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Resurrection

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Beyond Reasonable Doubt

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Wet

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Put It On The Line

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Blessed 2 Mic Check

Blessed 2 Mic Check, the wax debut from Nomad Da Nomadic, is a quintessential slab of NW wax, and in many ways typified the Seattle area hip-hop scene in the late nineties. What that means is basically it was hella dope and you missed it. With production by Mr. Supreme on the title cut, and DJ Sayeed and DJ Swift on the two B-sides, this record is sonically tight – especially Sayeed’s track “Da Movement,” which happens to feature Sayeed’s group Black Anger. “Shantae,” Swift’s slower number, comes with its own bonus, as it’s blessed by local heroine Felicia Loud on the hook. Nomad has no problems holding his own amid all this greatness, and in fact, his direct and gritty flow is surprisingly complimentary to the bombastic delivery of Black Anger and Felicia’s gorgeous crooning. Likewise, the beats fit Nomad’s style perfectly, especially Swift’s dark and sedated track, with its murky organ and vibe loops. From here, Nomad went on to release a couple 12″s in 2000 and 2001, as well as a full-length in 2001. His entire output is strong and worth tracking down. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Watch Your Words

I’ve been hearing that DJ Shadow is dropping a new record here pretty soon, so I thought I’d post up this 12″, which includes the infamous beef track aimed at Shadow from Seattle’s Samson & Swift. Apparently, Samson took some offense at Shadow’s filler track on Endtroducing “Why hip-hop Sucks In ’96” insinuating that Shadow didn’t know shit about hip-hop and had no right to critique the culture. Actually, the song’s not just aimed at Shadow, but at all those who hated on 206 hip-hop for not sounding like Cali, and those in the game that aren’t “real” – aka players, gangsters, and (really, unfortunately) underground heads (which he portrays as “god damn tree huggers with backpacks”)… Yeah, pretty much dissing his entire fan base right there.

Whatever the reason, Samson & Swift take them all to task with skill. Samson’s robust flow is instantly recognizable from his 22nd Precinct days on the old Seattle comps, and his producer Swift crafts a smooth, mellow Northwest vibe. The B-side, “Help” has that classic Conception sound despite the fact that it’s Swift in the producer’s chair rather than Jake One or Supreme. I actually find myself listening to this song more than “Watch Your Words”, even with the notoriety surrounding the latter.

Back in 1998, I was patiently waiting for the Northwest to get their time in the limelight. Now more than a decade later that time has arrived, but sadly I hear that Samson has retired from the mic. And that is truly a shame. Let’s hope that Shadow’s new release will raise his hackles up enough to step back up where he’d be more than welcome. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Hustlin-N-Hell EP

Self Tightld was a five member rap group from Seattle, and according to Discogs the members were Maine 1, 2elevn, Popsykle, Sikface and Rob Doe. Their CD Hustlin-N-Hell came out in 1998. That same year, the group dropped a promo-style vinyl EP containing four songs from Hustlin-N-Hell, and the EP is a good introduction to this prominent Seattle rap crew.

Track one on side A, “MC Fo Short,” is all about how ‘MC’ stands for Mangle Competition. For instance, “I rep from the Central District of Seattle, competition will agonize and die from the battle.” Next up is “Pleasure Pouches” which is all about smoking grass. “Pleasure Pouches” features one of my all-time favorite rappers, B-Legit from The Click who sounds like he’s having fun here. “Seattle’s got greens like California,” he raps in his syrupy style. The third song is “Watch That B…N,” which reminds the listener to always be on the alert for someone trying to hustle them.

