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Long May We Rain

Taylor Hart from West Coast cannabis hip-hop site Respect My Region selected Long May We Rain as one of the very best Northwest albums from 2020, saying:

AJ Suede is anything but a stagnant artist. He’s a swiftly flowing river of creativity whose songs reflect on the exact moment of time and season at which they were released. This year alone we’ve seen five albums from him. His third project of the year, Long May We Rain, being released in May.

Long May We Rain captures the essence of that time when spring transitions into summer. Things are still kind of wet, but the sun is starting to warm up and shine more often. It reflects on the pandemic and the protests that sparked, at that time, following the murder of George Floyd. I feel like Suede knows that there is beauty in simplicity and it shows through on this album. He didn’t have to pull any frills out of his sleeves, just gave us some straight-up bars over chill ass beats.

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Long May We Rain / Lost Gems

Here’s a split vinyl of quarantine protest jams from two Seattle heavy-hitters: AJ Suede & Specswizard. Both artists were inspired by 2020’s Black Lives Matter protests, mask-wearing, and stay-at-home orders to produce boom-bap tunes that could only exist in the 21st Century.

The Seattle Times picked AJ Suede’s brilliant Long May We Rain as one of the best albums of 2020, while Insomniac magazine praises the “next level lyricism.” On the flip side of this cross-generational split LP, you’ll find the vinyl-only Lost Gems project from Specswizard, a veteran of Seattle’s scene, who’s released dozens of albums and EPs since his start in 1988.

The familiar sound of buzzing amps and tape hiss makes way for major-key soul turned into pensive bangers. Specswizard’s low, late-night-in-the-living-room baritone conjures the feeling of recording in a cramped apartment while the neighbors are sleeping. Still, the beats knock like side doors and his narratives hover like heavy rain and cumulus clouds of weed smoke.

Together, these two records provide a powerhouse portrait of Black life in the American Northwest today.

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I'm The One

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Finesse The Cube

Finesse The Cube is one of several 2019 releases from the prolific AJ Suede. His relaxed, shoot-the-shit talk-rap grounds the often drumless production from BB Sun, Wolftone, and Khrist Koopa. It plays as though you’re walking around town together, with Suede casually discussing Seattle gentrification, WikiLeaks, Star Wars and The Matrix with you. Insomniac Magazine says these songs “wake up heads worldwide.” The self-aware seven-syllable rhymes and clever local criticism result in one of my favorite lyrics of the year: “You’re living in a bucket that’s full of crustaceans.”

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Darth Sueder

Darth Sueder is AJ Suede’s fourth EP of 2018, and every single one of them is great. KEXP says his work “possesses an intimate understanding of blackness as a radical act… A world always overcast, full of judgemental eyes, billowing smoke, self-medication… esoteric and unreliant on the standards of hip-hop,” becoming “glittering, hollowed out, and dreamlike.” Candy Drips calls this project “cohesive and bar-heavy,” while Harvard radio station WHRB applauds his “whip-smart lyricism” expressing “grit, of clenched teeth and white knuckles.”

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Gotham Fortress

Gotham Fortress, from AJ Suede, is a bold statement, an abrasive face-punch of certainty, punk-rap, chant-rap, looping, hypnotic, otherworldly. Throughout the upbeat pop-chorus of “Rain on The Parade,” he raps, “Fuck the competition, leave their bodies in the rain.” The restrained, resigned piano line found on “Gas Light” is inhabited by those waterlogged and distant vengeful ghosts who come ever closer. Remember that feeling of possession a few tracks later when you’re jumping on your furniture, shouting at the top of your lungs through the hardcore numbers, “Crypto Currency” and “Iconoclast.” This mixtape plucks you from your comfortable room and shoves you straight through the mirror to an underworld place stark, dream-like, nightmarish. Wunderkind producer Wolftone supplies the empty sports stadiums and the distant phantom cheering, rendering them as physical and tangible. AJ Suede’s versatility as a vocalist is on display throughout, reminding us: “I. Don’t. Waste. Any. Rhymes.” Participants in the haunting are some of the city’s buzziest collaborators: DoNormaal, Brakebill, Raven Hollywood, Crimewave, and youngster jiji. This record mines deep ore, revealing vital hip-hop hardly ready for the casket. These are zombies waiting at the gate.

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SUPASUEDE EP

I first saw AJ Suede perform in a packed, sweaty basement that violated most—if not all—fire codes, and he was a revelation. The intensity of that live show and the frenzy of his thrash-punk rap had the room moving like a single organism undergoing cathartic release. The four-song SUPASUEDE EP, with Supa SortaHuman and produced by Wolftone, offers a tiny taste of that experience, opening with contemplative piano lines, and then turning the dial up a notch with every bar. Pay careful attention to the killer rolling bassline in “Sad Piano,” the Drake references in the introspective “Real Tree” and the counterpoint flow in “Four.” AJ Suede’s just dropped a full-length called Gotham Fortress. Go check that out, too.

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