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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

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F.T.S.

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DJ Bles Vs. BBoys

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Hatas All Pause

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Neva Scared

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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 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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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 1993.

Five 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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