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Unfollow

The Stranger selected Unfollow as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2018,” saying that:

MC/producer Specswizard has been teaching advanced courses at the old school since before you were born. His latest subliminal, ill missive, Unfollow, continues to burnish his rep as the city’s foremost hip-hop elder statesman, a master of chill braggadocio and weirdly funky productions. EP highlight “Rap Flow Stain” is a boast track—of which there are countless—but none has sounded as sonically and lyrically distinctive as this one. The track epitomizes Specs’s uncanny ability to keep your head nodding while wondering where he scared up all these brilliantly odd sonic sources and alchemized them into the stuff of supremely blunted hip-hop dreams. And on the mic, Specs is a master of concision and derision.

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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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TS AND THE S

Released only on cassette and Bandcamp, TS and The S is a record that’s definitely worth tracking down. The Stranger describes it as “hip-hop for introverts who want to get out of their heads,” while KEXP praises the “innovative, widescreen, outer-galactic beats that sample heavily from ’70s-era psychedelic and reggae/dub records.” This collaboration came as a result of the Swan’s crate-digging in Kingston, Jamaica, and subsequent chopping and flipping of reggae into unexpected hip-hop that sounds wild and spectacular.

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Cool Mike: The Untold Story

What I love about Specswizard is how he “keeps raps organic” with a deep commitment to using vintage gear. On this six-track EP Cool Mike: The Untold Story, each song is formed from a single intriguing, looping sample, where throughout he finds small ways to change it, pulling in snippets of dialogue, environment sounds, even the clicks and clacks of the sampling machinery. The Wizard has been at this a while and his production is masterfully lo-fi. He’s “from the town where it’s drizzling…” and he’s come to show us how it’s done. “Sheets” has a beat moving at odds with verses that talk about the daily grind of excellence, while on “NHB,” he’s on a beach, drinking a Mai Tai, laughing in a flow that feels effortless, at the rest of us and our silly, quantized, auto-tuned computers.

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Golden Eagle ep

The 20 minute, six-track Golden Eagle ep from Specswizard is exactly the same length as my morning commute; this week that’s been a happy coincidence: I’ve been loving this one. “The Wizard” has an easy-speaking, back-to-basics delivery and a smoldering voice, covering topics from the fallacy of success, dissing fakers, and comic books. (All three coming together in “Giant Man vs Ant Man”) The beats recall Bomb Squad production, combining wide-ranging musical sample textures and dialogue with sirens and harsher sounds. In addition to being a talented musician, Specs is also an artist and painter, though this EP features a cover photo by fellow musician Astro King Phoenix.

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