A film about Northwest hip-hop from

What Would You Do?

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

Open Your Eyes

A young Ben “Macklemore” Haggerty launched his solo rap career in 2001 with this debut album, Open Your Eyes. Setting aside the “Intro,” and the three “Interludes,” we are looking at fourteen tracks here. “Welcome To The Culture” starts things off, calling out fake MCs over a slick, groovy beat. “Look in the mirror and honestly tell yourself that you are keeping it real,” he chides. The brilliant “Wake Up” is a first look at the winning tone that would eventually become the Macklemore brand–a comedic, quick-witted entertainer telling concise stories with clear social messages. The sample in the chorus of “Wake Up” cleverly flips the line, “Use your mentality, wake up to reality,” from Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition of “Under My Skin.”

“Her Name Was Music,” shows Mack’s innocent earnestness and lack of inhibition baring his soul on the microphone. The track’s lyrics fall closer to to a high school romantic poetry assignment than rap verses, and before the end of the track, the music-as-woman metaphor feels strained. “Her Name Was Music” may have been inspired by Ghetto Chilldren’s “Equilibrium,” which has lines like, “Since my youth I’ve been in cahoots with this friend of mine, I’m in her mind, kick back with her, she soothes like Calamine.”

“Flossin” showcases the contradictions of Macklemore’s entire career. Why would a conscious MC want to floss? “Don’t take life so serious, get that neck knocking,” says the MC with the most deep, ponderous thoughts per bar. How can we “get this party hopping” with grim meditations on the true colonial origins of America’s Thanksgiving myth found elsewhere on the album? The lyrics of “Flossin” show Macklemore realizing in real time how hard it is to strike a balance between intellectual raps with a purpose, and catchy, lightweight ditties.

To me, solipsistic tracks like “Fresh Coast,” and “Earthlings,” resemble an Only Fans, no privacy look into Mack’s personal life and academic musings. SNL once called Common “a TED Talk with a beat,” for Macklemore just replace “TED Talk” with “CRT 101.” Is the confessional, self-diagnosing therapist version of Macklemore less compelling than the humorous-yet-poignant storyteller? Would there be “party” Macklemore without “political rally” Macklemore? The fact that he was able to bring both of these components of his personality along for the ride speaks to Mack’s integrity and his refusal to abandon the honest, truth-to-power style that brought him to the rap game in the first place.

Around the release of Open Your Eyes, opportunities opened up right and left for Macklemore. His hip-hop group Elevated Elements dropped their CD titled Progress, with interesting tracks such as “Sympathy,” “Truth Is Gravity,” and “Perspectives.” Also, Gabriel Teodros’ 2001 album Sun To A Recycled Soul featured Mack’s vocal and production work on three songs, including the deceptively mild-sounding “F*** The Industry.” It was an auspicious start to a career that would take Haggerty many times around the world. 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

Art Of Da Griot

Nomad dropped his first cassette single in 1996, with “What Is Hard Core?” and “Windy City Hustle,” both produced by local hip-hop legend Mr Supreme. Then in ’98 Nomad released a twelve-inch featuring “Da Movement,” and “Blessed 2 Mic Check.” “Da Movement” brought DJ Sayeed on board, with his dissonant unique approach to beatmaking. Next in the run of Nomad singles was the three-song Sedated Thoughts maxi in 2000, including beats by three of Seattle’s most prolific producers, Jake One, Bean One, and Proh Mic. The following year saw a fourth single, “Worldwide,” with “Divine Rhymer” on the B-side.

Finally, after five years of singles he released a full album titled Art Of Da Griot, and expanded his name to the pleonastic Nomad Da Nomadic. “Griot” is a word used commonly in West Africa that translates loosely as “storyteller.” Art Of Da Griot features many of the earlier singles, including “Blessed,” “Sedated,” “Who Me,” “Worldwide,” and “Divine.” Because there are so many different producers, Nomad gets to show off his lyrics to a variety of different soundscapes, which makes for a compelling listening experience, never boring.

