A film about Northwest hip-hop from

The Life In The Central But The Ways Of The World

Hmmm... There's not a lot of information about this project in the museum encyclopedia. We'd love your help! TOWN LOVE is maintained by an awesome community of passionate volunteers who keep it all up to date.

Do you know something about the history of this record? Do you have a favorite lyric or a favorite memory? Send us an email on why this is one of the great hip-hop albums from the Northwest. Thanks!

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Gettin Paid

Shon “Mr. D.O.G.” Peterson is a Tacoma rapper who launched his career in 1997 with this six-song EP called Gettin Paid. The album art shows him on his couch, counting cash and seated next to a gold rim. Leading things off is “Gettin Paid,” the debut single from Mr. D.O.G.’s first full album Wet, which would arrive the following year in 1998. “Gettin Paid” is a banging joint, with lots of heavy drum hits from the very start. D.O.G. is a confident lyricist who relates explicit, violent street tales in the recording booth. “Get your money,” he repeats to any potential hustlers listening, “get your dolla billa, get your paper, get your fetti, get your cash, get your scrilla.”

Next is “Leave Your Strap Down,” which was also featured on the Northwest Connection: What They Hittin Fo compilation using the slightly different title “Leave Yo Strap On.” This song is about how D.O.G. is caught up in the T-Town gangsta lifestyle. “I shot that n**** twice in the head, as his dome bled,” he confesses. The beat effectively assists D.O.G.’s lyrics, creating a somewhat sad, even forlorn tone for the dead-end gun tales of “choppers, TECs, and laser beams, assault rifles and Glocks with them 30-round magazines.”

Four shorter songs complete the project, making this more than just a CD single. My favorite of the four is “20 Sacc.” Mr. D.O.G. brags about his potent weed, “Every day we parlay, sippin on some Alizé mixed with Hennessy, only friends of me can hit the ganga.” Rhyming “friends of me” with “Hennessy” always makes me chuckle, plus the ingredients for this drink are pictured on the cover, lending authenticity and truth to Mr. D.O.G.’s verses. Gettin Paid is definitely a Tacoma gangsta classic, just for its pure commitment to the genre. The EP also launched Mr. D.O.G.’s label, Bow Wow Records, responsible for over a dozen local CD and vinyl releases. Written by Novocaine132

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

The Stats

The True Believers Crew (TBC) encompassed an underground Seattle hip-hop movement in the early 1990s. Members included Specs, E Sharp, Bean One, King Otto, Page 3, Proh Mic, Tracy Armour, and others. Producer Bean One and MC Proh Mic teamed up to create Footprints, and their first release was this 4 song, lo-fi EP titled The Stats. As Proh Mic describes in the intro, the tape was made “on some busted-ass equipment.”

Side A leads off with “The Planet” and it’s a major head-nodder. This beat by Bean One is droning and hypnotic, it seems to consist of emptiness. Galactic gravity rhythms pervade the low end as the high-treble scratches and laser sounds on the chorus explode like pop-rocks in your ears. Proh Mic may “want a new drug like Huey Lewis,” but to a hip-hop addict this track itself is going to get you high. “I represent the whole planet,” he raps, eschewing the phony East vs West coastal beef which fragmented hip-hop culture in the ‘90s. The second song is the short “And It Don’t Stop,” which has some punch but ends quickly. Then we get about two minutes of weird musical bits and samples in an interlude of sorts. This chaos puts me pleasantly off balance, reminiscent of listening to the classic disorienting record “A Childs Garden Of Grass” from 1971.