Side B starts with a clean radio version of “MC Fo Short,” a smart move for any group trying to gain exposure. If you make it easier for radio to embrace you then you will get more spins, it goes without saying. The last cut on the EP is titled “Negatives,” and features guest appearances by turntablist DV One and Northwest rap heavyweight Gangsta Nutt. “Negatives” sounds vaguely like 1995’s “Gangster’s Paradise” by Coolio with the same moody type of operatic string melody in the beat. During a decade when vinyl was nearing its lowest sales point, Self Tightld still chose that specific format for this EP, which showed a commitment to DJ culture and keeping wax alive. Written by Novocaine132

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Full Time Soldiers

In 1996, Jeru The Damaga teamed up with DJ Premier and dropped a searing critique of ’90s gangsta rap music. The track was called “Ya Playin Yaself,” and the lyrics broke down the risks associated with the art form. Jeru was borderline incredulous as he rapped, “I never knew hustlers confessed in stereo or on video, get caught you’ll know who turned state’s evidence, murder weapon, confession and fingerprints. Mama always said ‘watch what comes out your mouth,’ tight case for the DA from here to down South.” Tupac, possibly the world’s most famous gangsta rapper, was killed in Las Vegas that same year, and Biggie was shot dead in Los Angeles in 1997. What was the future for gangsta rap in 1998? Seattle rap group F.T.S. decided to show us with their self-titled album Full Time Soldiers on Street Level Records.

F.T.S. started when MC/producer D-Sane met fellow rappers Smoke Dog and J-Dub. Along the way they added Villain, Drama, Brokedown, and Brazy-J for a total of seven members. By 1998 during the recording of Full Time Soldiers, Brazy-J and Smoke Dog had left the group and a new MC named Madd Dogg had come aboard, putting the group at six people. The first half of the album contains tracks which document the gangster lifestyle of hustling, revenge, and maintaining status. Violence is the predominant language, and F.T.S. position themselves as a mafia-style crime family. “Jackin Season” is typical, with lines like, “We hit the scene, kick the door in, the bullets start flowin, n****s droppin like rocks, the getaway car is stolen…Licked em up like some stamps, lit two cops up like a lamp.” At the end of “Jackin Season” a voice says, “The stories you just heard are based on factual events that have occurred.” Another song called “8-5 Dippin” tells a similar story of desperation, “n**** tried to…hate on me and grab my crack sack, but fuck that, I bust back, with the all-black mini-mac strap and the hundred round clip.” In “Situations Get Thick” there are graphic scenes of gunfire, and the last verse menacingly reminds the listener, “When the shit pops it’s unexpected, undetected, fuck with the F.T.S. this shit gets hectic.”

It’s not all gangster life on Full Time Soldiers, the second half of the album brings that weed smoking and partying side of things. Songs like “All My Bitches Left Me,” “Let’s Get High,” and “Who Can Hustle?” provide a lighthearted break from the shoot-em-up tales. There are several moments where members of the group question their choices which have led them into a life of crime. “Can’t live and die by the gun, gotta get a million dollars before my life is over and done,” goes a standout line on “Million $ Dreams.” The ubiquitous blunts and cognac/40s in many of the tracks serve to numb the pain that comes with street life.

In 2023, activists in the US Congress and many individual states are trying to pass laws which prevent District Attorneys from using rap lyrics in court proceedings. Rappers like Georgia’s Young Thug want impunity to describe their crimes, but don’t want to face any responsibility in cases where they have literally confessed on tape. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis explained the heart of the matter in a mid-2022 CNN interview, “I believe in the First Amendment; it’s one of our most precious rights. However the First Amendment does not protect (rappers) from prosecutors using (lyrics) as evidence if it is such.” Would a group like F.T.S. be found guilty in court based on their lyrics? Regardless of the answer, the group established itself as true ambassadors of the Seattle gangsta rap genre. The album was re-released in 2018.Written by Novocaine132

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Hustlin-N-Hell

From the very beginning of Hustlin-N-Hell it’s clear that Central District representatives Self Tightld are going to take the listener into a dystopian drug dealing and gang banging lifestyle. The cover art shows a chaotic scene in which a cigar smoking skeleton, itself a symbol of death, appears to be wreaking havoc on Seattle. Self Tightld came together in the mid 1990s founded by Maine 1 who teamed up with four other members, Rob Doe, Popsykle, Sikface, and 2elevn. Whether the album glorifies the gangster lifestyle or warns against it will probably depend on the listener, for the tales are rich with ups and downs, victories and defeats, and of course the notorious legacy which comes with going out in a blaze of bullets.

