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Show Me The Money

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Phamily Orientated

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Hillz of Darkne$$

Hillz Of Darkne$$ is a 1996 CD from Tacoma artist J-One. The opener “Massacre” effectively uses the forlorn melody from RHCP “Under The Bridge” to convey the mood of the track. To me, “Massacre” is evocative of work by Bone Thugs & Harmony. Several other songs flirt with pop jams, in fact “Freeze Ya Dome” feels like a tribute to Biggie, flipping the “One More Chance” beat and adding some confessional lyrics. “From the nine-two to the nine-five I was locked down, fiending for freedom so I could represent the Puget Sound.” The cheeky “Stay Macc’n” has some fun interpolating “Careless Whisper.”

Most of the tracks on Hillz Of Darkne$$ are slowed way down, and the sluggish pace works to create a hazy reality. The lyrics are concentrated on gang violence, and the difficulty of surviving in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood. In fact, the dragging tempo can be suffocating, and to borrow Marshall McLuhan’s famous 1964 phrase, the medium is the message. Listening to this album can make you feel trapped in J-One’s world, all the way down to the sirens and helicopters, which is an artistic achievement.

To me the two most successful tracks on the album are “Funny Style Individuals,” and “Death Is Calling Ya Name.” “Funny Style Individuals” is all about dishonest people, “Yeah I saw you fronting, smiling in my f***ing face, but now you’re scheming so I’m watching every move you make.” The easy beat and melody make this cut a winner. “Death Is Calling Ya Name” has a very hypnotic vibe from the first moments of the track. This CD was reissued in Japan in 2011, and some of those copies are floating around the internet. Written by Novocaine132

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Jace

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Blak Plastic

When Blind Council first arrived on the Seattle hip-hop scene, Blak was its sole M.C. Three-odd years later after a couple of additions and subtractions of personnel, Blak again stands as the sole M.C. on Blak Plastic, B.C.’s first release intended for public consumption. And now, just as he did years ago, Blak’s lyrical content and flow are making a lot of M.C.s revamp their own thoughts and styles just so they can weather the storm.

Blak Plastic starts off with “Art Of Jack” and “Only When I’m High,” concepts consisting of: 1) the details and reasoning of a sin committer, and 2) the thoughts that run through a nigga’s (Blak) mind when he’s high, respectively. Side Two in particular rips shit all the way through, beginning with “No Hoopla” into “I’m M.C.ein,” all of these songs being the type of cuts that unnerve insecure and paranoid M.C.s.

Production on the E.P. is handled by the more than capable hands of D.J.s Topsin and King Otto, who both bring out the menacing tone of Blak’s vocals, enhancing the dark mood of the E.P. immeasurable. Blak’s lyrical style is cryptic; it takes a few listens to fully grasp everything he says, but the concepts are easy to grasp. (The titles tell you what you need to know, but true listeners will get more meat out of the songs.) His flow is some ‘ole ill shit, with a highly complex and rhythmic non-cadence style. Bottom line, hands down this is the best local tape to come out in quite a while. Lyrically and beat-wise it fucks with anything out there, major label or independent. If you see it, buy it. (This review originally appeared in The Flavor and was written by Truth.)

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Delirious

In 1994, Seattle group Crooked Path dropped a rap classic called After Dark. The trio consisted of Funk Daddy, J-Skee, and Dee-Lyrious. Funk Daddy also included Crooked Path material on his 1995 release Funk You Right On Up. By 1996, Dee-Lyrious was ready to drop his own solo debut, and his self-titled album Delirious hit the streets of the S-E-A with a bang.

“Letter From The Pen” is serious and well-paced, addressing the subject of incarceration. The vibe of “Wise Up” is a reflective meditation about life choices and the passage of time. It’s got a heavy message, “I’m tripping, paranoid, scared to leave my block. In ’84 I was locked up, in ’94 shell-shocked.” When taken with “Letter From The Pen,” the two tracks complement each other well.