New material on Art Of Da Griot includes “Extortion” which starts with the tick, tick, tick from Kraftwerk’s 1978 electronic hit, “Man Machine,” and then unfolds with groovy momentum. The informative “206 / 101” is just like it sounds, an entry-level college course about the pros and cons of life in Seattle as a young Person of Color. “Locked up downtown, King County jail, like a rite of passage for every black male,” he observes. “Ill-Literate” stands out for its wavy, choppy beat and seasoned wordplay from Nomad. He often mentions “paying dues” in his lyrics, and it must have worked for him. He had risen to the top of the rap game in 2001, and the star studded credits on his tracks are all the evidence we need. 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

Saiyan Of Earth

The Oscars give an award every year for “best” acting, but there is no award for “most” acting. If there was such an award, it might go to Nicholas Cage or Kristen Wiig. Rappers compete for the same type of honors, and someone like Rakim could win for “best” rapping. Other MCs like Twista or Eminem compete for the “most” rapping category, packing hundreds of words into a verse. Rapid rhymer Asun is a good example of this head-spinning sub-genre of rap music.

Asun took on an alter-ego named Kakurot for this 2001 CD. From the very first Saiyan Of Earth track, “What I Don’t Know,” we are off to the races. Asun blasts a firehose of lyrics at the listener. The haunting “Festive?” places his frenetic flow over Ukrainian composer Mykola Loentovych’s Christmas classic, “Carol Of The Bells.”

The respectable “RAPS” flips one of DJ Premier’s funkiest chops, the one he used in “Check The Technique.” My favorite cut on Saiyan Of Earth is near the end, titled “The Light,” featuring Ashley Young on the keys. “The Light” slows things down a notch, allowing the track some space for the lyrics to stretch and unfold. “I can tell, I think on it, speak on it, while others speculate I become it,” raps Asun. A couple of the songs here show promise, but they contain experimental beats which are too prickly for me to really enjoy. For example, I’m thinking of the odd squealing noises in “Morning Dew,” or the free-jazz madness of “Come Forth.”

One of the things this album does well is recreating the excitement of standing in a circle while your friends take turns freestyling. With a long list of guest MCs, Saiyan Of Earth feels very alive and loose, like the recording is happening at a party rather than a recording studio. But at the end of the day, most of the tracks are five minutes long, and several are close to seven minutes. Rappers would do well to remember that concision can be a useful concept. 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

In Tha Name Of Game

Seattle rapper Twin Gamer aka Twin-G dropped his debut CD In Tha Name Of Game in 2001. The album features a long list of guest star MCs, which is evidence of Twin-G’s hard work and dedication to networking and making connections in the fast-moving music industry. Skits set throughout the album, between the tracks, chronicle increasingly desperate phone calls from a man trying to incriminate his friends after being apprehended. But being a snitch is a big error in the world of hustlers, and by the final call the man begs for help which will obviously never arrive.

The one and only Sir Mix-A-Lot and scrappy rapper Chedda Hound both make appearances on “Peanut Butter Guts,” which refers to the luxury, golden-brown, leather interior of Mix’s pimped-out, all-white truck. “Show Me The Money$$,” featuring Kokane and Spice 1, recontextualizes the 1996 Jerry Maguire quote into a rhyme-heavy gangsta rap hit. The philosophical and introspective “What Can I Do?” includes the lyric, “On ‘the blade’ trying to feed my kids, wishin they would stop yellin, success in this town ain’t an option for a two-time felon.” The Blade, of course, is the street nickname for the area surrounding the notorious 3rd Ave block downtown between Pike and Pine. “Tha Thing To Do,” featuring Prevento, has a slinky, Pink-Panthery detective beat that almost sounds experimental at times.

After his debut, Twin-G followed up with his next project, In Tha Name Of Game Vol. 2, which came out four years later in 2005. Twin-G’s brother is an MC too, going by two different names, Skuntdunanna and Mafia. 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

Progress...

