Gamers know him as the sword-wielding, anime ally of Nintendo hero Mega Man. But to local hip-hop heads, Protoman is one of South Florida's new crop of talented underground rappers. Part of the close-knit Audio Thrift Shop posse, Proto slings intensely articulate rhymes over jazzy, old-schoolish boom-bap and forward-leaning distorted electronics. While he's not as esoteric as most backpack-rocking MCs, he certainly isn't rapping about the manhole-cover-sized rims on his platinum-plated Hummer either. Which lands the kid comfortably in an accessible middle ground that allows humor, talent, and integrity to coexist. He's set to drop his first CD, Analog, and the April 14 release party features a great lineup of the area's best underground MCs. "I really think hip-hop saved my life," Proto writes on his MySpace page. "I know it's kind of cliche, but I honestly feel that way." Word.

Protoman's Analog release party, featuring Real Life Dialects, the Second Hand Outfit, the Leftovas, Fusik, and more, begins at 9 p.m. Friday, April 14, at Sonny's Stardust Lounge, 5181 Powerline Rd., Fort Lauderdale. Admission is $10 and includes a copy of Analog. Call 954-776-6082.

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Jonathan Zwickel