The B-side gets going with “Mental Acugenics,” a choppy and loose excursion with lots of noise and dissonance. Next is “That’s A Lie,” another cut proving that Footprints were serious contenders to join Seattle’s royalty. Similar to what he did with “The Planet,” producer Bean One absolutely slays it on “That’s A Lie.” Those two beats manage to accomplish so much with so little. They harness the power of nothing just like the hub of a wheel holds the spokes together in the famous Lao Tzu paradox. “That’s A Lie” features hints of harp strings, bird sounds, tiny whispers of music, but nothing you can grab onto. Proh Mic lyrically stands up for himself, “You think we gonna stay quiet?” he asks incredulously. “They want to say we start riots, that’s a lie,” goes the chorus, throwing out a challenge to anyone blaming rap music for violence. At the end, the tape fades out with two more minutes of spacey, gyroscopic, audio madness. The Stats really does have something for your mind, your body, and your soul. Written by Novocaine132

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

American Music

This 1997 tape from 206 hip-hop guru Specswizard is quite the treasure. Coming out after the legendary Crew Clockwise and Elevators, American Music is a departure from the previous mellow, jazzy sounds of those projects. This is almost entirely instrumental, with only a few scattered freestyles and one crew cut (Eyeshock along with Erex the Exposer, Vanviesbrook, and Oh Laslo DDS – I think). The beats are frenetic and scratchy – instantly recognizable as a Specs creation, but with an unusually anxious and restless vibe. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Freestyle Demo Tape

I came across this often-rumored, seldom-heard tape today when I visited Tribal’s Bandcamp page, and couldn’t believe my eyes. I instantly downloaded it, but there was work to do and guests coming over and it had to wait there on my desktop until everything else quieted down. It’s just after Eleven at night and I have now finished listening to this for the first time and the euphoria and dopamine is still circulating in my head, so my apologies in advance if I dork out. But what am I supposed to say about this? To convince you of the value of this work? I tend to gush, and I have been called a Seattle hip-hop Stan by more than a few, and I readily accept the label – after all, have I ever posted up a negative write-up, or had anything less than stellar words to say about who I choose to post about? I can understand that what I have to say has to be taken with a grain of salt because I have an undying love for the Town and the artists in it and the music it shapes. When I was 13 years old Nirvana broke out, and a few short years later I first heard Tribal Productions’ Untranslated Prescriptions, and the rest is history. I’m a lost cause; for me Seattle was, is, and will continue to be the coolest city on the face of the Earth. In short, I know I’m biased. But, the memory of driving around in a car with my friends after school, listening over and over to Sinsemilla’s “Confrontations” and PHAT Mob’s “P.H.A.T.” above the grind of the heater – those are oddly some of my most cherished mementos I have of the heady, emotional roller-coaster ride that is adolescence. Out through stock radio speakers from a warbly tape came rough, beautiful music made by kids not much older than myself, living a few short miles away, that was unlike anything else out there. There was East coast and West coast, and then after Untranslated there was Seattle. To this day when I listen to that tape or Do The Math and hear those young voices over thin, scratchy, heart-wrenching instrumental tracks, it gives me a feeling of pride for my home – and also that the world can still be surprising, and as full of promise and terrifying opportunity as only a teenager can imagine. And now with the Freestyle Demo Tape, I have something else to invoke those emotions in me, even though I never got the chance to listen to it back then. But those young voices are still there, as is the atmosphere of that wonderfully familiar 4-track – and even without the nostalgia I chain it to, it still sounds fresher than fresh. And that my friends is why I’m all bubbly about this release – and actually everything else I post up about Seattle music. Tribal’s vibe is understated but it extends deep, throughout the Northwest and outward. That sound crafted by Vitamin D and Topspin has soaked into the Town and set the mood and tone of its music to this day, whether you like it or not. And I for one love the hip-hop of Seattle because of that mood – the whole genre in this neck of the woods has become part of Tribal’s legacy. That grey jazz, the substance of the lyrics, you can hear it all over the 206 – it still gives me a thrill whenever I catch it. And to be honest I’m here writing on this blog because of Tribal. I want people to hear this largely unknown music and understand its greatness and influence, in the hope of conveying that spark. Who I choose to write about are those that give me that same thrill, that child-like wonder, that sense of excitement that is, unfortunately, more and more rarely found as I get older. I don’t know what listening to this will do for you, as I’m sure very few of you have the same experiences with Tribal Productions but listen to it anyway. Use it to think about the music that you’re passionate about, and to think about what artists helped move you and shape you into who you are now. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Northwest Connection: What They Hittin Fo

