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Hole In The Chest

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Seven Deadly Sins

Darkset is a notorious Seattle rap group which released its debut album Krakker Bashin on compact disc in 1993. Krakker Bashin represented the finest in violent gangsta rap, with subject matter ranging from revenge to racism to gang warfare. Highlight tracks included “The Rain” and “Step To The Madness.” Two years later in 1995, their second album Seven Deadly Sins came out on both cassette (pictured here) and CD. Brother Frost, DJ Pace, I Double L, MC Bear the Kodiak, and producer Kevin Gardner combine to give you more of that raw, deadly, murder rap, straight from the Central District.

“Snitch N****” deftly creates a doom-filled musical soundscape. The lyrics set the theme for the rest of the album, basically don’t be a rat. They warn anyone “f***ing with the 98122” to beware. The atonal-sounding “Madman” has a rousing chorus with hard drums and dancehall-chant vibes. The rhymes are about how Darkset has no chill, and they are always ready for a fight. “Never shall I sleep when the enemy is stalking, I creep down Emerald Street, cut a throat and keep walking,” is a good example.

I think my favorite track on the album is “Friends And Enemies.” It begins with Malcom X’s 1965 speech at Ford Auditorium, then chops the chorus live in front of our eyes. The stark beat carries a measured urgency, possibly because its minimal nature lets the lyrics shine. The gossamer bassline hovers below the cut like an aura, and every time the chorus comes back I get goosebumps hearing Malcolm’s voice.

Later in the album, “Settrippin” is a haunting, slow burner about drive-by shootings and riding for your crew. Once again, Darkset reps hard for the 98122 zip code. “Central Hy Way” is sentimental and reflective sounding, all about puffing chronic and living the life. Darkset, while far from one-dimensional, adhere very closely to their brand of kidnapping, killing, and revenge on most tracks. But every now and then a song like “Central Hy Way” peeks through with a look at the different, less stressful aspects of life. The title track “Seven Deadly Sins” is dope, but it commits one small sin, it’s too long. The meandering last two minutes of the track leave me waiting for an ending that never arrives. “Seven Deadly Sins” would be a lot stronger if it was a tight five minutes, in my opinion. One of many skits on this four-dimensional album, “Crime Of Passion” is a long narrative interlude which includes contributions from co-producer/manager Robert Redwine and singer Richard Lowery.

Movies like New Jack City by Mario Van Peebles or Menace II Society by the Hughes brothers are critically acclaimed despite their graphic violence and killing. The entertainment industry sees these directors as geniuses because they illustrated the darkness of which the human heart is capable. Explicit rap artists on the other hand are rarely revered as literary heroes, instead they are often banned for their crude, deplorable depictions of street life. I would place Darkset in the same category as Van Peebles or the Hughes brothers. Seven Deadly Sins is a Grammy-worthy opera of violence for any who dare to experience it. Written by Novocaine132

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A Letter From Tha Grave

It’s always nice when I get something that breaks the mold and dares to have some substance to it, especially when it’s “reality rap” or “gangsta rap” (media labels).

Kazy-D is apparently from Houston by way of Bremerton, WA’s B.A.D.D. Dawg Records, and he’s got some very raw skills lyrically.

“Letter From Th’ Grave” is one tight-ass cut where Kazy-D takes on the persons of a dead homie talking to his potnas from the grave.

What makes this cut so tight is Kazy’s ability to verbalize his life, death (by the hands of a crooked cop), and his last words to his friends about their own lives on the streets. I’m not gonna go all into it, just suffice to say you have to hear it. G-shit doesn’t get much better than this.

Now as for “Down Wit Th’ Klick (1.8.7.)” it’s cool, but it’s closer to the average subject matter of this genre of hip-hop. This shit is on a small label, but as it’s written, “Seek and ye shall find.” Out. (This review originally appeared in The Flavor and was written by Truth.)

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Straight Lace Playaz

E.C.P. (Emerald City Players) had three members, Stylez, L1D, and MC Linn. According to Discogs, “E.C.P. got into the music game through their close friend Kid Sensation, who landed a deal with Nastymix Records in 1990. The group first appeared on the debut Kid Sensation album on the dedicated cut “Maxin’ With The E.C.P.” On Kid’s second and third albums, The E.C.P. played a greater role by lending a hand with verses and production. In 1995 the crew released their solo album (Straight Lace Playaz)…” In the credits for Straight Lace Playaz the group gives respect to the E.C.P. original lineup, which included legendary figures like Attitude Adjuster, PLB, and Maharaji.