Changing gears a little bit, this is a fine example of some turn-of-the-century Northwest hip-hop. I got this album from one of the band members outside the Paradox theater in the U-District, back in 2001. That was an incredible night; Slug, Idea, and Abilities were headlining, but what stole the show for me was the huge MC battle that preceded them. The winners: Bishop I from Oldominion tied with Surge (not Surge Spittable, just Surge – where are you now?). Amazing. Anyhow, This post isn’t about Surge, or Bishop I, or Oldominion – this is about that CD I picked up that night: Progress… by Elevated Elements. They were part of a huge crew in the Seattle area known as NAPS. Elevated consisted of Lace Cadence, Exakt, Patrick, FingerPrints, and Macklemore (yes, that Macklemore). The CD is surprisingly good, and well worth the money. I still play it now and again. It’s right here on my iPod. Give it a listen – tracklisting in the package, 21 dope tracks deep. All in all, I’d say it was a good night. (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

Sykotherapy

On his first full album, Lyrikally Insane in 1999, Portland-based rapper Syko (Skilled Young Kreative Organism) incorporated what appeared to be an actual voicemail from Cellophane Square record store. The message politely informed him that the store could continue selling his ’98 Warpath EP project on consignment, but because of shopper complaints, he needed to replace the explicit artwork on the cover with something more PG rated. For the most part, Lyrikally Insane was hardcore gangsta rap, with a couple of notable exceptions. “When It Comes Down To It” took some experimental, artistic chances, and it showed Syko’s more creative, less destructive side. Another cut that stood out to me was “Famboshis” with its pleasant, addicting beat and the confessional tone of the track.

His second album in 2001 was titled Sykotherapy, and for this one Syko hooked up with famous Seattle producer D-Sane and his rap label Street Level Records, which already had success with Byrdie, I.K., and label marquee group F.T.S. aka Full Time Soldiers. The album art for Sykotherapy is unsettling. Syko, dressed in a hospital psyche-ward gown aims his best thousand-yard stare at the camera while writing in a huge three ring binder.

Byrdie features on four different tracks, “This World Of Mine,” “Ain’t S*** Changed,” “Chozen,” and “I Just Wanna,” which has a hook from honey-voiced local star Wanz. The emotional “I’m Goin Thru It” explains some of the circumstances that cause people to stay trapped in the game. “I’m goin through it man, keeping a pistol close, because it’s my life that I cherish the most,” goes the chorus. The album finishes with “End Game,” sampling the famous “greed” speech by Gordon Gekko from the movie Wall Street.

After Sykotherapy, he continued making music. In 2004, famous thizz-popper Mac Dre put out Syko’s album called Amerikkkan Syko. Syko was not just a rapper, but also an accomplished producer, and he made dozens of beats throughout the 2000s and 2010s. One of his last projects was creating three beats for former Full Time Soldier J-Dub’s album Envy Breeds Contempt in 2014. Syko, real name Theophilus Adams, passed away in 2018. 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

I Want All That

Greg “Funk Daddy” Buren is a Seattle hip-hop all-star. In the 80’s he sharpened his craft as a DJ/rapper/producer, a force to be reckoned with. In the 90’s he exploded onto the national rap scene, thanks in no small part to his work with hyphy Bay Area emperor E-40. Right after Y2K, Funk Daddy continued to impress with his 2001 album I Want All That.

On “Intro,” perpetual weed-smoker B-Legit is ready to cosign for Funk Daddy, and he says so in as many words. Up-and-comer at the time Livio had just dropped his own debut single, and he joins Funk Daddy on the sardonic “All These Hos.” Groovy track “Freaks Sippin Hennessy” is an interpolation of Digital Underground’s 1990 sexy classic “Freaks Of The Industry,” and original Underground member Money B unspools an entertaining verse. Funk Daddy reunites with his Crooked Path partners Jay Skee and Dee-Lyrious on the excellent, upbeat cut “Just Don’t Stop.”

Rhyme Cartel-signed, rap/rock act Outtasite adds vocals to three tracks on I Want All That, album opener “Whatchuthought,” party anthem “Mah City’s Tight,” and the quite explicit “Ghetto Luv.” “Drinking till we see the sun, ladies be like two to to one, you don’t need no lady luck, bouncing like they’re down to f***,” goes a typical line from “Mah City’s Tight.” Portland’s Cool Nutz is featured on “Day To Day,” which has one of my favorite beats on the album. The various voices and guest appearances add zesty flavor to the project, and the album stays spicy from start to finish. The menu is assisted by rapper Mr. Rossi, who appears on most of the tracks here.

The artwork on the back of I Want All That is a city skyline, with the Space Needle modestly featured. This isn’t directed at Funk Daddy, but I have a question for all current Seattle hip-hop artists. Why do you need to put a picture of the Space Needle on your album? Is it so you can find your way home? Is it like sewing your name in your jeans to identify them?