In 1997, some of Seattle and Tacoma’s hardest rhyme spitters came together and assembled ten dope tracks into a compilation. The title is Northwest Connection: What They Hittin Fo, and according to the notes at Discogs the CD didn’t come out until fourteen years later when it was released by Death Wish Records in 2011. It is a solid release for those who like that gangsta-street content. Deuce Click has two tracks, a chopped-and-screwed-esque slow cut called “Keep It Comin,” and an inspirational, motivational creeper titled “The Break Of Light” that will put a smile on your face. Black Cesar (formerly known as Foul Play) also get two songs, reminding us of the importance of loyalty on “Love For Me” and dropping useful street game on “Without U.” Mr. D.O.G. makes an appearance with “Leave Yo Strap On,” warning listeners in multiple ways that he’s dangerous. The CD ends with a track by The DCP Organization, a Tacoma group in the early 1990s which included members of Criminal Nation.

My personal favorite track on the compilation is “Regardless.” Wojack and Candidt deliver over a smooth g-funk beat. “We sit back, relax, get ours regardless,” goes the chorus. “Regardless” rolls and dips like a low rider driven by these two OG Northwest rappers who are clearly gifted at what they do. Northwest Connection: What They Hittin Fo is an excellent display of late ’90s gangsta rap in Seattle and Tacoma. Compilations like this show that while the Northwest had a vibrant gangsta rap scene, the genre at large suffered from a narrow range of subject matter for most of the 1990s. As B-Self pointed out in a 2020 206ClassicRadio Youtube interview, the 1988 album Straight Outta Compton “succeeded too well,” meaning it was so influential that every young rap group wanted to resemble NWA to the point of abject imitation. It took years for rap music to recover from the long, tall shadow of Straight Outta Compton, and largely because of that album gangsta rap will always be a part of the fabric of hip-hop. Written by Novocaine132

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

&

Whatever / Overstandings

This split 12″ is the first vinyl release from Beyond Reality and the first post-Blahzay Blah outing from Source of Labor. Beyond Reality’s side features the track “Whatever”, with a hook provided by Felicia Loud. The “Moonlight Remix” of “Whatever” is in my opinion the stronger of the two, which is a sedated, dark trippy gem. On the flip side, Source of Labor represents with the track “Overstandings”, along with its also superior “Wetlands Remix”. What can I say, I’ve always been a fan of the b-side. With this release, Kylea proves to be one of Seattle’s dopest MCs of her era; her flow is impeccably even and on point. In contrast, Wordsayer’s flow is on the dense side, and without Blah he tends to crowd the track a little bit. But he’s an emcee who’s always had a lot to say, and his flow is perfect for his message. Negus I, who produced nearly all the tracks, has always been a dope producer – I love his work with BR and SOL, and consider him one of the best beatmakers out there. He certainly doesn’t disappoint here – Especially the “Moonlight Remix”, which I think is one of his best tracks. Source of Labor, unfortunately, folded after their 2000 album, Stolen Lives. Wordsayer has been successful in managing some notable talent in the new crop of 206 hip-hop, but I can’t find any information on what Negus I has been doing. I sincerely hope he’s still making music. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

It's Raining Dope

From 1997, this is Tacoma WA’s Way Out Record’s showcase compilation of their four featured artists and in-house production team. Although only a short drive south from Seattle and its predominantly indie vibe, Tacoma apparently keeps shit gangsta. You won’t find any rare groove loops here; this is all home-grown, synth, and drum machine produced beats. Likewise, there’s no room for the typical Sea-Town philosophical pontifications on this tape – as evidenced by subject matter that is much more thuggish and street-wise than say, Silas Blak’s abstract poetry or The Saturday Knights’ party jams. Ultimately what this is, is a glimpse at another side of NW hip-hop that may not be as in vogue as their indie counterparts, but is just as vital and integral and real. From what I can gather, Way Out Records has either closed its doors or become a film production studio. However, the four emcees featured on this tape (AWall, Y.Z.E, Mr. Young Krime, and Young Gangsta Dog) can still be found doing their thing on their own releases and as guests on the releases of other local artists. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Where Ya Goin Wo?

