One of the key figures behind the "Dirty South" movement that has taken hold of mainstream rap is an unheralded white guy with a country western background. Mike Dean has helped to craft some of the most unique sounds in rap — from Houston's Scarface to L.A.'s Kurupt — while serving as in-house producer for local titan Rap-A-Lot Records. He brought along a deep stable of Houston rappers; he worked with Tupac; he produced the latest offerings from Kanye West and The Game. Dean's style is eclectic and effusive, and hard to generalize, except by his wide-ranging and continuous success.

Stages Repertory Theatre

A musical about two old cat ladies bitching at each other endlessly in annoying accents? Doesn't sound like a great idea. Even if you toss in the facts that it's based on a true story, the two eccentric recluses were related to Jackie O, and one dated Joe Kennedy, Jr. But Stages' production of Grey Gardens was the marvel of the season, and audiences couldn't get enough of it. Nancy Johnston and Susan O. Koozin nailed their roles, and director Kenn McLaughlin somehow made you forget just how claustrophobic the area he had to work with was. Stages extended the production's run, added as many shows as it could, and still attracted sellout crowds.

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