In June of 2022, the company which owns the 1962 landmark sued a Seattle coffee business that used the Needle as its company logo. According to an article in US News & World Report, “Karen Olson, head of Space Needle operations and marketing, said the legal action is unusual. ‘We’ve never had to get to this point,’ Olson said. ‘I’m surprised that we’re here.’” In the past, the Needle let things slide, but brazen usage of the trademark has multiplied in recent years. Rappers, just ask yourselves, what am I trying to say by using the Needle in my art? 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

EMP: Seattle Hip-Hop

This short film about the history of Northwest hip-hop was shot by Darek Mazzone in 2001. It was made to highlight the local scene as part of the “Hip-Hop Nation” exhibit put on by the Experience Music Project in Seattle.

There’s a lot packed into four minutes, including all-too-brief interviews with Sir Mix-A-Lot, DJ Riz, Wordsayer, Mr. Supreme, Kutfather, Piece, and others. They cover off what hip-hop is and whether or not it’s a fad. Supreme explains the four elements, you learn the story of NastyMix and The Emerald Street Boys, and Topspin does some cool scratching.

At one point, DJ Riz shares the most wonderfully Seattle thing ever: “Seattle was there right from the beginning, close to the origins of regular hip-hop.” Go devote the next four minutes to learning some new knowledge about the culture.

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

Finally

Finally was manufactured in 2001 by Sea-Sick in Seattle, home to releases by RC Tha Trackaholiq, Skuntdunanna, and Central Intelligence. However, the album is not technically on Sea-Sick, but rather Emerald City Records, which also worked with local group Dividenz. In fact, the credits of Finally tease an upcoming Dividenz album which eventually came out on Street Level Records.

Label details aside, Oxagin consists of two members, Sli and Loe. Their debut Finally is predominantly a story of hustling, street life, and crime. For example, in the skit “Tha Jack Move,” they steal a car from a hapless fellow citizen. “On A Roll” continues the carjacking story, “I can’t blame him, I would have shot him, I spot him, and if you would have missed, I would have got him.”

The sultry track “I’m Chok’in,” featuring singer Francci, is all about the large quantity of weed smoked by the group. Vampire movie fans will like “Lost Boys” which repurposes the eerie choir-boy chants from the movie’s soundtrack. “Thou shalt not kill…” For a taste of Barry White, check out “Realer Than Real,” which flips the famous ascending bassline from “I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little Bit More Baby.” “Takin Over” featuring DMS is a solid effort by both groups.

To me, the most interesting track on Finally is “Send Me An Angel,” produced by Scott. Australian synth-pop band Real Life had a worldwide hit in 1983 with their emo song of the same title. Oxagin repurposes it here for a dirge-like tale of a character killed in a drug deal gone bad. “You should have known that life falls just like rain, you should have known they killed you for that cocaine.” This track captures the despairing, helpless tone of the original, and shows the ability of hip-hop to basically reintroduce us to songs that are already familiar. Music never dies, it just whistles a new tune. 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

Kash Me Out

Street Level Records arrived with a bang in 1998, putting out the debut F.T.S. album Full Time Soldiers, which is a true Seattle gangsta rap classic. After that success, Street Level extended its streak, releasing a second F.T.S. album in 2000, and solo albums by Byrdie and Syko the following year. Within F.T.S. a side project appeared called I.K. which stood for Independent Kash. The new group consisted of four members: BD, Brazy J, D-Sane, and J Dub, and in 2001 they put out a full album called Kash Me Out. According to D-Sane, “In hindsight, I should’ve just called it another F.T.S. album, but BD, the member who conceived and ran the group, didn’t want to.”

Kash Me Out contains similar material to the two F.T.S. albums, and features many of the same rappers. The album art shows I.K. flanked by looming Jacksons and Benjamins, and BD is holding a stack of bills. The theme of money is fully explored, as evidenced on the chorus of “I’m A Hustler,” which goes, “Cash cash, fetti fetti, gees gees, c-notes c-notes, stacks stacks, paper…” The members of I.K. want to be clear that they need to be paid in full for all their hard work. “It’s time for the industry to cash me out,” goes a heartfelt line from the album’s opener, the title track “Kash Me Out.”

