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Life In the (206)

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Deathflow

Brothers Of The Same Mind were a Seattle rap group in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They got “Unsigned Hype” status in the October 1990 Source magazine, then put out a seven-song masterpiece in 1991. After the group broke up, the two rappers, Class and Sin-Q, each did solo cassette projects. First, the smoother, bohemian MC Class put out Brother From The Projects in 1993, then the rougher, more hardcore rapper Sin-Q dropped Deathflow in 1994. The two releases couldn’t be more different.

Sin-Q’s gruff voice drops to such a low octave on Deathflow that it feels “chopped and screwed” like the playback speed is dragging. When you add the fact that his delivery is sometimes subdued and quiet, it almost sounds like he is muttering his inner thoughts to himself, rather than presenting rap lyrics. The effect for me is like having Neuralink access directly into Sin-Q’s brain, where the content is very explicit and uncensored.

The police sirens at the start of opener “Seward Park” set an ominous tone for the rest of the Deathflow tape. I like “Yeah Mutha F**** Yeah” for the bounce in the beat, and the swooping interplay of the horns. Sin-Q talks about relationships with women in “Menace 2 The Hoes.” “Tell you like this I got my girl, my hoes, both suck ****, but only one do my clothes,” is typical of the track’s boastful tone. “Peelin Back” features a reminder to avoid sporting red or blue clothes in gang territory, among other topics. “So I see you gots to watch what you wear, in the wrong neighborhood you get smoked for your gear.” However, in my opinion the overly simple looped beat doesn’t allow “Peelin Back” to expand to its fullest potential.

Side B starts with the excellent “Float On,” a reflective track about how friendships change over time, and sometimes you just have to part ways with someone for whatever reasons. “Ill Funk Freaker” has a fun, jazzy hip-hop sound, a stylistic departure from the creeping, dissonant production prevalent throughout Deathflow. Sin-Q describes how hard it is to survive working low wage jobs in “P’s & Q’s.” “Doing all this goddamn work for seven and a quarter,” he says with disgust. The last track “Changes” contains philosophical musings about society, in Sin-Q’s words, “Something’s gotta change, for better or for worse.”

An exciting second chapter recently began for Brothers Of The Same Mind, as they reunited in 2021 and have since put out two albums. Gotta Have Style is a much fuller version of the 1991 project, and Franklin Highfield III Present The International Lover is a whole album of new material recorded in the 2020s. I can’t wait to see where they take it next. Written by Novocaine132

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As Far As Eye Can See

One of the earliest modern usages of the word ‘woke’ came in a 1962 New York Times article titled “Phrases And Words You Might Hear Today In Harlem.” Now in 2021, the word has developed to mean essentially alertness to racial or social injustice.

In 1994 Seattle poet and rap artist Spyc-E released her first album titled As Far As Eye Can See. This album is a collection of the most woke ideas from across the spectrum. It succeeds as a proto-dissertation on gender studies, power dynamics, racial hegemony, and a host of other issues. Spyc-E was very young when she put this album together, and she displays a student’s curiosity for history and explanations.

As Far As Eye Can See is a groundbreaking work of intersectional art, and Spyc-E candidly raps about her experience as a woman, a person of color, a revolutionary, a hip-hop artist, and a multitude of others. Tracks from talented producers Greg Fields and Cydney Johnson perfectly accentuate her lyrics, and together the crew came up with a rap sound that was new to Seattle.

Spyc-E raps in a hurry-up-slow-down cycle, suddenly blasting words at a million miles per hour, and then pausing with barely a whisper, before rapping some more. Words pile up, tied with strings in express mail bundles. The density of this release cannot be overstated. One primary lyrical topic here is how the the horrors of the Middle Passage created a stamp on America that generations since the Civil War have struggled to erode. She wants people to take power over their destinies by knowing who they are inside. Her vocal dexterity could easily be compared to the legendary E-40, whose dips and dives make his raps so much more layered with emphasis. Many of the tracks on As Far As Eye Can See take a big-picture look at social and political issues from 30,000 feet. In “And We Mad” she prophetically raps, “dissatisfaction leads to social action,” and we just have to look at the unrest in 2020 to see that this is true. This release should be considered among the top hip-hop albums in 1990’s Seattle. (Written by Novocaine132.)