On the party side of things, the high-energy song “Planet Path” has a b-boy vibe, and the Bambaataa beat bounces while the MCs display some fun wordplay. “Tales From The Strip” cleverly combines the “Paul Revere” story framework with some liquid piano notes from a classic Grover Washington Jr. joint. “Planet Path” and “Tales From The Strip” both reach across generations, and Dee-Lyrious captures the early days of rap in the two songs.

“Northwest G’s,” featuring F-Lee, Funk Daddy, and J-Skee, has a slow, measured beat. At the beginning of the song, Dee-Lyrious tongue-in-cheek refers to himself as a “studio gangster.” This implies that real gangsters get locked up or killed, and the ones that survive certainly don’t rap about their crimes. To follow the paradox, only fake gangsta rhymes would make sense for music industry consumption. True gangsta raps constitute legal evidence and unwitting confession.

Perhaps my favorite detail of the album is a skit where the crew calls a fake psychic hotline. At one point during the hilarious conversation, our caller makes a rambling observation about rap stereotypes: “Gangsta rap is a mutha f***ing business. Just like Steven Seagal made the flicks and s***. He’ll go out there and shoot some people up, and they say that’s mutha f***ing art and s***. This is art. We’re just talking about what we be seeing every day.” He’s right of course. Gangsta rap in many cases is simply the art of being a witness on wax. Written by Novocaine132

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Windy City Hustle

Michael Lord was an audio engineer in the 1980s and 90s who created a recording studio in the Lake City Way neighborhood of Seattle. He ran ads in the Rocket magazine and many different groups paid him to give their music that “professional” sound. Some of his hip-hop clients included Brothers Of The Same Mind and P-D2. In 1996, Mr. Lord worked with a young hungry MC out of Chicago named Nomad who was relocating to the Northwest.

Windy City Hustle is a short cassette single introducing Nomad to the Seattle scene. The A-Side is “Windy City Hustle,” produced by Mr. Supreme and featuring Jake One. That’s quite a pedigree for a debut! It’s a lovely beat, with a jazzy, east-coast rhythm. The lyrics are autobiographical, and Nomad talks about how his difficult childhood forced him to make tough decisions. “Now I’m gettin my hustle on, and in various ways, from shopping bags to stealing, it seems like crime pays.” He raps about his dreams and goals in a basic, no nonsense style that I find very effective. “Chicago’s got my back,” goes the scratch throughout the track.

Side B of Windy City Hustle is “What Is Hardcore?” This track is more conscious than “Windy City Hustle,” and deals with social issues including class and racism. Nomad asks important questions and breaks down some key aspects of modern American life. The abstract ominous music and super-hard drums perfectly complement the mood of the track. Mr. Supreme made the “What Is Hardcore?” beat too, showing his versatility as a rap producer.

Later in 1996, after this cassette dropped, Mr. Supreme and his musical partner Sureshot dropped the Choked Up album, assuring their own rise to stardom. Nomad would return to the game in 1998 with his own company 300 60 Degree Entertainment, and a new song titled “Blessed 2 Mic Check.” Windy City Hustle is a solid debut, and it shows that Seattle contains many talented MCs lurking around every corner. It just takes a little digging to find them. Written by Novocaine132

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The Album Volume One

According to the Homegrown Klik website, Homegrown, also known as “HGK,” was created by DJ Eugenius and Pakalolo when their contract with I-5 South Records was terminated due to creative differences. Eugenius was, of course, an original member of Tacoma, WA rap group Criminal Nation. The Album Volume One from 1996 is essentially a compilation of various Northwest rappers rhyming over Homegrown-produced beats. The album art is all about weed, and the cover photo features the duo next to a giant cannabis plant. Even the disc itself features a big pot leaf, which imitates The Chronic CD design from 1992.

