A film about Northwest hip-hop from 1998
“S.E.L.F.” was released in 1998 by one of Tacoma’s greatest hip-hop groups, Bedroom Produksionz, the duo of DJ Sayeed and Kindu Shabazz. (The two would become Black Anger on tracks in collaboration with MC E-Real.) Personally, I love this group, their music, and their overarching philosophy. Let me explain why: Each Bedroom song was released with an instrumental version. Listen to the instrumental first: You’ll hear a kaleidoscopic soundscape, groovy, unexpected, shimmering. This base is an obstacle course, constantly testing Kindu’s lyrical parkour on the vocal track, but he nonetheless conquers it victoriously. The interplay between beats and vocals is mesmerizing, a little reminiscent of Kung Foo Grip. The songs themselves celebrate Black liberation, self-empowerment, and supporting and nurturing local communities. “S.E.L.F.,” is an acronym for “Supreme Ever Lasting Foundation,” an effort to decontaminate decades of colonial programming: The system wants to keep Black communities poor so they can be a useful prop for spotty government aid. But by knowing and taking care of yourself, seeing the world with open eyes, this is the “knowledge that is key to free the black nation.” They started their own record label, Du4Self—as part of their own self-empowerment—which inspired Blue Scholars to do the same, as referenced in their hit, “Fou Lee.” When interviewed by The Rocket, Kindu questioned what success we were all striving for: “…The Northwest is so overlooked that our form of hip-hop is not yet corrupted by big business, but that’s bad because we don’t get exposure. We still have a little bit of integrity in our art. Sometimes I wish that the 206 can remain invisible, because the industry has got hip-hop miserable.” Sayeed and Kindu moved to Virginia in 2000 bringing a close to their important impact on our local scene.
Here’s another take:
More greatness from the Northwest, this time coming from Bedroom Produksionz. Consisting of two-thirds of Black Anger, BP drop consciousness and Afrocentricity like their hometown counterparts Source of Labor, but with a distinctly harder edge. Sayeed’s beats are tight, driving, and prominent in the mix, while Kendo’s delivery is equally intense and raw. “I Know Ways” features a signature verse from Silent Lamb Silas Blak. Once again, here’s an act that probably would have been a whole lot more successful if they had come from a different city. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)