Local Seattle music video director and rap fan Deven Morgan produced a short but informative interview series in 2014 called Do The Math Podcast. One guest on the show was legendary Seattle rap figure Samson S, who shares many of his favorite 206 rap projects, including his thoughts on Where Ya Goin Wo? by Tacoma’s Wojack. Samson explains how Wojack always wants to give him new stuff, but Samson only wants to talk about how dope Where Ya Goin Wo? is. You can find it on Youtube at the one hour and thirty-two minute mark.

Wojack had released albums in ’90 and ’92 as a member of the group Criminal Nation, but instead he teamed with producer M.A.S. who created all the beats for this solo 1997 side project. As Wojack puts it, “I made a subtraction, and got rid of all that wack scratching.” After the intro, the first cut is the spooky-sounding “To The Brain,” which turns out to be the answer to the question posed in the album title. “To The Brain” is one of the strongest tracks on the album, it creates a sinister mood which matches Wojack’s lyrics perfectly, and the chorus is a ready-made call and response. It’s one of those times when rapper and producer find a real synergy. Another hit is “206,” a fun, all-purpose, g-funk jam, equally appropriate for bumping in the ride, dancing in the club, or just chilling at home on the couch smoking a blunt.

Parts of Where Ya Goin Wo? devolve into misanthropic themes that don’t seem to go anywhere, for instance, the gloomy “No Escape” shows a man trapped in his own madness like the Steppenwolf. “Shootin Up Your Crew” is full of desperate nihilism, “Unloading clips off in your face, I guess I’ll be crucified by these demons trying to keep me in my place.” But when the album is at its best, it showcases a very talented wordsmith not only trying to expand his brand, but also taking risks by experimenting with his style and content. One year after Where Ya Goin Wo? there was a Criminal Nation album titled Resurrection which came out on Ocean Records, but according to the credits, Wojack is only featured on one track. Written by Novocaine132

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Everything is Nice

“The country’s losing lives while the leader’s out of touch… The shit that be happening… is what got me rapping…” These lyrics loop throughout the title track of Everything is Nice by Seattle hip-hop OGs Prose & Concepts (aka Six In The Clip) whose trippy self-released second album, from 1997, is perfect headphones music for these times. The production is inventive ear candy, while the lyrics continue to hold deep resonance 23 years on. Novocaine 132 wrote this review for The Rocket music newspaper back in the ‘90s about it:

The second album, Everything is Nice, from Seattle’s legendary Prose & Concepts, is as much a Northwest original as the neon Red Hook sign shown in the cover photo. Their debut record, Procreations, brought increased pride to Seattle rap fans through tracks like “W.O.T.R.” “Do You Know?,” “Allone in This Field” and “Roll Call on the 1 and 2’s.”

Everything is Nice continues to prove that literacy and hip-hop aren’t necessarily antonyms. From the cannabis-soaked “Tiny Bubbles,” to the poetic tactics of “Courting Miss Understood,” to the sweet, drifting chorus on “The Ballad,” the album stands head and shoulders above the recycled gangster releases pervading the charts. My personal favorite cut, “Turntable Rhapsody in E Minor,” had me asking turntablist DJ Ace why he didn’t “put that on something” (for instance, Return of the DJ Volume II, where it certainly belongs). I wish I could truly say that everything is nice, but like Goodie Mob said, “I wanna tell you that it’s all good but it ain’t”; one of the group’s MCs, Michael “Dub” Weltmann, died on the last day of 1996. His verse in the closing song “Loose Cannon” will, to many, always be an eerie reminder of just how fragile life really is. I think we need a moment of silence.