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Takin' Ends

DMS was a Seattle rap group with three members, Dee.aLe, Moe-B, and Sheriff. In the early ’90s they were discovered by D-Shot from The Click, who founded his own eponymous Bay Area record label in 1994. That same year the label released a short DMS cassette and CD titled Takin’ Ends. There are only six tracks, but I feel it has enough varied content to call it an album. Overall the beats might be basic but they are undeniably clean and punchy, and it’s a very professional-sounding and well-balanced project.

Takin’ Ends begins with the title track which is a play on words. ‘Making ends meet’ has always been a common phrase for earning money, but DMS aren’t gonna make it, they’re gonna take it. As the song fades in, the group members spy on and discuss another hustler in a drop top who is going to get “caught slippin.” The emphasis on the words “drop top” could be seen as a swipe at fellow Seattle rapper E-Dawg, who had released a single called “Drop Top” only a year prior in ’93. Track two “Which Game” finds the protagonist trying to make a difficult life choice, and it uses a classic Too Short lyric to describe the dilemma, “Do you wanna rap or sell coke?” In fact, the slow simple delivery on “Which Game” is reminiscent of Too Short’s easy going, slow, humorous rhyme style. “Drunk Drivin” is song three, but just like a drunk driver this autobiographical track unfortunately never really finds its direction.

Tracks four and five, “Back Up Off My Tip,” and “Sunshine,” were both featured by Jake One on the legendary 2010 Town Biz Mixtape. “Back Up Off My Tip” is a direct warning to scandalous, gold digging women who might try to use the group for their money. Powerhouse single “Sunshine,” easily the biggest hit on the album, is all about smoking grass. The song deftly turns a sped-up Alexander O’Neal line into a head-nodding beat. “I can’t go a day without my sunshine,” goes the chorus. The last song, “My World,” is all about various circumstances faced by African-American youth growing up in the United States.

This release in 1994 began a several year run for the group which pushed them to higher status in the Seattle rap game. In 2012, a remastered version of Takin’ Ends came out, which included two bonus tracks: “Hoes Be Trippin” and “Typical Tough Guy.” At eight songs Takin’ Ends can finally be called a true album, congratulations fellas. Written by Novocaine132

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9th Wonder

On March 1st, 1994, the Best Rap Performance Grammy went to a trio called Digable Planets. But they didn’t rest on their laurels at all. That same October, the Planets unveiled their creamy new cut “9th Wonder (Blackitolism),” which was the first single from the group’s sophomore LP Blowout Comb.

Early rap example “8th Wonder” by The Sugarhill Gang came out in 1980, and thus “9th Wonder” shows respect to the hip-hop past by its very title. From the first buzzy synthesizer tones of “9th Wonder,” it’s clear that this will be an unique sounding record. The vibes are warm and analog, and the lyrics swim in pools of reverb. As Larry Mizell Jr. described it in his liner notes for the LITA 2013 re-release of Blowout Comb, “…the lyrics themselves were noticeably low in the mix; they come at you almost subliminally, a pleasant dream half-remembered…” The drums are so present and distinct that you can actually smell the cigarette smoke curling around a mid-20th century jazz nightclub.

I bought this twelve inch back in ’95 during my DJ heyday. Other tracks that I was spinning that year included the dope remix of Aceyalone’s “Headaches and Woes” on the B-side of “Mic Check,” “I Don’t Like To Dream About Gettin Paid” by Tha Dogg Pound was a big one, and I definitely played the hell out of “Somethin That Means Somethin” by The Pharcyde. Digable Planets really forged something wonderful here and on the rest of Blowout Comb. Check it out! Written by Novocaine132

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Blowout Comb

I have to say from the git, the first time I heard Digable Planets I didn’t just sleep on them, I called in sick. Digable Planets? What kinda name is that? They call themselves doodlebug and wha? Fuck that shit is corny. Hearing them wasn’t better. The music’s all right, but it was the way they chanted their choruses like mantras, and sounded like they was on Actifed. I guess it just reminded me of too many bad poetry readings.

So, what do I think of their newest? Blowout Comb? I’m sorry to admit, it’s well, a Blowout Comb (or a pick as we used to call them in Colorado). Their chant thing still gets to me (“May 4th”), but the music on this album is so…beautiful.