The rippling beat of “Twistin Corners” is nothing but smooth, glassy g-funk, with lyrics about car culture, a hip-hop staple. Perhaps the strongest cut on the album is the two-part, “Emerald City Players.” The beat on part one has twists and turns, but mostly just bounces along under the verses, which describe the pimping lifestyle rather literally. “Emerald City Players” part two is also about hustling and pimping, but it’s more of a view from 30,000 feet. For example, “Cake a** n****s wanna love em, take a h** home, hide em, hug em, kiss em, feed em, purchase em gadgets, whips, cars, clothes, gold, trinkets, I think it’s, way beyond player status, your profit’s gone.” The spoken word-ish cut “Cold Souls” by Star Breaka evokes the arresting street tales of Iceberg Slim captured on his 1976 album Reflections.

“When I Wonder” is a peppery cut with more reflective and personal lyrics than other tracks on this album, and it shows that while E.C.P. wholly embrace the pimp culture, they also have other topics from which to draw. “Livin in this Mecca of a city filled with dreams,” goes a standout line. Straight Lace Playaz seems to be the group’s only album, so if you like pimp tales then give it a spin. Written by Novocaine132

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Funk U Right On Up

In the early ’90s, DJ Greg “Funk Daddy” Buren really turned up the heat. He recorded a full album with his group Crooked Path called After Dark, and also contributed production for E-40 and D-Shot in the Bay Area. Then in 1995, he dropped two solo projects back to back, Funk U Right On Up for Shot Records, and Tha Source, jointly on Sunset Blvd Entertainment and Funk’s own label Till Ya Tight Records.

California had ‘valley girls’ but in Seattle there was another similar term, ‘prep’ or ‘preppy,’ which usually implied the banal clothing style of a Gap or J Crew catalog mixed with a dash of Miami Vice color. The enjoyable song, “A Prep’s Tale” tells the life of a prep high roller who consorts, “never with a b**** only with a model.” Sexy track four, “Funky Worm” is a shout out to the classic 1972 jam by Ohio Players. Rapper Dee-Lyrious performs on two songs, “Hoo Ride,” which was also featured on the After Dark album, and “Locked Up.” Anti-violence track “Put Away The Clip” featuring Skee shows a mature MC who is trying to renounce his past gang life. Skee’s two other songs, “Funkiest S***” and “On Tha West Side” are also worth checking out.

My favorite track on Funk U Right On Up is the intro titled “Funk Theme.” It is sonically creative, and taps into the turntablist movement of rapid switch ups and beat changes. Samples of Snoop, Run DMC, Pharcyde, and many others swim in and out of this clever beat. Funk Daddy is one of the original hip-hop DJs in Seattle, be sure to look for his other music! Written by Novocaine132

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Seatown Funk

Seattle’s Nastymix Records was in financial trouble in late 1991 after losing Sir Mix-A-Lot and his lucrative catalog. To stay afloat, Nastymix partnered with Ichiban in Georgia for approximately a year, finally closing at the end of 1992. Artists who remained at Nastymix in 1992 had the Ichiban distribution logo on their tapes and CDs. Kid Sensation was no exception, and his 1992 album The Power Of Rhyme was a complicated Nastymix/Ichiban/Emerald City Records collaboration. Kid continued making music after the demise of Nastymix, and in 1995 he recorded his third album Seatown Funk strictly for Ichiban.

The songs on Seatown Funk fall into three main categories: party life, tough guy gangsta talk, and knocking boots. Highlights of the fun cuts include the Kevin Gardner produced “What Comes Around Goes Around,” which sees Kid reminiscing about his past relationships and what he has learned. The title track “Seatown Funk” borrows its silky beat from a 1977 hit by The Floaters, and it is a good way to start the album. “Rhyme For Me” is a funky interpolation of “Flashlight” by Parliament. For these radio-friendly type tracks, Kid keeps the topics light and the rhymes fairly simple.

On the tougher side of things, tracks like “I Come Wicked” and “Neva Goin Out” show a harder component of Kid Sensation. “Fools in my city, even those who don’t know me, stab me in the back, but in my face they’re my homie,” he observes on “Neva Goin Out.” Later in the track he shoots his adversary point blank, “There’s a hole in your chest, your heart is pumping clots of blood into your lap.” “Seatownanina” uses lots of wordplay to describe how dangerous his crew can be.

As mentioned earlier, Kid is intent on showing his player side on this album. “Sex In The Studio” is a long voyeuristic instrumental beat with lovemaking sounds mixed in, vaguely evoking Madonna’s 1990 hit “Justify My Love.” “If My Pillow Could Talk” sees Kid’s pillow dishing about all the women Kid has slept with, but the repeating loop from “You’re A Customer” doesn’t allow any space for the song to be sexy. “Late Night Hook Up” is predictably a rap about exactly what you would expect it to be about. Kid showed stamina and longevity in the game by not giving up, and admirably he continued building his personal hip-hop brand even when he was unceremoniously forced to switch record labels. Written by Novocaine132

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Procreations

There was a time in the mid ’80s when I loved rap like life itself because it was exuberant and out-of-control and made me wanna swagger down the street kissing boys I didn’t know (in my mind only, understand). But later on, rappers started getting cooler and cooler, and I fuckin’ hate cool people. They’re always telling the rest of us to mellow out and stop embarrassing them.