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

14 Fathoms Deep

Exponential growth, part one: Woman gives herself a home permanent. Her hair looks so good that she tells two friends, and they tell two friends, and so on…

Exponential growth, part two: Andre “Dr. Dre” Young gets on with NWA, and goes on to make some of the best beats ever produced. On Dre’s Deep Cover track he employed the velvet-tongued Snoop, who hasn’t looked back since beginning his pursuit of Death Row domination. Once Snoop hit platinum status, he was quick to put Daz and Kurupt on a disc, and from there forward those two certainly haven’t done too shabbily. The point is this: Every artist has friends they want to help out once they themselves have safely achieved success.

Keeping this in mind, it is with eager anticipation that I await the exponential growth of Seattle’s rap/hip-hop scene following the long-coming release of the new Loosegroove compilation, 14 Fathoms Deep. This record is so heavy it could hang with Tad. Let’s face it: Its weight is just plain ridiculous. This is the kind of music that could inspire 14 empires, build 14 record labels, or, at the very least, boost 14 of Seattle’s hip-hop groups a little bit closer to well-deserved fame and fortune.

Allow me to break it down track by ahead-of-its-time track. Sinsemilla contributes the perfect opener for the compilation, a scherzando club track titled “Drastic Measures.” Verbal twists like, “Down with a criminal Jill we Jack together” can and will get you open extra wide. Next, 22nd Precinct barges in with the unruly honesty of “Great Outdoors”: “It’s a pity the way the city treats the poor” had me thinking of the forgotten and misplaced, huddling over downtown Seattle’s iron steam grates.

“Official Members” by Mad Fanatic (featuring Raychyld) will definitely catch you rewinding. It’s slow and hypnotic, and lyrics like “My rhyme’s deep in the dirt/ Worms can’t find it” beg to be heard twice. DMS furthers the slow groove on “Keep Da Change,” but spiky attitude is the key here: “The six is in the mix so domino motherfucker” rides a keyboard-funk beat.

A powerhouse Source of Labor dazzles with their track, “Cornbread.” It’s all about musical subtlety when lines like “How can you claim to be an MC/When an MC’s what you just can’t be/ You can’t be an MC and not freestyling” make the point undeniable. Ghetto Chilldren get their OJ on with “Court’s in Session,” and Pulp Fiction’s most enduring catchphrase becomes Forrest Gump’s threat to “get medieval on your buttocks.” The sparest of basslines and flute notes flutter prettily behind harsh words like “You stand accused of being wack in the first degree/ Premeditating slang terms for your hardcore soliloquies.” “All Up in the Mix” by Narcotik opens with the most breathtaking sample on 14 Fathoms Deep (“The 206 is in my mix”). The rhyme proceeds to kick some street philosophy with plenty of drinking and smoking thrown in for good measure.

Beginning vinyl side three is Jace (featuring Dionna), with “Ghetto Star.” Its catchy chorus and storyline lyrics ensure this track will be engraved front-and-center in your brain for weeks to come. Beyond Reality–who are listed on the album as Kylin–brings on the spirit of the Jasiri Media Group with their track “Can.” “Let me take your mind on a little mental journey,” invites lead MC Kylea. For the most metaphors per line, look for “Higher Places” by Prose & Concepts, a group that falls into the “survival of the fattest” category.

“Insomniack Museick” by NS of the O.N.E Corporation is probably the moodiest track on the compilation. Dark clouds of drifting keyboards become still more ominous layered behind introspective lyrics such as “Sometimes I’d even trade a nightmare/ Just for 50 winks.” The beat on “Interrogation” by Blind Council bubbles like the scuba gear on the compilation’s cover, and the rhyme is strictly for the connoisseurs out there. Union of Opposites (featuring Shonuph) put down a forward-moving track titled “Continuations”-its relay-style chorus is as fresh as the verses, and the melodic tone moves the disc into another direction entirely. “Wipe off the dust from your mind and recline in my oration.” It’s at once relaxing and educating.