Highlights include “Soggy” guest starring YG Red and Madd Dog which discusses “smoking wet,” referring to a blunt or joint that has been dipped in sherm or other dangerous chemicals. “I’m so wet I can’t focus on my fingertips,” admits one MC because the high is so intense, adding, “that’s why I only get soggy every once in a while.” Also, “I Know Where They B” featuring Creep-Lo shows promise with its low-frequency bassline, and lyrics about the need for retaliation. Josh Flack plays guitar on three tracks, “Mackadoshis,” “I’m A Hustler,” and “Ride Right,” adding texture and flavor to the mix. “R.I.P. To My G’z N Thugz” is a shout out to all those friends and family that lost their lives to the hardships of the game, and includes appearances by 211 and Popsykle from local group Self Tightld.

Shortly after Kash Me Out was released, F.T.S. split up due to internal differences between the nine group members. This meant that I.K. also stopped recording together, and Kash Me Out was the group’s only album. Despite the roster changes, Street Level continued growing its impressive catalog, dropping albums by Sarkastik, Dividenz, and Skuntdunanna in 2003. 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

Sun To A Recycled Soul

As far as I know this is Gabriel Teodros’s debut, and it’s definitely rougher than his later records. He’s still developing his flow here, but the fire, eloquence, and themes he’s known for are already in place. It’s got that old-school, jazz sample-heavy flavor I love, and the rough, unmastered sound quality I crave in production. Jerm, Castro, and Khingz, among others, guest. It was re-released a second time with a whole bunch of additional guest emcees (Orko, Macklemore, Moka Only, Deps, Patrick, Rajnii). Vivacious music, from possibly the 206’s most impassioned orator. (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

Uncle Dick

Turntable Bay’s first album in 1998, the amusing No Samples, tried to expand the boundaries of content in hip-hop. MC Victor “Da Blasta” Williams and producer Scott “Ratboy” Schorr used humor and novel musical sounds to create a Rick-And-Morty-like environment where silliness was a valuable currency. The chorus of “I See Cake,” for example, repeats, “I see cake and I wanna put my ass in it.” As blogger Jack Devo put it, No Samples was, “strange, trippy, and at times hilarious.”

In my humble opinion, with some guided image control and branding the group could have aimed for the Billboard charts. But by rejecting the narrow, sugar-coated conventions of rap, i.e. cars, guns and jewelry, they presented themselves as a more difficult pill to swallow. If Da Blasta had been assisted by an industry ‘sheep dog’ to marshal his meandering lyrical content on No Samples into distinct tracks, then his commanding voice and precision breath control might have done the rest.

The duo worked hard, and in 1999 they opened for rap founding fathers The Sugarhill Gang at The Showbox. That same year, Everett True of the Stranger wrote, “Turntable Bay may be only two, but they make enough noise for 10 times their number.” Most hip-hop producers employed drum machines or sampled existing music for their tracks, but Ratboy proudly used original live music for all of his beats.

Uncle Dick is another smorgasbord of brain-tickling raps and unique musical landscapes. The first sentence we hear is, “I thought you’re supposed to have an intro on a rap record,” informing us that things are gonna get meta. To the group’s credit, each of the tracks on this second album is better organized around a single thought. “Booty Cheese 2” reprises one of the oddest tracks on No Samples, pro tip: it’s not even about what it sounds like, never was. Da Blasta dissects language and examines his verbal methods on “What Is Style?” with lyrics like, “Feel the rhyme, smell the rhyme, inhale the rhyme, put the rhyme in your mind.” On the conscious side, “Am I Black Enough For You?” and “Super White Guy” both explore racial prejudice facing the group. Album closer, “Heaven,” is a mellow, relaxing way to end the Uncle Dick experience. 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 Revival

Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. For example, check this great live document I slept on. The group is Seattle’s Beyond Reality, playing a hype show from way back in April 2001.

Back then, Source of Labor’s Wordsayer (also the business and romantic partner of Beyond Reality’s Kylea) used to put on a weekly hip-hop workshop and jam session at the local live venue Sit n’ Spin, called Sureshot Sundays. Every Sunday afternoon, the local hip-hop community would congregate at the cafe/club/laundromat(!) to spin, break, emcee, and just get together.

Being the shut-in hermit that I am, I regrettably never attended, although I used to try to screw up my courage every Sunday to head on down the hill from my apartment to the Belltown spot to get my muddy-ass beat tape heard.