I liked Six in the Clip, though. They were a local, racially mixed crew of screwballs whose snotty rhymes could inspire entire roomfuls of jaded rockers to…actually move.

Now they’re called Prose and Concepts and they are serious. Uh oh…

Gone is the uneven feel of Six in the Clip; now all these guys rap like pros. Like most rappers who “get serious,” they’ve laid back a bit, but not everyone will see that as a problem. The DJ is superb, the samples understated-no real show-offy stuff, except in the lyrics, which are mainly the old school type raps about how great the rappers are, with some nonsense rhymes that sound good thrown in (“Knick knack paddy whack, give the fools a Prozac”). That’s all fine by me; I don’t need to hear any more about big butts or big guns for a while.

My fave here is the insanely catchy “P,” which is about pee. It’s one of the only moments on the album when the guys seem to really cut loose and have some fun. In fact, some of the songs have an almost sinister undercurrent to them; sampled minor chords throb hypnotically behind droning rhymes.

This is an impressive enough first effort, but now that these guys have proved they can rap, maybe they’ll go all out and throw us a party again. (This review originally appeared in The Rocket and was written by Dawn Anderson.)

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Untranslated Prescriptions

Untranslated Prescriptions is the original Tribal Music tape, released on Maxell cassette back in ’95 and re-issued on vinyl in 2019. Tribal Music was a small Seattle record label masterminded by Vitamin D and Topspin that put out cassettes, a few 12-inches, a couple of CDs, and then called it a day. But what was put out was absolute quality. Featuring nothing but local talent, the music was easily the equal of any of their peers at the time, but unlike Heiro, Solesides, and the Goodlifers (the most comparable crews in my opinion), the majority of the Tribal cats never made a splash outside their home town.

Back in high school some friends of mine who were cooler than me somehow heard about this and trekked out to Music Menu in Rainier Beach to pick this shit up. I remember hearing this tape over and over again with those guys, but I never actually got my hands on it to dub it. I never even knew the name of it – everyone just called it “the Tribal comp.” After getting the vinyl reissue, I went apeshit. I never had any hopes that I would ever hear this tape again, and listening to it now brings back some excellently hazy memories for me. This was the beginning of my appreciation for Northwest hip-hop. Phat Mob, Ghetto Chilldren, Sinsemilla – to me, it really gets no better than this. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Tha Source

Maybe it’s the influence of Gifted Gab’s murderous new masterpiece, Cause & Effect, that’s resulted in my listening to a lot of Seattle G-Funk and Gangsta classics lately. Here’s Tha Source by Funk Daddy, released in 1995. Funk has been releasing new music for over 30 years: He produced the eagerly-anticipated 2019 The Mixtape Vol. 2 from Maribased1. At the other end of his timeline, in the ‘80s, he was Greg B from Ready-N-Willin’ and also Kid Sensation’s DJ. Fascinated with Sir Mix-A-Lot’s production prowess, he obtained Mix’s old equipment, but soon realized it’s the player and not the gear, and developed his own unique sound. Listen for that delightful, rubbery, squashy bass and the tickling, squishy highs. (His track “Yo Flow” is golden honey.) Multitalented, he’s also famously won most any DJ, MC, or beat battle he’s been in and was one of the members of hip-hop group Crooked Path. Oh, and in 1995 he produced a bunch of E-40’s platinum-selling record In A Major Way. It was that same year that Funk Daddy dropped this debut CD, a relaxed 15-track romp through Seattle summer. In the lyrics, he’s aware of his baller resume but humble to his roots. (Okay, and yeah, there’s also “Fu?K,” a song about how big his “meat” is.) “When I hit the club, it’s on V.I.P. status…” he raps on “Streets of S.E.A.” while later stating that “The day I can’t roll through the CD… is the day I let my own hood beat me.” There are several hometown anthems here, including the aforementioned “Streets” and creeper “Rainy Day Hustle” that argues for reparations “since I’m from Seattle where it rains all the time.” Funk Daddy—thank you for your long service to the Seattle music scene. Everybody else—This record is on Spotify, so go crank it loud today.

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Really Cheat'n

Here are some car-stereo-shaking Central District tales of murder, violence, romance, and good weed: Released in 1995, Really Cheat’n from Squeek Nutty Bug is grooving G-Funk at its finest.

