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Titanium Buttermilk Rhinoceros Briefcase

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Sir Mix-A-Lot on Northwest Hip-Hop

In 1999, the Museum of Pop Culture interviewed Sir Mix-A-Lot about growing up in Seattle and the Northwest. “When I was 12-13 years old, we had nothing to listen to, nothing we could identify with.” In his view, hip-hop started out at house parties, and in the beats of Devo, Kraftwerk, and Gary Numan, and then the pants, the hairdos, and the slang that followed. This is a worthwhile two minutes to learn some cool details about the beginnings of the hip-hop genre from someone who was there.

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Operation Raw

Here’s an early lo-fi release from Seattle producer Bean One. After I found out about his project Doublevision, I picked up this dope tape back in the day from local music supporter Orpheum Records on Broadway. It’s a great snapshot of some obviously talented artists in their early days. Although Bean has become a household name in the underground hip-hop community (producing tracks for such notables as Charlie 2Na and Trife Da God), I’m not really sure what Proh Mic has been up to. Any info would be appreciated. Other names that appear on this tape include Putney Swope, Verse Omega, Kylea from Beyond Reality, and Mr. Hill (later to be found all over Oldominion releases). Over an hour of classic grimy and lo-fi goodness from ’99. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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The Playoffs

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Library Nation

This was Sub Pop’s first rap record: an unloved stepchild from 1999: mostly erased from their catalog and forgotten. It was released during those experimental years post-Grunge when no one quite knew what to do next.

“Library Nation” is a pretty curious record. The title track is guitar noise, screaming, and spoken word poetry about library patronage. On “My Dream Girl Puts On Her Shoes,” rapper Tobias Flowers delivers a more expected hip-hop vibe, rapping longingly about a long-distance relationship, and you really do feel what he’s feeling.

Flowers had previously been in group Def 2 The Flesh, but that’s hardly the Tamborines only Seattle rap cred: They talk about Mix-A-Lot albums. SpecsWizard leaves a message on their answering machine. Rapper Asun (Suntonio Bandanaz) leaves another “from the thriving metropolis of Shoreline.” (Also be prepared for an indulgent amount of white guy slacker Beck “Loser” poetry from Flowers’ fellow Tambourine, indie rocker Andy Poehlman.)

“We’re not good musicians,” Poehlman told The Seattle Times in an interview. “We’re just two guys,” he says, “with ideas on how to make records.”

And yet, it’s a bizarre record that wiggles its way into your psyche, recalling the feeling of being at a bar, having a drink with a friend. In the background, a brilliantly terrible or terribly brilliant DJ is playing a stack of random trippy 45s on top of each other.

We keep returning to this record again because of its willingness to push in ways you least expect. On “Saturn,” the group stiffly will themselves into a good mood, a “Fuck It” song for days of gritting your teeth hoping to feel happy. Good or bad, this record takes you someplace new.

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Don't Kill Your Radio

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I Don't Kare if Nobody Likes This

One of THE dopest releases from Seattle without a doubt. From ’99, this cd by brothers Vee-One and UNI dropped quietly, but the record is anything but. 14 tracks of high energy underground, sounding out of place next to the Tribal Productions sound dominating the Northwest at the time but nonetheless earning a rightful spot in the vaults of classic 206 shizz. From what I’ve gathered, these guys have since relocated to Maryland, and are still keeping busy. I Don’t Kare If Nobody Likes This was produced by the brothers and engineered by the legendary Vitamin D. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Wetlands

More greatness from Wordsayer and Negus I, aka Source of Labor. Here they present their Northwest hip-hop anthem “Wet Lands.” Vitamin D makes a well-deserved appearance on the turntables. “Interstate Translate” is on the flipside, featuring I-Self Divine from the Micranots. Take a careful listen to Negus I’s production on both cuts. His style is distinctive and dense, with layers upon layers of percussion. Over the years he’s become one of my favorite beatmakers, and these two tracks demonstrate his style well. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Platinum

Platinum, a 1999 G-Funk album from Seattle rapper E-Dawg opens with a skit on an airplane. E-Dawg and Big Loon-E-Toon are on tour and debate the viability of smoking tree on the plane.