However, since I was just starting out I felt like I’d be in over my head amidst all the “true” hip-hoppers…. like I said earlier about hindsight…

In any case, Sureshot Sundays closed up shop probably a decade ago now, but this release is a snapshot of what it must have been like. Kylea is joined on the decks by Topspin and Kamikaze, and Wordsayer joins on the mic here and there. Incredibly live and overflowing with solidarity and positivity (not to mention the stellar flows of Kylea), this album just makes me regret more not getting my burned-out ass down the hill to the Sit n’ Spin to be a part of it all. It’s a dope record, full of tracks never released otherwise, in professional sound quality.

Beyond Reality was supposedly set to drop a studio record in 2001, and as far as I know that never actually happened. Apart from a few early singles and compilation cuts, and the 2008 A Soul’s Journey CD, this is as close as you get to the classic BR sound. (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

Amelation

Amelation by Amos Miller came out in 2001. This is the kind of album that Spotify would recommend if you were a fan of Macklemore, indeed Mack must have been sharing stages or at least cyphers with Miller during the 2000s. On Amelation, Miller displays a deep, reflective musicality that is absent from lots of hip-hop music. In fact, this release feels like it could easily go cross-genre thanks to the live drums, saxophone, and bass. For even more texture, Isaac Haley adds vocals and plays keys on several cuts.

“Step Back,” and “Tribute” are instrumentals, and “Chicken Song” seems like a cute inside joke which doesn’t really have lyrics other than a single sung line that is repeated a bunch of times. “Rocco Kain” is similar to “Chicken Song,” with only one sung line repeated, but “Rocco” is more serious, and it really creates a moody vibe. Setting aside the “Intro” and “Outro” leaves us with seven rap tracks to enjoy on Amelation.

“Looking at a fraction of the whole frame, content stretch continents,” is a clever line from the wordplay-filled “Paint My Eazle,” which starts the album. The wavy-sounding “9th Floor,” featuring Jamahl Harris is next, and the topics include incarceration and drug abuse. “I can’t let go of the pain that I feel, so I keep it true cause it’s really real.” “Woo Tay Var” displays Miller’s breath control skills, as he busts a frenetic, nonstop flow for three minutes, then lets the beat ride out for another two. “Lord I’ve Tried” strikes a confessional tone, while the lyrics roll with a Nas-inspired style.

President George W. Bush wouldn’t like him or his friends, Miller observes on the slow, piano-based “Nuthins Gonna Stop.” In fact the song refers to Miller feeling like he is “in a police state.” “It Ain’t So Budifal” contains a witty blast of rhymes similar to “Woo Tay Var,” reminding listeners that despite the musical coating to the album, there is still a hip-hop nucleus to Amelation.

For me everything really comes together on “Crickuts.” It’s difficult to explain, but I love songs where things evolve, and some kind of breakthrough or movement happens either musically or lyrically. The song actually starts out with chirping crickets, enhancing the storytelling nature of the track. The sweet background vocals of Nina Granatir complement Miller’s raps perfectly. Well Done. 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

Poetic Epidemic

Fresh off his enlistment as a Soldier on the second F.T.S. album, Money Motivated in 2000, Seattle musical artist Byrdie was ready to take a giant leap of his own. Having joined the Street Level family, he had VIP access to beats by D-Sane, and also tons of MCs for guest spots. Byrdie got his ducks in a row and released his first CD, Poetic Epidemic in 2001. Poetic Epidemic was a solid debut that flagged him as an artist on the rise.

The tracks cover a variety of topics, which keeps the listening interesting. An unlikely name check of a Supreme Court Justice shows up in “Dirty Politics,” with the humorous line, “I’m not arrogant, I’m just honest, Street Level Records, all my CDs sell out like Clarence Thomas.” “Lyricide” produced by Syko carries a gothic, vampire vibe, drenched in echo and reverb as though it was recorded in an actual castle. Jonathan “Wordsayer” Moore, the mayor of Seattle hip-hop, appears on “Society,” dropping a forceful verse, “for brothers out on the grind, and sisters with conscious minds.” It’s probably an uncontroversial take, but the strongest cut on Poetic Epidemic, in my opinion, is “Player’s Policy Pt. 2” produced by D-Sane, and featuring vocals from Wanz. The first version of “Player’s Policy” including Byrdie, BD, and Creep Lo appeared on Money Motivated.