After spending his early years in the Midwest—and in jail—Squeek made a big splash on the Seattle scene in the mid-‘90s, named so because of his distinctive high-pitched vocal delivery. He released a catchy first single called “ILL HETCHA HY”—you should sound this out. The song also appears on this full-length, this all-too-short, nine-track Really Cheat’n. The whole album is funky hop fantastic with live instrumentation courtesy of producer Ryan “RC” Croone, who, after this project, launched a production empire. Together, he and Squeek are bringing that “hydroponic do-do-funk type shit” as he says in the opener. Squeek himself saw his verses as education, once saying to the Seattle Times, “I’m takin’ hip-hop to the vegetables and the vitamins.” The closing track “Outro” is almost three full minutes of thanks to town talent and favorites delivered in a most amusing style. Overall, this is a hella fun record, reminiscent at times of Gifted Gab, who’s one of the main players who turned me onto it. Really Cheat’n was also one of the first releases from CD Raised Records, a Central District record label started by Captain Crunch, a member of the once mythological Seattle hip-hop group the Emerald Street Boys, and father of D.Black/Nissim. That fact, plus one that Squeek was a headliner on Nasty Nes’s “Best of Northwest Hip-Hop” stage at Folklife Fest that year, connects this record to a host of this town’s amazing first generation of hip-hop legends. Dee.aLe from DMS is featured, as are Young K, Lil Mafia (AKA Skuntdunanna), ROK, BG Bari, & Kevin Gardner.

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Intro To Da Central

One night at the Coolin’ at Havana, Porter Ray and I got to talking about 1995’s Intro To Da Central by Narcotik. He was saying how important it was as a kid that instead of hearing raps about Brooklyn or The Bronx or L.A., he was hearing rhymes about the Central District, in Seattle, where he lived, and that hearing this record was a big inspiration for him and his career. Narcotik were the rap duo of Tizzy T (R.I.P.) and MC C-Note aka The Notework. Intro To Da Central was originally released on cassette by Tribal Productions and was produced by Vitamin D and Topspin: There’s much magic at work in the wide stereo space, the left-right interplay, beats set to the back, the guitars, the long outros, all relaxed and hella charming. Musically, this one’s an ear-tickling journey. There’s often some slightly odd looping sample buried in the mix that it takes you a while to notice—like a door hinge—but when you do, it makes you laugh. When this record spins, let me say, the couch is very comfortable. Back in the mid-‘90s, in The Rocket, Payton Carter described Intro as having that “laid-back, West Coast, 40 and a blunt, Infinite Tribal feel, along with mad lyrics,” while in early ‘90s hip-hop rag The Flavor, Strath Shepard said, “their metaphors and creative name-checks flip the norm and keep you listening for what’s next.” The standout single, “All Up In My Mix,” features rapper Infinite and also appeared on the legendary 14 Fathoms Deep compilation. Intro’s original cassettes have become so rare as to be mythical. Beetbak’s Jack Devo called it “the most criminally hard-to-find record to ever come out of the Northwest.” So it’s great that this classic was recently remastered and reissued on vinyl and CD by Belgium-based Back2DaSourcerecords in very limited quantities. You can also grab it digitally on Bandcamp, and I strongly urge you to do so.

Here’s another take:

Back in 1995, when Intro To Da Central was first released, Strath Shepard reviewed it in The Flavor magazine:

Add Narcotik to the list of Seattle area artists who, with the right scheme and exposure, have the skills needed to blow up on a national level. With M.C.s who show multiple influences and versatile production which transcends traditional divisions, Into To Da Central carries appeal for all types of hip-hop listeners.

If you aren’t already familiar with Narcotik through the many shows they’ve played in Seattle, the due is kind of on some traditional West Coast type shit. But what makes them more interesting is that they actually have a lot to say, and they do it in creative ways. One of the things that has separated the East and West in hip-hop is the East’s misconception that all g’s from the West Coast “talk and talk, but ain’t sayin’ nothin’.” Once you get past Intro’s intro, it quickly becomes apparent that this just isn’t true. Narcotik may cover the usual topics, but their metaphors and creative name-checks flip the norm and keep you listening for what’s next.

On the production end of things, Vitamin D and Topspin prove (once again) how twisted and wrong it is that the rest of the country sleeps on Seattle. “All Da Time” offers that signature sentimental sound Vitamin D is known for, while “Crushin’ Crooz” and “Rap Styles Vary” show that he’s not confined to one style. Topspin’s track for “Urlin’ In Da Mornin’” incorporates an unexpected but tight-fitting snare with a smooth backing loop, and ties for my favorite cut along with “All Da Time.” Vitamin D and Topspin co-produce on “Intro To Da Central,” which features Infinite on the mic along with Narcotik. Though the title is strictly Seattle, the album will bob heads across the country.

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