“Black Ego” with its Roberta Flack cello and bass, noodley-blues guitar is !!!!!, and the lyrics fed my hed. They follow it up with “Dog It”-sax, vibes and… Damn! “Dial 7 (axioms of creamy spies)” has Sara Webb breathily singing “Black people, Black people, steal your mind back/don’t die in their wilderness. fuck that.”

“Dial 7″ is one of my favorite songs since the Young Disciple’s “Freedom Suite.” “The Art of Easing” samples Bobbi Humphrey (!). OK, OK, OK. I might’ve been wrong. (This review originally appeared in The Rocket and was written by Carlos Walker.)

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Buck The Saw

The Sharpshooters let us have just a little bite of what they were dishin’ out on 1993’s acid jazz Home Cookin’ compilation released a few months back. It was rich and luscious, but only a taste; turntables, organ, sax, bass, drums all groovin’ on a new kind of jazz high.

I don’t want to scare you beat-lovin’, street-sign shakin’ folks away—I use “jazz” to describe these locals because it’s the quickest way to give you an idea of what they have accomplished on this slab. Just about all the cuts on Buck The Saw would rock the foundations on any club in town. Still, this ain’t much more than an appetizer. Barely over 26 minutes at best. You really start sweatin’ to the smooth textures created by Supreme and Daddae Chill when, like a climax without orgasm, it’s over. Well, it only leaves you wantin’ more. (This review originally appeared in The Rocket and was written by Scott Griggs.)

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Massacre Remixes

If you haven’t checked out The Sharpshooters’ Buck The Saw EP, you better go get it now. It’s a jazz conceived EP filled with beats, instruments, and breaks that hit hard to give it a hip-hop vibe. The first single released off the EP is Massacre Remixes. The remix features Mad Fanatic rhyming and it’s tight. “Massacre” has a creeping bassline and Mad Fanatic proves an East-Coast-influenced, gritty vocal presence as he speaks with hardcore stress lyrics. No doubt about it, this single is to get. Locally produced by Supreme, this remix is solid and just sounds good. If you haven’t checked out the EP, you better, and for those of you who have, I know you’ve been waiting for this one to hit. Be on the lookout for it. (This review originally appeared in The Flavor and was written by S.K. Honda)

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After Dark

DJ Greg B aka DJ Ready was involved in several Seattle rap groups in the 1980s. In 1992 he dropped a full-length solo cassette called Listen To The Greg B with DJ Skill. Around this same time, he teamed up with fellow hip-hoppers Dee-Lyrious and Jay-Skee to form a new group called Crooked Path. According to Greg, “All three of us went to the University Of Washington where we all met. Jay-Skee playing football, Dee-Lyrious playing basketball, and me DJing all the college parties. Jay-Skee brought everyone together and we all meshed naturally.” Their debut album After Dark combined the more humorous, wordplay elements of early ’90s rap with a more violent, shoot-em-up gangsta vibe. It would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention that Greg B changed his name a couple of years later to one that is more familiar to fans of Seattle hip-hop, that name of course is Funk Daddy.

After Dark was re-released by Belgian label Southwest Enterprise in 2021 and is now available on vinyl and CD. The 2021 version contains Funk Daddy “fun facts” on the jacket which give contextual info about some of the tracks. For example, two songs from After Dark also appeared on Rhyme Cartel’s Seattle…The Dark Side compilation, “Menace Crook,” and “12 Gauge.” The best thing about “Menace Crook” is the track’s pulse-quickening momentum created by the clamorous scratching and catchy bassline. “12 Gauge” has a slower, suspenseful sound, and the lyrics talk about how the group is strapped up for any situation. “I got your back *****, I got the gat *****, I got the shit to make a sucker fall flat *****,” goes a typical line from “12 Gauge.” Tacoma artist Wojack from Criminal Nation makes an appearance with his laid-back track, “Something 4 Your Trunk,” in which he expresses his feelings toward his record label. One could conjecture that he was referring to either Cold Rock, Nastymix, or Ichiban, three labels he had worked with in ’92 and ’93.