Vocalist Camille successfully lends her sultry singing voice to the smooth chorus of excellent “T-Town” by rapper K-Swiss, but her own solo track “Higher and Higher” is marred by what sounds like unfinished drum programming. There are two cuts by rapper No Name, “Just Another Day,” and “G In This Game.” “Just Another Day” has an easy pace and relatable lyrics about everyday life in Tacoma such as, “You know that it’s hard/to listen to my mama so I disregard/the knowledge and the dreams she’ll preach/but a normal life seems so out of reach.” T Love represents for the ladies, dropping a solid rhyme on her standout cut “You Can’t Get With This,” and she issues multiple challenges to all other rappers.

The Album Volume One highlights include “Tha Alley” by Boneyard Players, which incorporates a faint sample from classic “P.S.K.-What Does It Mean” by OG Philly rapper Schoolly D. “Old Cro'” by Alms For The Poor is oddly unique and humorously stands out among some of the more standard g-funk cuts. Two years after this project, Criminal Nation dropped their third and final album Resurrection in 1998. Homegrown Klik continued to put out albums in the 2000s, including Rasta Riden, U Bangin, and Street Life. Written by Novocaine132

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A.K.A Mista K-Sen

Kid Sensation dropped two albums on Seattle’s juggernaut record label Nastymix, one in 1990, and the other in 1992. But Nastymix shut down in late ’92, and so Kid’s third and fourth albums were put out by Ichiban, a Georgia label which had made waves in 1991 with MC Breed’s hit, “Ain’t No Future In Yo Frontin.” Kid Sensation’s fourth album, A.K.A. Mista K-Sen released in 1996, is a funky effort that fits in well with the rest of his catalog.

“Priorities” lays out Kid’s important things in life, “God number one, family number two, and music number three.” Easy-on-the-ears song, “Roll Slow And Bump” features rapper Kream, and her bold verses mesh well with those of K-Sen. “Nina ross on my waist just in case I have to pull it, but I’m ducking from these feds and I’m ducking from these bullets,” she raps in her smooth voice, using a slang nickname for her 9mm pistol. Kid’s song “I Come Wicked” from his third album Seatown Funk gets a remix here titled “I Come Wicked 96,” and he drops line after line such as, “Because I’m known for alphabetical acrobatics, flip a phrase like a fraction in mathematics.”

After four albums, Kid Sensation retired the name and began a new chapter of his entertainment career. His public rap history began with his appearance first on “Electro Scratch” and then on “Ripp’n,” both in 1987. “Ripp’n” was the B-side of the “Square Dance Rap” single, and everyone remembers the unforgettable line, “Let’s get live with the Kid Sensation.” His streak continued for nine years, including his early first single, “Back 2 Boom” which hit the streets in 1989 and gave fuel for multiple car stereo battles. His album Rollin With Number One even hit the famous Billboard 200 albums chart in 1990, peaking at #175. Kid has many accomplishments to be proud of, including an acting career which led to commercials and a role in the film Safety Not Guaranteed. A.K.A. Mista K-Sen ends with a remix of “Back 2 Boom” called “Back 2 Boom (And Still Boomin),” which seems not only like a perfect ending to the album, but also an appropriate farewell to the artist known as Kid Sensation. Written by Novocaine132

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Return of The Bumpasaurus

Sir Mix-A-Lot is an absolute genius. How else could he have come up with such a perfect metaphor to use for his newest LP, Return of the Bumpasaurus? The record is dinosaur-like in every way: small-brained, slow-moving, and, not least of all, extinct.

Return of the Bumpasaurus, as much as any of Mix’s recent offerings, reeks of Velveeta pop platinum. The only way I could categorize these tracks as hip-hop would be in the area of bad parody.

