapping and a time when ciphers--informal rapping circles of MCs--ruled.

Entering the Backspace, you're more likely to hear the MCs before you see them. That's because the event's held in the back room--a rectangular box set behind the cafe's computer terminals and comfy couches. It's stark white walls host bright, abstract paintings--and no tables or chairs. The lack of seating suggests this isn't the place for spectators but for participants, people who want to be a part of something.

Each week, the boom of the bass and the pitch of the rappers gets a little louder. At the last cipher, the group reached 30 in number. Not all participated with rhymes--standing by and lending an ear is participation enough--and not all of these rhymers are slick wordsmiths. The level of sophistication and talent varies, and the prevailing feeling is that this is a night for amateurs to sharpen their craft.

What's more impressive, though, is the age of the rappers. The night's turntablist, DJ Twelvizm, estimates the median age of the participants to hover at 18. Organizer Gecho knows from experience there aren't many places where the underage crowd can gather, especially in the winter. So does Twelvizm: most of his DJ residences occur at bars--places many of these rappers won't see for years.

As for the Wednesday-night ciphers, there's no need to worry about the temperature inside the Backspace: Things are heating up just fine.



Mission Theatre and Pub

As close to Houston as you're gonna get: The Mission Theatre boasts a gigantic screen and multilevel seats as uncomfortable as the ones in a real stadium.

Mission Theatre and Pub, 1624 NW Glisan St., 223-4527. Open at 2 pm. 21+.


Boom Boom Room

Why choose? At the Boom Boom Room on Super Bowl Sunday, strippers and football coexist. One might call it the "Stripper Bowl XXX."

Boom Boom Room, 8345 SW Barbur Blvd., 244-7630. 2 pm-2 am. One drink minimum. 21+.


Overlook Family Restaurant

If you can't stand watching the game at home but still appreciate its comforts, the Overlook boasts multiple fireplaces to help you get all warm and fuzzy.

Overlook Family Restaurant, 1332 N Skidmore St., 288-0880. Game time 3 pm. Restaurant all ages, bar 21+.


Etcetera Tavern

This Northeast Killingsworth tav's got all the fixings to make this a great game-day stop: lots of screens, free popcorn and a Ping-Pong table (in case the game's a wash).

Etcetera Tavern, 3276 NE Killingsworth St., 282-2411. Game time 3 pm. 21+.



Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard's most reliable sports pub boasts a super-low-slung bar, a hefty menu of greasy favorites (go for the bacon cheeseburger) and some of the coolest chairs in town.

Claudia's, 3006 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 233-7243. Game time 3 pm. 21+.

outer southeast

Vic's Tavern

The Pride of Milwaukie celebrates game day with free pizza and a potluck. Be there.

Vic's Tavern, 10901 SE McLoughlin Blvd., Milwaukie, 653-9156. 1 pm. 21+.

way, way out there

Mr. B's

Don't be fooled by the cutesy name--Mr. B's is a badass truckers bar. Catch the game with the "life is a highway" crowd and get in on the BBQ gorgefest.

Mr. B's, 790 NW Frontage Road, Troutdale, 661-0575 ext. 519. Game time 3 pm. 21+.

Backspace, 115 NW 5th Ave., 248-2900. 5:30 pm Wednesdays. All ages.