The last cut, also by far the longest, is the most difficult to categorize. The group is the Crew Clockwise and their song, titled “A New Day,” is a heady mix of the many styles showcased on 14 Fathoms Deep. Now I know what Specs meant on Do the Math when he said, “Soon to hit wax I can’t wait.”

So now you know the deal. When these groups start putting their friends on future projects, it may mean more than some heads can handle. 14 Fathoms Deep is not just another hip-hop compilation. In actuality, it’s a promise of even lovelier things to come. Instead of talking about how materialistic and useless today’s rap is, these 14 groups are doing something positive and proactive. Rap music is not dead. Seattle has the Phoenix in the mix. (This review originally appeared in The Stranger in 1997 and was written by Novocaine132. The compilation’s record release party was held on March 15, 1997 at Ground Zero in Bellevue, Washington.)

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

206 Mix Tapes (Worldwide)

Tacoma’s Black Anger released their first demo tape in 1994, and then two years later K Records in Olympia pressed up the group’s first vinyl single, “Feel What I Feel.” Fans were paying attention, and 1997 was a big year for Black Anger. The group dropped a strong EP called Maxed Out Singles, which contained the two songs from the group’s ’96 single plus four new original tracks.

206 Mix Tapes (Worldwide) is a separate EP which contains four cuts from Maxed Out Singles, and their corresponding instrumentals. The covers are very similar with the same silver jacket, but for 206 Mix Tapes (Worldwide) the art is a vibrant green, whereas the Maxed Out Singles art was electric red. In fact the two releases even share the same catalog number (KLP 71) at K Records.

The first two tracks on 206 Mix Tapes (Worldwide) are radio edits of “206 Mix Tapes” and “Conscious Attack.” Track three, “Violence I Become It” repurposes a dope Nas lyric in the chorus, while the melody takes your ear for a ride. The last track on side A, “Still No Commercial,” has a few zig zags and surprises up its sleeve. The B-side has instrumentals of the four songs found on the A-side, very useful for the DJs of the world. Following this release, the group’s single “Third Eye” made it onto the 1998 Classic Elements compilation, but according to Discogs, “Third Eye” seems to be Black Anger’s last official song together as a group. Written by Novocaine132

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Better Days

This three-song EP from Third Degree was recorded at both Audio Genesis and Mr. Supreme’s Wax Museum in Seattle, WA. I wish I had more insight into MC Third Degree, but this guy has flown under my radar since I first heard this back in ’98. He name-checks Seattle, South Carolina, LA, and a few other spots along the way. I don’t think he ever released anything else, but then again, maybe he did. Yep. I know nothing. In usual Conception fashion, Mr. Supreme provides the beat for the excellent “Better Days”, while Jake One handles production duties for the flipside (“Uprising”). Third Degree definitely broadcasts his influences in his delivery (think Smif N Wessun), and Jake and Supreme cater their beats to fit. Actually, listening to Supreme’s music you can tell he’s a big fan of Boot Camp as well. In any case, the record is dope: This is timboot-stomping and infectious music. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Maxed Out Singles

Black Anger is an extension of the sibling production team Bedroom Produksionz, consisting of DJ Sayeed and emcee Kindu. With the addition of E-Real Asim, they become Black Anger. In my opinion, they occupy the top tier of ’90s Northwest acts along with Tribal Productions, Silent Lambs, and Source of Labor. This EP was put out by K records in ’97 and remains a high point in the recorded output of local acts – especially “206 Mix Tapes,” one of the dopest tracks in ’90s hip-hop – period. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Block Drama