Track two, “Hustlin In Hell” is emblematic of the album’s themes, namely survival is not guaranteed and you don’t get what you deserve but only what you bargain for. “Hustlin In Hell” drops a bread crumb which leads to another famous street rap from Seattle, “I’m not from Union but I’m hustlin,” referring to “Union Street Hustlers” by Ice Cold Mode. The album continues with bleak rhymes about violence in the neighborhood on “Northwest Gunfest,” “Ill Thoughts,” and “Problems.” “Leave these crimes alone and your life just might pop, or a pistol might pop and give your life an early stop,” goes one of my favorite lines on “Problems.” Lack of opportunity for youth is addressed in tracks like “Self Tightld,” “Live4Today,” and “Negatives.”

The group doesn’t only rap about gunplay and trap life, there are also songs like “MC Fo Short,” and “Rhymes Top Of The Line,” which show off verbal skills and drop challenges to other rappers. To their credit, Self Tightld don’t delve too deep into the “Rap about rap” rabbit hole in which rappers spend all their energy talking about their record label or other rappers.

There are several highlights on Hustlin-N-Hell including “Pleasure Pouches” which features an appearance from California’s B-Legit. “Pleasure Pouches” is predictably a paean to pot smoking, and the group celebrates cannabis with various clever rhymes. “Watch That B/N” is a reminder to be careful who you trust, because there is a hustle lurking around every corner. Another track that shines is “Growth And Development,” a very meta message about how to choose the right path in life. Each of us is “Chillin in a crossroads,” as the song puts it, and we must do the right thing or risk a literal dead end. Due to its popularity, Hustlin-N-Hell was re-released by Point Side four years later in 2002. Rest in peace to group members Rob Doe who passed in 1998, and Popsykle who passed in 2018. Written by Novocaine132

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DJ Bles Vs. BBoys

For hundreds of years, truffle hunters have searched remote forests for choice morsels which they could then turn around and sell for thousands of dollars. According to the most discerning fine diners, the flavors are exquisite, and canny Michelin chefs will go to great lengths to obtain the best truffles. In 2009 a 2.8 pound specimen sold at auction for $330,000 to a wealthy Hong Kong billionaire.

DJ blesOne is involved in a similar undertaking. Finding rare beats and serving them up in an epic ‘tasting menu’ of sounds has been his passion for close to thirty years. Mr. blesOne is a B-Boy-centric DJ who started putting out mixtapes in the mid 1990s. Two of his early mixes that gained wide appreciation were Portland Muthaf***a in 1996 and B-Boys B-Boy Forever in 1997. In 1998 he put together a massive collection of breaks and samples in a continuous mix called DJ Bles Vs. BBoys.

Bles has a hyperactive aesthetic all his own, and he evokes a 19th century one-man-band performer. He brings the full orchestra every time he makes a mix, there’s piano, guitars, strings, drums, and every other sound you can imagine. DJ Bles Vs. BBoys is a whirlwind of samples from the history of hip-hop, there are hundreds of different samples all combined into one delicious stew. It is the ultimate party mix, and it is surgically and architecturally designed for b-boy cyphers with rapid drums and exciting breaks hitting you one after the other.

The CD was re-released ten years later in 2008 with the following inscription from blesOne: “I’m rereleasing this CD because the last 10 years of my life would have been drastically different if this never came out. This mixtape somehow opened up the doors for me to travel, meet legends I’ve idolized, become known & respected in other countries & introduced me to some of the best friends I’ve ever had. I don’t know what I did to deserve this 10 year ride but I’m damn sure gonna celebrate it” DJ Bles Vs. BBoys is the three-star Michelin meal which you can enjoy again and again. Written by Novocaine132

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Hatas All Pause

Crooked Path came together in the early 1990s when DJ Funk Daddy teamed up with J-Skee and Dee-Lyrious. The group’s first album After Dark in 1994 was a success, and they returned with a follow-up CD called Which Way Is Up in 1998. Their label Dogday Records put out a 12″ vinyl promo maxi-single to accompany the CD. This wax contains four songs from Which Way Is Up, and it displays the many styles of this important Seattle rap group.