Thanks to some direct action and protests, “Player’s Policy Pt. 2” actually got rotation airplay on KUBE 93 FM, Seattle’s notoriously insular pop music station. According to the excellent 2020 history text by Dr. Daudi Abe, titled Emerald Street, “the tension that had been growing between KUBE and the local hip-hop community eventually came to a head in the spring of 1997.” The movement was led by Seattle hip-hop artists including Silver Shadow D who felt like they had no chance of being on the radio in their own city. Thanks to their efforts, over the next few years KUBE made some adjustments, allowing for “Player’s Policy Pt. 2” to get on the air and become a hit in 2001.

Byrdie has the intangibles that can carry a rapper to the top of the pack. His flow is airtight, with literally no space between the syllables. This is basically a modern flip of iambic pentameter, a written style worshipped for centuries. Very few artists ever climb to this level of lyrical altitude, and with his golden voice, the words just roll off his tongue. But Byrdie fans would have to be patient, for there would still be three more years of waiting before Byrdie would drop his true masterpiece, 2004’s N Flight. 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

Circumstance Dictates

Boom Bap Project put out their first single “The Trade” b/w “Writer’s Guild” in the year 2000. These two tracks introduced Boom Bap Project, Nightclubber Lang and Destro, as a rough and tumble duo of rappers who were all about the traditional 1980s hip-hop style of hard beats and braggadocious lyrics. By 2001, the group finished an EP called Circumstance Dictates. According to Wikipedia, after this EP was released, DJ Tré left the group and was replaced with DJ Scene.

Circumstance Dictates contains an intro beat, the two songs from their debut single, and six new tracks. Jake One handles most of the production here, and does an admirable job of capturing the golden-era rap aesthetic. “All Stars” features Tacoma group Black Anger, and has a groovy descending bassline carrying the beat. Hieroglyphics crew member Pep Love guests on “Net Worth.” The woebegone sounding “All I Have Left” gets a visit from fellow Oldominion posse members JFK, Snafu and Toni Hill. Breezy track “Who’s That?” produced by Nightclubber and Vitamin D floats by like a cloud on a warm day.

“Odds On Favorite” never really comes together for me, the yawning strings don’t enhance the drums but rather distract from them, and L*Roneus sounds like he’s cosplaying Del Tha Funkee Homosapien. “Take It To The Stage” begins with, “I give a f*** who we offend up in this motherf***er right about now,” and then pummels the listener with overt anti-gay messages. It may have been songs like this that caused Macklemore to drop his ode to acceptance and tolerance, “Same Love” in 2012. 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

Unexpected Arrival

Neema “Unexpected Arrival” Khorrami put out his debut album Unexpected Arrival in 2001. The pillow-soft “Introduction” is rather unusual for a rap project, whispered voices mingle with feathery music not unlike the opening credits for a soap opera. But don’t fall asleep, suddenly “Millennium” comes in with a loud, gruff, Twista-style speed rap, and it’s a peppy kickoff to the CD. The somewhat somber “Life” examines social issues and the choices that we make. “So what’s life? It’s about the good, the bad. So what’s life? It’s the happy times, the sad.”

Some of the songs on Unexpected Arrival reveal the MC’s sensitive side. Things get explicit on “Take Control,” and Unexpected Arrival lists the many ways he will “keep you satisfied.” “Other girls wish that they could be you, and you know I’m always gonna want and need you,” he assures. “Julie” is slow-paced, and starts with the sound of thunder and emotional singing, which fades to rap verses about the titlular character. Unexpected Arrival wants to win her heart, but questions of loyalty and honesty are complicating their relationship. “I told you that I love you, and I hope that you believe me.”

“How We Do” brings an atonal, sandpapery roughness which sets it apart from the smoother production prevalent on the album. “The Arrival” has a hint of West Coast gangsta bounce to it, and a few more punchlines than Unexpected Arrival’s other cuts. “I’ll be getting the five mics if The Source ever get a hold of this,” he brags. “You Know Me,” and “What Do You See” both have slightly more momentum than other songs here, and hint at potential for this new artist.

