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Whatever / Overstandings

This split 12″ is the first vinyl release from Beyond Reality and the first post-Blahzay Blah outing from Source of Labor. Beyond Reality’s side features the track “Whatever”, with a hook provided by Felicia Loud. The “Moonlight Remix” of “Whatever” is in my opinion the stronger of the two, which is a sedated, dark trippy gem. On the flip side, Source of Labor represents with the track “Overstandings”, along with its also superior “Wetlands Remix”. What can I say, I’ve always been a fan of the b-side. With this release, Kylea proves to be one of Seattle’s dopest MCs of her era; her flow is impeccably even and on point. In contrast, Wordsayer’s flow is on the dense side, and without Blah he tends to crowd the track a little bit. But he’s an emcee who’s always had a lot to say, and his flow is perfect for his message. Negus I, who produced nearly all the tracks, has always been a dope producer – I love his work with BR and SOL, and consider him one of the best beatmakers out there. He certainly doesn’t disappoint here – Especially the “Moonlight Remix”, which I think is one of his best tracks. Source of Labor, unfortunately, folded after their 2000 album, Stolen Lives. Wordsayer has been successful in managing some notable talent in the new crop of 206 hip-hop, but I can’t find any information on what Negus I has been doing. I sincerely hope he’s still making music. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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A Souls Journey

In the early 1990s, a music and art collective named Jasiri Media Group began to appear on the Seattle rap scene. Jasiri’s first musical release was a 1995 self-titled four-song cassette from Source Of Labor, which began with a track called “Come With We.” Later that year Source Of Labor dropped a three-song vinyl Maxi Single/E.P. titled Sureshotsingles, featuring a remix of “Come With We” with a verse from an MC named Kylea. Kylea soon formed a group called Beyond Reality with another performer named Shelin. Beyond Reality released two 12″ singles on Jasiri, “Whatever” in 1997 and “IReality” in 1998. By 2001, Jasiri was the most influential rap label in Seattle by far and began holding weekly rap gatherings at the Sit & Spin laundry in Belltown. On Easter Sunday, 2001 the Beyond Reality live hip-hop performance at Sit & Spin was recorded and subsequently released as a CD titled The Revival.

2007’s A Souls Journey falls at the end of the Beyond Reality recording career, and it is a perfect exclamation point capping Kylea’s important body of work. The liner notes are a celebration of Kylea’s family with a lot of sepia-tone childhood photos which set a mood of reflection and heritage. Beyond Reality enlists one of Seattle’s top producers on A Souls Journey, the legendary BeanOne. Kuddie and Bubba also make appearances. Bean’s work on the beats is excellent, two highlights are the upbeat track “The 1-2” with its sticky scratching, and the more laid back “Souls Journey” which creates a big sound with horn blasts.

Lyrically there’s no question that Kylea is among the top MCs to ever come from Seattle. She uses a variety of styles to deliver her message of true empowerment. Every track has lyrics that remind you to try your hardest and do your best. Kylea wants you to know your American history, both the good and the bad. Her raps about “knowledge of self” can serve as positive daily affirmations. It’s very different from rap by the top women MCs of 2022 like Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, and Megan Thee Stallion. Those artists made explicit sex a huge part of their brands. Kylea’s style and subject matter were literally the opposite of this, and therefore A Souls Journey can be enjoyed by any age group without shame. It is a beautiful and timeless hip-hop album. (Written by Novocaine132.)

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The Revival

Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. For example, check this great live document I slept on. The group is Seattle’s Beyond Reality, playing a hype show from way back in April 2001.

Back then, Source of Labor’s Wordsayer (also the business and romantic partner of Beyond Reality’s Kylea) used to put on a weekly hip-hop workshop and jam session at the local live venue Sit n’ Spin, called Sureshot Sundays. Every Sunday afternoon, the local hip-hop community would congregate at the cafe/club/laundromat(!) to spin, break, emcee, and just get together.

Being the shut-in hermit that I am, I regrettably never attended, although I used to try to screw up my courage every Sunday to head on down the hill from my apartment to the Belltown spot to get my muddy-ass beat tape heard.

However, since I was just starting out I felt like I’d be in over my head amidst all the “true” hip-hoppers…. like I said earlier about hindsight…

In any case, Sureshot Sundays closed up shop probably a decade ago now, but this release is a snapshot of what it must have been like. Kylea is joined on the decks by Topspin and Kamikaze, and Wordsayer joins on the mic here and there. Incredibly live and overflowing with solidarity and positivity (not to mention the stellar flows of Kylea), this album just makes me regret more not getting my burned-out ass down the hill to the Sit n’ Spin to be a part of it all. It’s a dope record, full of tracks never released otherwise, in professional sound quality.

Beyond Reality was supposedly set to drop a studio record in 2001, and as far as I know that never actually happened. Apart from a few early singles and compilation cuts, and the 2008 A Soul’s Journey CD, this is as close as you get to the classic BR sound. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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IReality

Kylea comes out strong on this slab of hot wax from 1998. Blessed with one of the smoothest voices in hip-hop, she could be found all over Rain City releases for years, from 14 Fathoms to Choked Up to Stolen Lives–and often times I felt her guest appearances outshone the featured artist. With an impeccable delivery and imagery-filled lyrics, she is definitely an artist in command of her art. This collaborative 12″ features two stellar tracks from Kylea with Negus I on beats (two of his best, in my opinion), and an additional track by Source Of Labor. The A-side, “I reality”, has to be one of my all-time favorite Northwest tracks without a doubt. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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