“Hatas All Pause” is the A-side. The lyrics are about how nobody can mess with Crooked Path because they are “making big moves.” When they walk into the room, everybody freezes. Side B includes the instrumental and the acapella versions of “Hatas All Pause” so that DJs can mix it up in the club, always a smart idea for a twelve-inch release.

Side B starts with “Bad Mutha 4 Ya,” which brings that party vibe. It’s a sweet slice of funk, with a deep, fuzzy bassline that could be mistaken for an earthquake. J-Skee describes his player pedigree in verse after verse. Next on the B-side is “Feel Like A Nut,” which explores the group’s sexual tendencies with lines like, “I’m a motherf***er, I put a bitch to a test, I goes and gets another trick and see who f***s best.” The last song on the maxi-single is “Don’t Give A Phuck,” which is the most gangsta of the four offerings. The track features Lil Frank, and it tells how Crooked Path is gonna “put you in a body bag.” Now in 2023, twenty-five years after this release, DJ Funk Daddy can still be found entertaining music fans in the Northwest. Written by Novocaine132

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Neva Scared

There’s no question that 1998 was a huge year for boutique Seattle hip hop label Conception Records. The label dropped five 12″ singles in a row that year, then put out the Walkman Rotation mixtape which was essentially a showcase for the label’s catalog. Kutfather moved to Seattle from California, and immediately became a local hit. According to fellow Seattle artist DJ B-Mello, “He (Kut) relocated to Seattle and right away I had him on stage with me doing a Zumiez event at Rkcndy. Over the years we did so many legendary radio shows, club nights, & shows!” Kutfather joined Conception, first appearing on Jake One’s “No Introduction” single, then dropping this two song banger on his own.

“Neva Scared” is one of Conception Records hardest releases. This song is all about how rough and tough Kut is and he raps over a steady Jake One beat. Kutfather repurposes a classic “Eric B Is President” line from Rakim, “Prepared, never scared, I’ll just bless one,” and makes it the chorus of his track. One of my favorite lines is, “I go back to the days before Versace, before block-watch watched me.” There are lots of punchlines and metaphors to chew on, while Kut’s gravelly voice projects authority and pathos.

“Thoughts I Generate” is a bit slower, also produced by Jake One. Kut continues his bragging style, telling us in myriad ways that nobody can rock a mic like he can. “Y’all bitches must pull straps, don’t want to go toe to toe, bring your best MC and we can go flow for flow,” goes one of my favorite lines on the track. Kutfather battled illness throughout the 2010s, and in 2020 he passed away. Rest in peace to a real 206 hip hop legend. Written by Novocaine132

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No Samples

Da Blasta and Ratboy were Turntable Bay, consisting of an emcee and a drummer/instrumentalist. Their album, entitled No Samples, dropped in 1998, and they followed that up with something called Uncle Dick, which to me is way creepy. This record has to be one of the weirdest releases out there. There’s definitely an old-school vibe to it (mostly due to Da Blasta’s flow), but the record is nonetheless strange, trippy, and at times hilarious. The titles of some of the tracks sum it up perfectly: “Booty Cheese”, “I See Cake”, “Visual Purple”, etc. Give it a spin… It’s on Spotify. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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S.E.L.F.

“S.E.L.F.” was released in 1998 by one of Tacoma’s greatest hip-hop groups, Bedroom Produksionz, the duo of DJ Sayeed and Kindu Shabazz. (The two would become Black Anger on tracks in collaboration with MC E-Real.) Personally, I love this group, their music, and their overarching philosophy. Let me explain why: Each Bedroom song was released with an instrumental version. Listen to the instrumental first: You’ll hear a kaleidoscopic soundscape, groovy, unexpected, shimmering. This base is an obstacle course, constantly testing Kindu’s lyrical parkour on the vocal track, but he nonetheless conquers it victoriously. The interplay between beats and vocals is mesmerizing, a little reminiscent of Kung Foo Grip. The songs themselves celebrate Black liberation, self-empowerment, and supporting and nurturing local communities. “S.E.L.F.,” is an acronym for “Supreme Ever Lasting Foundation,” an effort to decontaminate decades of colonial programming: The system wants to keep Black communities poor so they can be a useful prop for spotty government aid. But by knowing and taking care of yourself, seeing the world with open eyes, this is the “knowledge that is key to free the black nation.” They started their own record label, Du4Self—as part of their own self-empowerment—which inspired Blue Scholars to do the same, as referenced in their hit, “Fou Lee.” When interviewed by The Rocket, Kindu questioned what success we were all striving for: “…The Northwest is so overlooked that our form of hip-hop is not yet corrupted by big business, but that’s bad because we don’t get exposure. We still have a little bit of integrity in our art. Sometimes I wish that the 206 can remain invisible, because the industry has got hip-hop miserable.” Sayeed and Kindu moved to Virginia in 2000 bringing a close to their important impact on our local scene.