The debate continues into “No More Tears,” featuring Money-B, on whether it’s better to settle down to home and marriage and family, or to move on, to a new job, a new relationship, to aim for another appearance on Arsenio. This is a funky record, but also full of thoughtful contemplation.

Case in point, on “Eye for An Eye,” a close buddy of our gangster protagonist is shot and killed. He raps that his first priorities are to take care of his friend’s family, ensure the widow and his kids are clothed and fed, and help them pay for the funeral. Only once this task is complete will he walk the streets in search of the murderer.

This record, Platinum, was anticipated as early as 1993 when “E-Dawg” contributed the catchy summer hit “Drop Top” to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Seattle, The Dark Side compilation. Mix-A-Lot himself is featured on the floor-shaking “Shackles.”

For us, the standout track here is “Coolin’.” It’s a chill 206 summer anthem that opens with an allusion to “Drop Top” and features gorgeous vocals from Francci. The relaxed verses are about enjoying the sun: “I’m just cooling… and enjoying the summertime… Remy Martin sippin’, Lap pool dippin’.”

After a few delays, Platinum finally landed in 1999, “put out by some Denver cat who also did the cover” says E-Dawg. This perhaps explains why it’s nearly impossible to find today. But no mind, E-Dawg has a brand new limited-edition CD out this year. You gotta DM him for a copy of the 45. Nobody’s Safe… Mixtape. It’s a ballsy $45, but respect the hustle and grab your copy today.

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Table Manners 2

Last weekend I was thrilled to pick up a copy of Vitamin D’s Table Manners 2 on wax at The Big Dig event at Vermillion. Here’s a truly unique gem in the long canon of Seattle hip-hop: It’s from 1999 and it plays like one long, uninterrupted 45-minute jam, Vita on the decks sampling and scratching his way through the crates, while a revolving door of late-90s emcees takes turns freestylin’ over top. (Are there any other Seattle hip-hop record so devoted to the art of Turntablism?) Many of the Tribal gang are featured on this record: Samson S, Silas Black, B-Self, H Bomb, Wordsayer J. Moore, and there’s even a short segment of rival scratching, called “Jake’s Breaks,” starting Tuxedo’s Jake One. Table Manners 2 is such a fun record from start to finish. It’s easygoing and raw and loose. You feel like you’re in the studio, hanging out with our Town’s top talent at the turn of the millennium. Local music rag The Rocket said this album “breathes new life into classic breaks like the Headhunters and Kool & The Gang, and still manages to mix it up with lesser-known gems for the record nerds… featuring guest MCs busting over the breaks.” In their review, The Stranger described Vita as “a compulsive scratcher who is inclined to funk and soul beats… Table Manners 2 is like being taken for a wondrous tour through a museum of sounds.” This record is a uniquely rare treasure in the lineage, and everyone should own a copy. It’s a joy from start to finish.

Here’s another take:

Table Manners 2 is a NW classic: One of the few examples of exemplary turntablism to come from Seattle. It’s a Robin Williams-style “come into my mind” for local hip-hop legend Vitamin D. Vitamin invites the listeners to get on a roller coaster full of old soul, jazz, and funk breaks. Table Manners 2 is a history lesson with dozens of classic musical arrangements from every decade flawlessly woven together by a hip-hop-scratching real-live human DJ. Mixed throughout the melodies are several freestyles from local Seattle rappers such as Samson S, B-Self, and the true legend: Wordsayer from Source of Labor. Vitamin has an encyclopedic knowledge of breaks and the history of hip-hop sampling, which makes this record such a fun listen. He knows just which parts of the track to use in order to let the famous sample sneak up on you. If you want to get a picture of what it looks like inside Vitamin D’s head, all you have to do is pick up a copy of Table Manners 2 and you can find out. It’s a pretty cool place. (Written by Novocaine132.)

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The Year Two Gee

This came out in ’99, the same year Bean One also dropped the Footprints’ project Operation Raw. This record boasts a much cleaner and crisper sound. I have no idea what Page3 and X.Troydinare have been up to since. This is a solid 18 tracks worth of classic and heavily slept-on Seattle hip-hopery. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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