Other After Dark highlights include “Where De’ At,” a super funky cut in which all three group members bust rhymes over the famous One Way “Don’t Fight The Feeling” sample flipped so successfully by Too Short. Jay-Skee’s “I-5 South” features some lovely, stirring backup singing by Gina Douglass, and her voice is perfect for the chorus. After Dark was not the last project for this crew. Dee-Lyrious completed a solo CD two years later in 1996. Funk Daddy continued putting out music throughout the ’90s. Crooked Path returned in 1998 with their second album Which Way Is Up on Dogday Records. Written by Novocaine132

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Damn!... Da Demo

From 1994, Black Anger’s Damn!… Da Demo cassette is one of the rarest and storied objects in the history of Seattle hip-hop. Collectors discuss it with hushed tones: “So, have YOU heard Damn Da Demo?”

I once had a long debate with Larry Mizell Jr over whether this cassette was amongst the greatest record of all PNW hip-hop.

Hailing from Tacoma, Black Anger was active and acclaimed between 1994 and 2000. Their recorded output consists of a handful of spectacular 12” EPs and a later compilation of these singles called Maxed Out Singles.

This demo was their first project and it hits hard with a confidence that carries through all of their music. The lead track on this demo cassette is “nigga stick.” It’s a song of magical metamorphosis. The lyrics loop around “the stick” … first, as a symbol of oppression, then as one of self-defense, and finally as an expression of phallic pride. On the second side, the song is remixed with a chill lounge vibe that makes it both more familiar and completely unrecognizable.

The group were both talented rappers and accomplished producers (working under the name Bedroom Produksionz). You can hear these twin talents in the interplay between the beats and verses, one finding the gaps in the other like gears. This music is remarkable to listen to.

Apparently, only a handful of these demo cassettes were ever made. Olympia’s KAOS radio was in the process of throwing out this copy when musician Dawhud saved it from the trash bin. Thank you, sir, for preserving history. This is easily one of my favorite of all-time records.

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Chief Boot Knocka

Sir Mix-A-Lot left Nastymix after his second album Seminar. Along with Ricardo Frazer he started up a new record label called Rhyme Cartel. Worldwide smash Mack Daddy was released in ’92 by Rhyme Cartel and their partner Def American. As a small historical note, in 1993 Rick Rubin saw the word “def” in the dictionary, held a mock funeral for the word, and then removed it from the label name. Sir Mix-A-Lot’s fourth album, Chief Boot Knocka dropped in ’94 on American/Rhyme Cartel. The image on the cover shows Mix flanked by a glamorous entourage dressed all in black.

Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea slaps strings on the opener “Sleepin Wit My Fonk,” which drops a lyrical reference to Seattle landmark the Edgewater Inn at Pier 67. In “What’s Real,” Mix reminds us that Martin Luther King Jr. Way’s original name was Empire Way, and other bits of Seattle history. Pop culture icons Beavis and Butt-head add dialogue to “Monsta Mack.” Another notable cut, “Just The Pimpin In Me” was also featured on the 1993 Rhyme Cartel compilation Seattle… The Dark Side.

Chief Boot Knocka takes autobiography to its extreme, as Mix tells us every detail of his life, over and over. He is living like Hugh Hefner, with fur coats in the day, silk pajamas at night, and sex all the time. The success of “Baby Got Back” assured Mix-A-Lot a lifestyle that few ever experience. Because of the opulence, Mix-A-Lot’s tales can be a fun window into the life of the super-rich. Shopping for Ferraris and real estate is an everyday thing for Mix. He dares his haters to hate him even more, and their beef doesn’t even bother him. Mix has always been someone who doggedly pursued success, and once he found it he was happy to tell the world how he did it, and what it was like to experience it.

Mix talks about his troubles with the Internal Revenue Service in “Take My Stash.” “I paid ’em two hundred and eighty-five Gs, and that was just the ’91 fees,” raps Mix, asserting that, “I ain’t telling no lies fool, cause I’m real with this.” In a very meta twist, Mix named his publishing company “Where’s My Publishing Inc.” to reference his lawsuit with Nastymix Records. Following the success of Mack Daddy, Mix was the biggest rap player in Seattle by any description. Chief Boot Knocka is a million dollars worth of game for the cost of a record, such a value! Written by Novocaine132

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