According to a November 22, 2002 Seattle Times article, in August of that same year a remix of Neema’s cut “Take Control” was the number one KUBE93 request for several days in a row. That “Take Control” remix would be featured on Unexpected Arrival’s second album, If We Try… shortly after. 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

Keep It Gangsta

In 2001, a very young Livio released his debut album My Life Vol. 1, with nearly all the beats produced by Funk Daddy. The first single from the album was released as a twelve inch record for all the DJs.

The A-side offering is “Keep It Gangsta,” and it’s about as West Coast as it gets. From the vocoder to the heavy bounce in the beat, “Keep It Gangsta” sounds like a popping Cali party. The track, produced by B. Kante, has lyrics about hitting hydraulics switches, getting in shootouts, and other details of the gangster lifestyle. Guest rapper Tray Dee from Long Beach drops a short verse, “Catch me behind the steel with a mind to kill,” goes one of his lines. After a decade of g-funk saturation in the 1990s, the genre could be seen as low hanging fruit, but Livio and crew loudly insist that they aren’t ready to quit anytime soon.

Side B has two tracks not found on the full My Life Vol. 1 album. “Say That Then” is a high energy cut showing off Livio’s fast rapping talent. “You threw your album in the oven just to say it was hot,” he mocks. “If you sitting on 20s now say that then, if you sippin on Henny now say that then,” goes the chorus. “Say That Then” makes a good call-and-response song, as the fans can shout “say that then” along with the words. The other track is “Put Your Hands High,” which coincidentally also has built-in crowd participation. Many rappers forget that they need to keep the audience involved in the show, but not Livio.

In a 2005 Seattle Times article, producer Funk Daddy talked about how much he had enjoyed working with rapper Livio over the past several years. “He’s my Snoop Dogg,” gushed Funk. Sure enough, Livio would drop a sophomore album titled Cruel Intentions that same year. 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

Alone

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

Mi Vida Negra

Here’s the out-of-print debut solo effort from Maroon Colony’s Khalil Crisis, now known as Khingz. Dropping in 2001, it catches Khalil at a unique crossroads. Known these days for releasing one of the illest albums in 206 hip-hop history–the soul-bearing, tell-it-like-it-is exercise in self-actualization known as From Slaveships To Spaceships–this record paints a picture of a young man with one foot still in his violent, gang-land past as an adolescent; and the other just embarking on his personal transformation to becoming a conscientious and honorable man.

Indeed, “Khalil Crisis” is an apt moniker here, as it presents the duality of this record: The struggle between the intellectual and the thug over one man’s identity. And it’s rare when a record has portrayed such a confused individual. With equal amounts, he passionately condemns the violence surrounding him, and gleefully takes part in it. He fights for feminism while at the same time using the standard tropes used to degrade women. He acts like a hood and relates it like a poet.

Sonically, the album is much different from the new-school vibe of his later releases. With always-gorgeous, mellow production by Vitamin D, the record sounds beautiful, yet is oftentimes at odds with Khalil’s violent and impassioned lyricism. However, this just adds to the overall mystique surrounding the record, as it mirrors the opposing forces at the heart of Khalil himself. When taken alone, the album, despite these two master craftsmen at the helm, can only be a flawed one. There are just too many instances where the music misses the emotional mark, or where the lyrics are just too paradoxical. However, when taken in as the beginning of a long and varied transformation culminating with 2009’s Spaceships, it’s a fascinating document that should be considered the first chapter in an incredible story. (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

Venom

Onry Ozzborn released this Venom EP shortly before his explosive solo album Alone. I’m not the biggest authority on Oldominion, so I can’t tell you too much background info except that this is one of my favorites from the Seattle/Portland massive. For those that don’t know Oldominion, their dark, brooding vibe has been dubbed “the Northwest Sound” by some. The title track, featuring Toni Hill, Snafu, Nyquil, Anaxagorous, and Ezra, is a smooth, atmospheric near-masterpiece courtesy of beat-man Pale Soul. “Immortal” and “Daredevils” are two tracks that I feel are fine examples of the Oldominion sound (angry, desolate imagery; references to grunge and metal bands), and “Lights Out” (featuring Sole of Anticon) is a classic from the dark underground. It’s a perfect record for December in the Northwest. Six tracks altogether (Four vox and two inst). (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!