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When rhymers operate at the speed of thought, hiphop is reduced to a few simple rules: Be tough, be original, be clever. That’s the romance of the sidewalk cipher, which gets thorough exposure in D.C. filmmaker Kevin Fitzgerald’s Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme, a documentary that’s part celebration and part aesthetic argument. Although his footage—which was compiled over seven years—is studded with the likes of Mos Def, Pharoahe Monch, Rakim, Tupac, and Biggie Smalls, Fitzgerald shows the most love for the underground champs, including the nimble-minded Juice, the blustery MC Supernatural, his nemesis Craig G, and other battlers from Brooklyn to South Central. They’re not mainstream stars, because their skills are difficult to put on the market (though cable TV is trying). But the flick makes the point that their fleeting, bravado-filled verbal exchanges are the hiphop nation’s primary means of grass-roots quality control. The film screens at 9:30 p.m. at Visions Cinema Bistro Lounge, 1927 Florida Ave. NW. $8. (202) 667-0090. (Joe Warminsky)