The song “Mob Style” should carry a ‘contents under pressure’ warning sticker for all the clichés and stereotypes that have been mercilessly crammed together. Mix uses the Sugarhill Gang’s “Jump on It” to simultaneously kiss asses in at least two dozen states across the U.S. (Yes, he did use this same idea in “Square Dance Rap” almost ten years ago-it’s not just your imagination.) Don’t worry, the lifted Kraftwerk-/Miami-bass-style beat is here just like on every other Mix record. Disses, put-downs, and egomania run amok throughout the entire album.

This wouldn’t be so bad if Mix were 18 or 19 years old and not pushing 35. It would take a city as recycling crazy as Seattle to produce an album that is so blatantly reused. The only points I can give Mix are for letting my man Funk Daddy rumble things up on the track “Top Ten List,” reminding me of skills like the track “Yo Flow” on Funk’s album Tha Source. It’s easy to see why so many artists are clamoring for Funk Daddy’s keyboard and production talents. As for Mix-A-Lot, extinction looms baby. (This review originally appeared in The Rocket and was written by Novocaine132.)

Here’s another take:

In 1996 I was a young writer at The Rocket, and this CD showed up in my mailbox. I was busy at work on a cover story based on Tribal Music Inc. for the November 20th issue. I was definitely a contrarian, and I remember having a friendly argument with Strath in front of the Showbox the following year about the best recent rap album, he picked ATLiens by Outkast, I picked Sex Style by Kool Keith. The pull of the underground ‘backpack rap’ movement appealed to me, and soon I held contempt for anything even remotely mainstream.

So anyway, I decided to screw up my courage and write a harsh negative review for Return Of The Bumpasaurus. I guess you could compare my feelings at the time to a young prison inmate who needs to prove himself, so he goes out on his first day and punches the baddest boss in the yard, hoping to gain respect for being so daring. I totally forgot about my responsibility to The Rocket and its readers, and I blasted out this total attack piece. As it turned out, The Rocket’s editor Charles Cross was not amused, and after reading it he confronted me on the wide stairs inside the entrance to the Belltown office, clearly unhappy that I had attempted to torch the more than ten-year friendly relationship between Mix and the paper.

Now that I am older and hopefully a tiny bit wiser, I would write a very different review of this album. In fact, I could still use the dinosaur metaphor but I would remind readers that, due to his stratospheric, Grammy-winning success, Mix had become the de facto Tyrannosaurus Rex of the Seattle hip-hop scene. He could crush ten rappers just by rolling over in his sleep.

With twenty seven years of daylight between these two write-ups, my biggest observation is that the T-Rex went extinct, but Mix sure didn’t. Boy, was I wrong. Mix reinvented himself many more times, dropping his final studio album Daddy’s Home in 2003 with its lead single, “Big Johnson.” In 2010 Mix released his single “Carz,” dangling the possibility of a new album called Dun 4got About Mix. (Could this be Seattle’s Detox?) In 2014, he collaborated with The Seattle Symphony, which according to the New York Times, “was viewed with envy by some for the way it brought the symphony to a broad audience on the web, and derided by others as a cringe-worthy gimmick.” From 2017 to 2019, Mix-A-Lot was a DJ and personality for the popular Hot 103 hip-hop radio station. And who knows what his future holds… Written by Novocaine132

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Sleepless "Tha Brickkks"

According to Wikipedia, “The Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow is a full-sized luxury car produced by British automaker Rolls-Royce in various forms from 1965 to 1980.” Seattle rapper Silver Shadow “D” gained local respect during the ’80s as one of the hardest working b-boys around. His group Duracell made waves with demo tapes, but never got signed. In 1996, Silver Shadow dropped a twelve-inch single called “Come Fi Love” on Lost & Found Recordings. That same year he put out his debut full-length solo cassette and CD Sleepless “Tha Brickkks” which also carried the Lost & Found logo.