Here’s another take:

More greatness from the Northwest, this time coming from Bedroom Produksionz. Consisting of two-thirds of Black Anger, BP drop consciousness and Afrocentricity like their hometown counterparts Source of Labor, but with a distinctly harder edge. Sayeed’s beats are tight, driving, and prominent in the mix, while Kendo’s delivery is equally intense and raw. “I Know Ways” features a signature verse from Silent Lamb Silas Blak. Once again, here’s an act that probably would have been a whole lot more successful if they had come from a different city. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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&

IReality

Kylea comes out strong on this slab of hot wax from 1998. Blessed with one of the smoothest voices in hip-hop, she could be found all over Rain City releases for years, from 14 Fathoms to Choked Up to Stolen Lives–and often times I felt her guest appearances outshone the featured artist. With an impeccable delivery and imagery-filled lyrics, she is definitely an artist in command of her art. This collaborative 12″ features two stellar tracks from Kylea with Negus I on beats (two of his best, in my opinion), and an additional track by Source Of Labor. The A-side, “I reality”, has to be one of my all-time favorite Northwest tracks without a doubt. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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No Introduction

A classic among classics… Here’s Jake One (featuring Kutfather)’s iconic 12″ No Introduction from Conception Records back in 1998. The A-side features Jake’s signature production: a driving, airy, infectious loop over a minimal, but effective beat. The side B is no less head-nodding with a smooth, subdued remix. The final track, “One Man Band”, shows off Jake’s formidable beat-making and chopping skills. Even back in ’98, he had the gift. Conception released some of the illest Northwest hip-hop, both past and present, and this 12″ ranks at the top. Just as notably, this slab of wax shows what an accomplished beatsmith Jake was even before he became an industry name. Crucial sides from Conception. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Comrade

Most people ’round these parts don’t know it, but Washington ranked right behind New York and California on the list of most-prolific states for underground hip-hop releases in 1998. True, most rap fans probably couldn’t name three or four Northwest groups to save their lives (Mix-A-Lot doesn’t count, dude), but we’re coming up, slowly but surely, building a track record with consistently good releases and the label infrastructure to support.

One such label is Olympia’s own K Records, which, along with Impact Entertainment, has dropped critically acclaimed releases from Black Anger, Bedroom Produksionz, and a whole slew of Northwest talent on the 1998 compilation, Classic Elements.

The Silent Lambs Project represents a collaboration between MCs Blak (of Blind Council) and Jace. The duo’s abstract lyrical style is fueled by production from DJ Sayeed, Mr. Supreme, King Otto, and Specs. Though the songs all stand out as individuals, “No J.R.,” “Stand Over Him” and “S.L. Shit” particularly beg to be blended into a soundtrack for your walk through the streets as gray clouds loom ominously overhead.

“Comrade” is the EP’s single, featuring guest vocals from Kendo of Black Anger and a mellow, CTI Jazz-sounding flute loop courtesy of DJ Sayeed. But the stand-out cut of the record is “Paid Poet,” produced by the Northwest’s most underrated beat miner, King Otto. Given a little more bounce and bassline, Otto’s work here could easily transform into mundane jigginess for some type-shallow MC to spit over. Lucky for us, he keeps it more mysterious, presenting a nice complement to Blak’s sedately frenetic flows.

All in all, Comrade is a very Northwest-sounding record. Who knows if the rest of the world can identify with those rain clouds overhead? As long as you have your soundtrack, it really doesn’t matter. Pop the Silent Lambs’ joint in your Walkman and leave your umbrella at home. (This review originally appeared in The Rocket and was written by Strath Shepard.)

