A film about Northwest hip-hop from 1993
I can vividly remember the first night I ever heard Elevators. It was way back in ’94, and a couple of dudes I knew and I were crammed into my crappy-ass lowrider, parked at the beach, blitzed out of our minds on some heavy shit. The stereo was on, and Digable Planets’ Blowout Comb had just flipped over in the tape deck back to side 1.
This night would have been memorable just for that: my first listen to that perfect record, which is still one of my all-time favorites.
But what really did it for me was what came next: My man said “Hey, have you heard Elevators?” I mumbled something negatory, at which point Blowout was immediately and unceremoniously ejected in favor of a quiet little home-recorded cassette that has shaped the face of Northwest hip-hop to this day.
For being released in 1993, this tape was on the next level. The beats were rough and low-fi, and the vocals were quiet but confidently conscious. The buzz at the time is that Elevators were Seattle’s answer to Gang Starr, but they were something more as well: They effectively moved Seattle forward beyond the 808-heavy party tracks of Sir Mix-A-Lot, and laid the groundwork that eventually put Seattle on the underground hip-hop map.
From the quietly jazzy and lyrically substantial aesthetic later employed by Tribal and Source of Labor, and beyond to the indie sound of Blue Scholars and Common Market, Elevators’ influence is unmistakable, so give Specs One and E-Sharp a serious head nod for sculpting the sound of the Northwest.
Specs One aka Specswizard aka M See Eye Shock has gone on to be one of the most creative and long-lasting characters in the 206 hip-hop firmament; as an emcee, visual artist, and producer. If you look, he’s literally everywhere. Not to be slept on! (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)