A film about Northwest hip-hop from 1989
In 1989, Seattle rap group PD2 dropped the three-song single “Surprize” in 1989 on their own label JROD after a successful West Coast tour with Harlem’s Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock.
The beats are courtesy of DJ 2 Smooth, with verses from MC 3-D, who describes their underground sound as something you might find at the tail end of a mixtape. He raps, “This is the new age, a new stage in rapping, rhyme is the new way to make things happen.”
Indeed, 2 Smooth’s production is unlike anything you might’ve heard from NastyMix at the time: His samples clash and collide, hitting off the beat, not always in tune, lending a truly funky vibe. (Hence the “Surprize.”) The songs often take their time to settle into a groove, but once they do…! Your head will be nodding for sure.
In an interview with The Rocket at the time, 3-D describes their politics: “Hip-hop is a tool and a ticket for minority youth to excel and conquer their dreams. People have to be able to move their feet before they can hear a message. The Black male is becoming extinct because of the drug situation. We have the intellect to articulate that. The music is the platform.”
This message is best exemplified in the EPs third song “Crack-In-The-Box.” It’s structured like an extended skit that takes place at an imagined drive-thru, where instead of pushing fast food, the government sells low-cost crack into Black neighborhoods. Politicians are “playing the kingpin” in an effort to disenfranchise their community, and it’s time to rise up in response.
(Addendum: MC 3-D, aka Robert Stills, was replaced by MC Willin’ on later records. He also is not the only Seattle rapper to use the name. In 1997, a very different emcee named 3D (Damion Reed) rapped with group Diamond Mercenaries.)