Here’s another take:

Few acts come out the gate as strong as The Silent Lambs Project did here. This debut EP from 1998, with the signature abstract, cerebral, and head-scratching poetry from Jace and Blak, devastates from beginning to end. But nothing less should be expected from this duo.

In 1998, both lyricists were veterans of the scene: Jace as a part of Fourth Party, and Silas holding it down in Blind Council. But listening to this release, you’d think they’d been in the same group forever. Both are foils to the other: Blak’s delivery is edgy and filled with tension, while Jace’s floats smoothly and effortlessly over the beat. The two deliver perfection like yin and yang.

Joining them on the various tracks are some of Seattle’s top producers: DJ Sayeed from Black Anger/Bedroom Produksionz provides the title track and “SL Shit”, King Otto’s on deck for “Paid Poet”, Mr. Supreme from the Conmen shows up for “No J R”, and SpecsOne produced “Stand Over Him”. Kendo from Black Anger also shows up on the title track, “Comrade.” (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Dayz Like This

This album, Dayz Like This, by the nine-member Maroon Colony is definitely pleasing to the ear: Accomplished musicians creating some awesome, jazz-infected hip-hop to accompany four very talented emcees. I would compare them to the Roots, musically. Ev, Josh, Ken, Drew, and Van manage to play some lively, groovy, and sometimes psychedelic music, while keeping it uncluttered enough for Krisys (AKA Khalil Crisis, AKA Khingz), Mensah, Weapon X, and Sunspot to lay down some lyrical density. The emcees evoke a decidedly West Coast vibe–and by west coast I mean Cali–which is surprising since a lot of what came out of Seattle back then seemed to borrow a lot from the more rugged east coast sound. I always regretted not seeing this group live, because you can tell from this album that a show by the Colony would have been heat. However, the energy of a dope live show doesn’t always translate smoothly to tape, and that is, unfortunately, the case here. But don’t let that deter you, as this is some classic creativity by a group of talented artists. Vitamin D guests on the hidden track at the end. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Walkman Rotation

Conception Records was founded in Seattle in 1993 by a team including Sureshot and Mr. Supreme, two enterprising DJs who also performed locally in their band Sharpshooters. Over the next three years, Sharpshooters dropped a couple of projects on Conception, each of which is now certified holy grail status. Then in 97/98, the label flooded Seattle with a ton of banging new hip-hop singles. Walkman Rotation is basically a Conception records compilation that contains the best tracks from that era. Hearing them all together is such a valuable resource and this comp gives the listener instant access to that time period. Jake One and Supreme made most of the beats, and the sound is slow, blunted, and totally addicting. Highlights include “Any Last Words” by Supreme, “Essay On Pseudoism” by Jake One feat. Arcee, and “My Position” by Eclipse. There are two Conmen (Supreme & Jake One) instrumental beats here as a bonus so all you aspiring MCs can practice at home. Walkman Rotation has aged into the 21st century like a fine wine. This is a 206 classic! (Written by Novocaine132.)

Here’s another take:

Ranked right up there, this fantastic ’98 compilation from Seattle’s Conception Records got dubbed to TDK on the first listen, and then that tape LIVED in my tape deck for months. It’s a dope collection of all-Conception artists, many of them from the Northwest, but also featuring cats from places as diverse as Cali, Ohio, and Canada. Producers Jake One and Mr. Supreme pretty much set the screw-faced theme and run the show here, concocting their signature blunted urban atmospherics. As beatmakers go, I always thought these two worked incredibly well together – their beats quite often were placed on opposite sides of the vinyl from one another, creating two distinct, yet complementary moods. It’s one of the reasons Conception wax was always such a pleasure to hear; they were more than just singles–they were cohesive and complete documents, thanks to the ebb and flow Jake and Supreme set down. Another reason for Conception’s greatness, obviously, was the amazing lyrical talent. I swear, there wasn’t a weak verse in their entire catalog. This comp features many of the dopest tracks from Conception’s short-lived output. Fourfifths, Kutfather, Arcee, Eclipse, Third Degree, and Samson represent vocally with tracks off of their various 12″s, with outside production by Samson & Swift on their track and MoSS one of Eclipse’s tracks. In addition, there is exclusive output on this comp from J-Rocc, Diamond Mercenaries, Jake One, 3D, and Arcee. It’s more than just an overview of the label, it’s crucial listening. Period. The CD version was given the Beat Junky treatment, with J-Rocc providing the tracks in mixed form, keeping shit funky. The vinyl comes unmixed, so you can hear each track in its complete form. Listening to it as I write, it’s still as mind-blowing and groovy as it was when I first heard it. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Classic Elements