At sixty-eight minutes long, the album takes you on a marathon ride through all types of music. Speedy “Do What I Gotta Do” samples “Boogie Down Bronx” for a throwback, old-school feel. Silver performs a good public service on “Skullcap,” reminding listeners to practice safe sex and use a ‘jimmy hat’ every time. The distinctive, high nasal voice of revolutionary punk rocker Jello Biafra gives extra flavor to “Beyond A Shadow Of A Doubt.” Title track “Sleepless” uses the instantly recognizable “Ike’s Mood I” piano from 1970 to end the album with a whisper.

“Ain’t No Love Lost” is one of the stronger tracks on the album, and the lyrics tell about how Silver is getting jerked around in the rap biz, and how difficult it is to find a label that can put his record out. “Way 2 Much” and “Da Bluntfunk / Where’s The Party At” are two other tracks that merit attention. All three of those jams feature singing from Gina Douglass, that can’t be a coincidence, can it? Something about her vocals mingling with Silver’s raps just seems to work magic. Some of the eighteen tracks on the album might have been culled to make a tighter project. Both versions of “How Many Days” have cluttered beats which lack momentum and could have been left off the album. “Troublemaker” isn’t bad, but the story’s themes of a good kid gone wrong don’t really break any new ground, and it also could have been left off.

Silver was heavily into dancehall and the ragga-chant style of delivery, and on Sleepless “Tha Brickkks” he shifts between this Jamaican Patois and more traditional American rap cadences. This makes for a somewhat schizophrenic listening experience, and the dual sound makes it a little harder for Silver to really connect and present an easily identifiable brand. Silver Shadow is still in the music game, now using the name Derrick X, and in 2018 he released a new single called “Still Sleepless.” Keep up the good work! Written by Novocaine132

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Feel What I Feel

Siblings DJ Sayeed and MC Kendo (also spelled Kindu) were possibly inspired by Jonathan Moore and the revolutionary Jasiri Media Group project when they teamed up to create a new rap subculture in Tacoma. Sayeed and Kendo added E-Real Asim, and the three of them named their group Black Anger. The group dropped an excellent tape in 1994 called Damn!… Da Demo. “Feel What I Feel” is Black Anger’s first vinyl single, released in 1996 on Olympia’s K Records. According to the Turnfables Instagram page, “Sonically, Black Anger’s music is straight out of that golden era of 90s hip-hop, utilizing jazz samples, dusty drums, and lyrical content that covers societal ills such as commercialism, racism, and oppression.”

The A-side, “Feel What I Feel,” featuring Kendo, E-Real, and guest Wicked D, has a lot to say, and the stripped-down beat allows the conscious lyrics to really shine. Featuring an original version, radio edit, and an instrumental, this format is an ideal way to send out a promo. It’s perfect for club DJs, radio stations, and general listeners. Indeed this wax single helped to grow Black Anger’s audience, and they quickly became prominent players in the Northwest rap scene.

“No Commercial” by Kendo and Sayeed is the B-side, and it brings a slightly harder edge. Black Anger talks about how they don’t want to sell out, for instance, “Be true to yourself and we might be tight, rap’s been commercial since Rapper’s Delight.” The end of “No Commercial” rocks a respectable shout-out list including the aforementioned Jasiri Media Group, Dead Presidents, Blak, Jace, Ghetto Chilldren, B-Mello, Phat Mob, Sinsemilla, and many other Seattle/Tacoma rap figures. Written by Novocaine132

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Come Fi Love

One could say that 1996 was a good year for Silver Shadow D. He produced “Keep Da Change” for DMS, which appeared on the 14 Fathoms Deep compilation. Then he helped Southend rap duo 46th St. put out a promo single titled “On Tha Run.” In addition to these accomplishments, he completed his debut solo CD and cassette titled Sleepless “Tha Brickkks” on his new label with Gene Dexter called Lost & Found Recordings.