In 1997, when Block Drama hit the streets, all signs pointed to rap group Diamond Mercenaries being the next big thing from Seattle. The hip-hop duo of Black Star and 3D took their name from a 1976 heist film starring Peter Fonda and OJ Simpson. “Introducing brand new casting on your block,” is how the track begins, with a banging beat courtesy of hot new producer Jake One (appearing for the first time on vinyl) and based off a sample from Seattle royalty Quincy Jones. The thought-provoking verses that follow cover quick money made, making deals, street survival strategies… “Crime’s my only topic.” The vinyl-only “Block Drama” single was the seventh release from hip indie label Conception, founded only a few years earlier by superstar DJ Supreme La Rock, Shane Hunt, and The Flavor’s Strath Shepard. And yet… Despite much promise, heaps of praise from critics and DJs, and a rumored full-length album recorded and ready, Diamond Mercenaries only ever released this single and a couple of other standalone songs, none of which are available online today. Conception folded not long after and that album never materialized. Diamond Mercenaries blazed bright like a match for only a moment in time. In an interview in The Rocket, Black Star says, “If we get on TV, that’s cool and all, but I ain’t doing it to get on a video. I ain’t doing it to flash gold and diamond rings and all that. I’m doing this to make y’all rock. That’s what I love to do.”

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Earth Wind & Fire

From ’97, here is the lone single by Cuneiform and Sub-Zero (AKA Trust and Nickle Slick, at least according to the interwebs), collectively known as Fourfifths. I’m not sure where these cats are from, but this release was on Mr. Supreme’s Conception Records, so the chances are they were Seattle emcees.

Side A contains the Remix of “Earth, Wind & Fire,” with an early production effort by Jake One. Side B has the original version of “Earth” as well as “The Science,” both by Supreme. I’m struck by how different the two versions of “Earth Wind & Fire” are from one another. Jake One’s beat gives the track a slinky, nocturnal, and dangerous vibe, while Mr. Supreme’s trademark penchant for melancholia turns the song into a world-weary grind. Oddly enough, Supreme’s beat totally wins out. (In fact, I think it’s one of the best cuts he’s ever done.) It’s an infectious and beautiful track with a melody that sticks with you.

Apart from this 12″, Fourfifths can also be heard on two of the best tracks from the Sharpshooters’ Choked Up (“Analyze” and “Trust No One”). It’s a shame that they didn’t go further, because as their slender output attests, they were heat. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

General Inna Penitentiary

From Conception Records back in 1997. DJ Sureshot and Mr. Supreme on deck. Sureshot produced the A-side, while Supreme provided his ample programming skills. The Diamond Mercenaries show up to add flavor on the b-side, where Supreme handled all production duties. This dancehall-infused 12″ is sadly all Selassie I Soldier ever released commercially. I say sadly because both the original and remix are truly infectious tracks. More dope Seattle flavor that went under the radar. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Word Sound Power

Jasiri Media Group arrived on the Seattle scene in the early ’90s as the brainchild of Jonathan Moore, a.k.a. Wordsayer. The Jasiri record label was created primarily to express the heritage of African culture and how it developed in the United States. This meant confronting harsh truths about racism and the extensive history of the Atlantic Middle Passage. Jasiri did not dance around these difficult subjects but rather forced the listeners to think about them. Wordsayer even named his group “Source of Labor” to describe how the European slave merchants viewed their human cargo.

Word, Sound, Power is an ambitious musical project from 1997 which features many artists on the Jasiri label, including Source of Labor and Beyond Reality. “Overstandings” is one highlight track by SOL, and it sums up many of Wordsayer’s philosophies and observations about life. The real dynamo of this compilation is Beyond Reality. On tracks like “I Reality,” “Whatever,” and “333” emcee Kylea drops her typewriter-click-clack lyrical technique that captures the urgency of the group’s message. SOL and BR collaborate on one spectacular track, “SolBr,” which crystallizes the talent and drive of these two groups. Word, Sound, Power is necessary and beautiful, and this compilation is a key part of Seattle’s long hip hop history. (Written by Novocaine132.)

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!