Classic Elements was released by Olympia’s K Records in 1998. It contains tracks by sixteen Northwest hip hop artists, including some certified legends. The lyrics are consistently excellent throughout the compilation. These are songs for the mind, and many are vignettes in the true sense of the word, a good example being the captivating saga contained in “A.N.I.T.A.” by Nobody. The production on Classic Elements glows softly like a vintage Edison light bulb. DJ Sayeed (Black Anger) and Brian Weber (Dub Narcotic) both play a large role in shaping the sound of this compilation. Mr. Supreme drops a sublime Twin-Peaks-esque beat for Jace on “What’s Ya Definition,” and Topspin captures a tempest in a teapot with his beat for “Sleep” by Sinsemilla. Every track on this compilation is a genuine artistic expression, and that carries some risk because the performers put their feelings out on display which renders them vulnerable to misunderstanding, or worse, indifference. One of the highlights is “Hip Hop Was” by Ghetto Chilldren, which shines with professional polish among some of the dustier tracks. When you include a track by Source of Labor with Beyond Reality, “Aunt Anna,” and a couple of underground heat rocks from Silas Blak, “Only When I’m High,” and “Blak And Blind,” there’s every reason to make sure this compilation is part of your music collection. (Written by Novocaine132.)

Here’s another take:

Like the four leaves on a lucky clover, four ’90s era Seattle compilations showcase the diverse hip-hop collectives in Washington State and with them your windfall of sounds and explorations: Do The Math, 14 Fathoms Deep, Walkman Rotation, and here, Classic Elements (co-released by Impact Entertainment and K Records). Back then getting the handful of cassettes and comps was a great thrill, and the Seattle area offered up the best. Classic Elements was released at a time when the main place to hear local hip-hop was on the street at Westlake Center or on KCMU’s Rap Attack. Like the title, the classics here are Ghetto Chilldren, Source Of Labor, Black Anger, and Tilson, all offering hits that transcend national radio rap and bring a better class of words and thoughts. Some groups won’t be found outside of this collection – Nobody, Jaleel, 5E, Ski, and Arson have songs that play smooth and timeless. Classic Elements is as relevant today as it was twenty-some years ago. Released on cassette, CD, and on an abbreviated LP – Find it, get it. Good! (This review was submitted by reader Brett Sandstrom.)

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Which Way Is Up

Seattle’s Crooked Path may not have come together were it not for Sir Mix-A-Lot’s matchmaking. After his mega-success with “big butts,” Mix produced Seattle’s first hip-hop compilation, Seattle… The Dark Side. On that compilation, rapper Jay-Skee appears on two tracks, both produced by Greg B, aka Funk Daddy. It was a two-song partnership that birthed the first Crooked Path mixtape, After Dark, in 1994.

Four years passed before the duo dropped Which Way Is Up on Oakland’s Dogday Records. By this point, Funk Daddy was a certified hitmaker, having contributed his signature squelch to E-40’s platinum release, In A Major Way and other mainstream hits.

On Which Way Is Up it’s clear that he and J-Skee, with the addition of Dee-Lyrious, are messing around, having fun, creating classic gangsta cuts, all posturing, reputation, drug-dealing, sexual conquests, finger on the trigger shit.

Favorite tune “Young Playa” lifts the melody from Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like An Eagle,” and tells the story of a young man trying to keep just a hair on the right side of the law while walking around Yesler Terrace. (There’s also a sweet reference to “Where the Ghetto Chilldren play…”) This whole record is on Spotify and you should go spin it today for them classic Seattle vibes.

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