This ragga twelve-inch single “Come Fi Love” from Silver also dropped in 1996, but the track doesn’t appear on the Sleepless album. Silver Shadow was heavily influenced by Jamaican dancehall and ragga style music during the mid-1990s, and this Patois-filled song is living proof. “Come Fi Love” is a sexy track and the beat is produced by RC The Trackaholiq, one of the hardest working producers in the Seattle rap game. The B-side is Silver’s self-produced mixtape cut “None Want Test,” which is also not found on his full album.

In 2007, RC included “Come Fi Love” on his Hood Classics Vol. 2 compilation, giving the song a new audience. Spin it today and get a dose of Silver Shadow D. Written by Novocaine132

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On Tha Run

In the mid ’90s a South End duo named 46th Street Hustlers released several local tapes, and their candid take on street life captivated fans. Don G and Gotti both have an easy rap style with brags about their cash flow, and their success with women. The group recorded a 1996 vinyl promo maxi-single titled “On Tha Run” for Silver Shadow D’s brand new record label Lost And Found Records. Incidentally, Lost and Found put out Silver’s debut CD Sleepless “Tha Brickkks” that same year.

Lead single “On Tha Run” is upbeat and fun, with lyrics about smoking weed, dealing drugs, and generally getting into trouble. “Watch out for (Police) Po Pos,” goes the refrain. Track number two, “Spread My Hustle,” is a little slower and more sentimental sounding. “Spread My Hustle” contains useful slang and ‘game’ related to the hustling life. “I can be what I wanna be: a Southside G,” says Don G. On verse after verse the crew represents hard for their South Seattle neighborhood. Silver himself lends some background vocals, and he is credited on the first two tracks.

My favorite on the maxi-single is the B-side, “Streets Ain’t Made For Everybody.” “Never hate a player, just hate the game,” the lyrics remind us. This song has a ton of bounce thanks to the eclectic beat, and for the icing on the cake, guest rapper Clip drops some excellent flows. One minor complaint is the length of the songs, all three are close to seven minutes long and could benefit from three or four minute ‘radio edit’ versions. I’d love to hear more from this Seattle group, very little info exists on the net. Written by Novocaine132

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Balance

S.O.L. is the embodiment of Northwest hip-hop. They’ve been staples in the scene here for as long as I can remember. Emcee/school teacher Wordsayer was at all the functions; I’d see him at every single show and battle. Since ’95 they’ve been puttin’ it down on wax, and I assume they’ve been around for longer than that. This is their second release, from ’96, and features DJ Kamikaze, emcees Wordsayer and Blahzay Blah, and beatmaker Negus I.

It’s a strange record. The songs “Balance” and “Galaxies” are fully represented with vox and instrumental versions (“Galaxies” has a remix as well), but there are snippets included of three other songs I haven’t been able to find anywhere in their full versions. “Easy” showed up in a different form on their full-length album from 2000, but the version found here, along with “Sailing” and “50¢” have long eluded me. Eight tracks of hard labor. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Choked Up

Here is an entirely terrific album of grooved beats, laidback flows, judiciously selected samples (lots of funky jazz), and first-rate production. The fact that it’s by two locals–Mr. Supreme and Sureshot–means that it’s the first album to offer the full scope of a Seattle hip-hop band over the course of an entire LP instead of a narrow glimpse, like those offered on recent Seattle hip-hop comps 14 Fathoms Deep and Do the Math.

Choked Up starts with an absolute wallop as “Lifted,” an organ vamp with a beat, intros the LP. The first real song, “Heavyweight,” features a fat, acid jazz horn chart squatting on top of strong percussion. There’s a taste of entirely palatable turntable work as the first impression hits like a bolt from the blue: Could this be jazz and hip-hop? Could this be really, really good jazzy hip-hop?

The third track establishes the legitimacy of Sharpshooters. They begin with “Analyze,” a drifting, underwater beat just long enough to set the stage for the boss rhymes of Trust (The Soul Trooper). At this point, the album is about perfect. Three fat tracks, not a dud. When Trust drops a thoroughly chilled line about our favorite hoops team, it seems just like hip hop heaven.

