A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Seven Deadly Sins

Darkset is a notorious Seattle rap group which released its debut album Krakker Bashin on compact disc in 1993. Krakker Bashin represented the finest in violent gangsta rap, with subject matter ranging from revenge to racism to gang warfare. Highlight tracks included “The Rain” and “Step To The Madness.” Two years later in 1995, their second album Seven Deadly Sins came out on both cassette (pictured here) and CD. Brother Frost, DJ Pace, I Double L, MC Bear the Kodiak, and producer Kevin Gardner combine to give you more of that raw, deadly, murder rap, straight from the Central District.

“Snitch N****” deftly creates a doom-filled musical soundscape. The lyrics set the theme for the rest of the album, basically don’t be a rat. They warn anyone “f***ing with the 98122” to beware. The atonal-sounding “Madman” has a rousing chorus with hard drums and dancehall-chant vibes. The rhymes are about how Darkset has no chill, and they are always ready for a fight. “Never shall I sleep when the enemy is stalking, I creep down Emerald Street, cut a throat and keep walking,” is a good example.

I think my favorite track on the album is “Friends And Enemies.” It begins with Malcom X’s 1965 speech at Ford Auditorium, then chops the chorus live in front of our eyes. The stark beat carries a measured urgency, possibly because its minimal nature lets the lyrics shine. The gossamer bassline hovers below the cut like an aura, and every time the chorus comes back I get goosebumps hearing Malcolm’s voice.

Later in the album, “Settrippin” is a haunting, slow burner about drive-by shootings and riding for your crew. Once again, Darkset reps hard for the 98122 zip code. “Central Hy Way” is sentimental and reflective sounding, all about puffing chronic and living the life. Darkset, while far from one-dimensional, adhere very closely to their brand of kidnapping, killing, and revenge on most tracks. But every now and then a song like “Central Hy Way” peeks through with a look at the different, less stressful aspects of life. The title track “Seven Deadly Sins” is dope, but it commits one small sin, it’s too long. The meandering last two minutes of the track leave me waiting for an ending that never arrives. “Seven Deadly Sins” would be a lot stronger if it was a tight five minutes, in my opinion. One of many skits on this four-dimensional album, “Crime Of Passion” is a long narrative interlude which includes contributions from co-producer/manager Robert Redwine and singer Richard Lowery.

Movies like New Jack City by Mario Van Peebles or Menace II Society by the Hughes brothers are critically acclaimed despite their graphic violence and killing. The entertainment industry sees these directors as geniuses because they illustrated the darkness of which the human heart is capable. Explicit rap artists on the other hand are rarely revered as literary heroes, instead they are often banned for their crude, deplorable depictions of street life. I would place Darkset in the same category as Van Peebles or the Hughes brothers. Seven Deadly Sins is a Grammy-worthy opera of violence for any who dare to experience it. Written by Novocaine132

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Krakker Bashin

N.W.A.’s 1988 record Straight Outta Compton changed the world, and in 1991 they came back even harder with their second and final album Efil4zaggin. Rolling Stone writer Jonathan Gold penned a good piece in 1993 noting that Efil4zaggin was clearly in a class of its own due to being a sonic masterpiece, yet the awful, violent, homophobic, and misogynistic content had become exponentially worse. “Many observers thought gangsta rap had reached its pinnacle with the brilliant though unlistenable Efil4zaggin,” begins one of my favorite sentences in the essay. N.W.A. were not alone in this genre, indeed they were joined by other horrorcore groups like Geto Boys, Gravediggaz, Brotha Lynch Hung, and Seattle’s Darkset.

Darkset was a crew composed of first generation Seattle hip-hop artists who had been there since the beginning. John “Frostmaster Chill” Funches and his brother Anthony “DJ Pace” Funches had both become involved in rap music as soon as it was a thing. Shedra “I Double L” Manning from the Strictly Wicked And Treacherous crew was another heavy hitter MC who joined. And for additional royalty, Eddie “Sugar Bear” Wells from Emerald Street Boys was also part of Darkset, changing his name to MC Bear The Kodiac. Fifth member Shan Dog was a hype man for the group. Additionally, Kevin Gardner provided studio and recording expertise, as well as beat work.

Placed among the more explicit tracks on Krakker Bashin that will never make the radio, “50 Wayz” (featuring Bryan Hatfield), “Police B****,” “Krakker Bashin,” “Dope Man’s B****,” and others, there are two tracks I would like to highlight, “Step To The Madness,” and “The Rain.” First, “Step To The Madness” is a thing of beauty in a somewhat unforgiving listening landscape. The beat sounds minimal compared to the ‘wall of sound’ production style found on so many tracks here. And second, epic cinematic journey “The Rain” is more of an experience than just a song. Absurdly it’s six minutes and forty-four seconds long, but due to some Chris Nolan-esque creative composition and structure, including moments of dead silence, “The Rain” remains interesting from start to finish.

Darkset could be called the most old-school connected Seattle rap group in the ’90s. In fact, Krakker Bashin was executive produced by none other than James “Captain Crunch” Croone, another member of Emerald Street Boys. The new label was called CD Raised Records, and two years later it would drop a hood classic titled Really Cheat’n by Squeek Nutty Bug. Jonathan Gold might also find Krakker Bashin “brilliant though unlistenable,” but its explicit elements shouldn’t prevent people from making their own opinions. This is a powerful album and it will not appeal to everybody, but freedom of speech protects the right of Darkset to shock and offend. Written by Novocaine132

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