The LP rolls, moving easily forward instrumentals dovetailed perfectly wh the raps. The beats are brisk, the horns well-tempered, the flows right on production huge, and the guest appearances (Kylea, Wordsayer, and Mad Fanatic) add to the album while not subtracting from the band.

Presently, there is a load of overhyped hip-hop from which to choose. Much of it, especially from the big-name, big-image rappers, doesn’t measure up. This record delivers. The fact that they’re local and sending shoutouts all over town is just gravy. (This review originally appeared in The Rocket and was written by S. Duda.)

Here’s another take:

Choked Up was originally released on Conception Records and later reissued on New York-based Shadow Records. In the time they were around, Shadow managed to introduce some of the most memorable and enduring acid jazz records to the American audience. DJ Krush had his American debut with his album Krush, as did DJ Cam’s Mad Blunted Jazz. Funki Porcini, 9 Lazy 9, Dj Food, and Up, Bustle, and Out were just a few other notable names on Shadow’s roster. Shadow was distinctive and catered to a specific audience who was into trendy, late-90’s trip-hop and acid jazz. Although the Sharpshooters were a Northwest group, I probably wouldn’t have known about them if they hadn’t been part of the Shadow Records family… Even if I did live in the same city as them.

The Sharpshooters were a duo consisting of Seattle producers Mr. Supreme and DJ Sureshot. Supreme distributed their work on his own indie hip-hop label, Conception Records. And, although they were local, Conception at that time was just starting and had some steam to build still. So, it was through a distribution deal with a label that specialized in waking up American audiences to foreign artists that I heard about a group and label that lived a couple of miles from me. Their sophomore release, Choked Up, is a cool, blunted slab of jazzy hip-hop. Flutes, saxes, and vibes dominate the mix as much as the drum loops do, creating a smoky blend of coffee-house jazz hop. Vocal guests including Four Fifths, Mad Fanatic, and Kylea from Beyond Reality add flavor to a few select tracks.

I have an idea. Do yourself a favor; save this record for the summer. Put this on a playlist along with other like-minded albums of the time (Krush’s self-titled record, Digable Planets’ Blowout Comb, and Guru’s Jazzmatazz vol.2 are good recommendations). Find something pretty to look at. Then sit back in the evening, let the records play, and see where you go. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Do The Math

Here’s one of many local archeological gems: Tribal Music’s Do The Math, from 1996, is an appropriate start, with collegiate cover, that is an essential part of any Seattle musical education. Damn is this record great.

This compilation was primarily compiled and produced by Vitamin D. It also features several cuts from his underappreciated supergroup, Ghetto Chilldren. Tribal Music was an important ’90s label that we should thank for cataloging our city’s golden boom-bap era, all those jazz samples and scratching, at a time when Seattle was awash in grunge hangover. Do The Math arrow-points to the origins of our uniquely laid-back upper-left sound, summarizing the underground roots of today’s scene. You can find this record for free on Bandcamp. If you have any interest or involvement in local hip-hop, you owe it to the many Duwamish ghosts to go listen to this today. The cover photo was taken by Diana Adams of Vermillion fame.

Here’s another take:

The giant that all Northwest acts have had to measure up to: The Do The Math compilation. Sounding only marginally more professional than their earlier tapes, the Tribal artists deliver with track after track of murky, jazzidelic perfection. Vitamin D and DJ Topspin are the obvious stars of the show, setting the gray, rainy tone for an expanded array of talent to rhyme over. Phat Mob, Ghetto Children, Sinsemilla, Union of Opposites, and the rest of the Tribal family are joined by such artists as the Silent Lamb’s Silas Blak, Source of Labor’s Wordsayer, and the Elevators’ Specs, rounding out the sound more than on Untranslated Prescriptions. I kid you not; this is a heavy release. To put it into perspective, this is to Seattle what the Project Blowed comp is to LA. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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