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Reigncraft, Volume 2: The Source

Reigncraft Volume 1: The Resources, the first in executive producer KNDNM’s Seattle rap compilation series, came with a mission statement. The liner notes described a pre-Facebook media landscape, “Every artist on a Reigncraft compilation is familiar to their neighborhood, a different neighborhood for each artist means the other artists on the compilation will then become familiarized to each new location.” The idea was an ambitious one, and it succeeded at showing off diverse Seattle rap talent. Highlights included tracks by Willie Will, Ricky Pharoe, AC, and Illy Wonka.

Reigncraft Compilation Volume 2 hit the streets several months after Volume 1, and it contains a whole new list of bangers. “That Boy” by Livio features a Funk Daddy beat, and bragging lyrics full of gun talk. “I pack a Desert Eagle black, I get raw with that, pearl hand four five I’m talkin all of that,” is a typical line. Another lyric could be seen as a shot at Mix-A-Lot, “Why give you a fair chance when you do a dumb job? Go and square dance, Square Pants Sponge Bob.”

Mo-X brings an edge in his voice which adds grit and realism to his gangsta track, “Losin’ Control.” “We Live This” by Mista Ock captures a tense, high-energy tone in the music and lyrics. He accuses other MCs of “playing” with hip-hop while he actually lives it day to day. “Hip Hop Sent Me” shows off the steady flow of Kaotic over a simple, yet very effective Greedy B.D. beat.

Things go a little rap-rock near the end of Volume 2, starting with the hype scratching on “Thinking Back” by Rewind. Then Black Swan’s excellent “Days Gone By” sneaks in the door. The melody and chorus feel rock-inspired, but the verses are solid rap bars. Last on the compilation is “Fly Away,” a hot-air balloon trip to the ether by Cancer Rising. KNDNM was right, Reigncraft Compilation Volume 2 really does hit from every angle, and it offers something for everybody. Written by Novocaine132

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2003

Between 2000 and 2002, Geico ran a funny TV commercial called “Bob Wehadababyitsaboy” in which a family tricks the phone company into getting a free long distance call. Audiences loved the fact that an entire sentence was packed into one word.

Seattle rapper Asun used a similar technique when he dropped his debut album Titanium Buttermilk Rhinoceros Briefcase in 1999. Briefcase featured tracks like “Search Party,” that were loaded with words and phrases smashed together in a blizzard of speedy vocal delivery. After that, he temporarily took on an alias named Kakurot, and continued the rapid rap technique on his Saiyan Of Earth album in 2001.

A couple of years later Asun recorded his third album, titled 2003, which gives us more of the same recklessly fast flows. Listening to the accelerated lyrics can be a fun puzzle, but at times, your ear may fail to decipher the words as they fly by. The boisterous “No Shorts” and the more reflective “Help Yo Self,” both nicely produced by Idel One, are a bit slower than the rest of 2003, and in my opinion they are two of the CD’s strongest cuts. “No Shorts” is a challenge to other MCs to battle on wax, “Trade in the gat, cop a pen, write tracks, when I mash I hold hold the jawn like I miss the strap.”

“FYI” is interesting for its gentle beat produced by Mat The Alien. The track is a good compromise for me between Asun’s tongue-twister technique and his slower, more intelligible side. At the beginning, “FYI” delivers a short rap, then lets the soothing music ride for two full minutes. The last song on 2003, “Serve It Up,” has a jolty, electric, Frankenstein-ish vibe, and it succeeds at capturing the crew’s infectious energy. Asun would continue his career with many more releases, changing his stage name to Suntonio Bandanaz in the mid-2000s. Written by Novocaine132

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Crown Royale

Gangsta Nutt’s first album Save Me in 1999 introduced him as a West Seattle OG, ready to tell his story. On hits like “Criminal Life,” and “My Micasa,” Nutt unveiled his hustling pedigree. The album made waves, and he continued recording over the next few years, dropping his sophomore album Crown Royale in 2003.

Crown Royale continues the themes of Save Me. The rough “Ride 4 Tha Cause” and the more funky “Parle” both feature Tasty T. “Mo To Grab” reminds us that we should never rest on our accomplishments, but rather continue reaching for greater and greater heights. I like the chorus, “Lord how I appreciate this life that I’ve had, but I feel there’s more to grab.” The excellent “This Ain’t Livin” has a smooth R.C. The Trackaholiq beat that carries Nutt’s lyrics like a boat on glassy water. The song was previously featured in 2002 on R.C.’s compilation titled When It Rains.

Local Seattle group Mob Related appears on three tracks here. “The Heat Iz On” features Mr Cashflow, who is also the executive producer of Crown Royale. The other two songs are “Point Of No Return,” and “Survival Of The Fittest.” The credits mention an upcoming Mob Related project, but according to Discogs, that second Mob album never came out.

On “Lost Souls” and “Changes,” Nutt pens his most revealing lines. “Hello God, I know it’s been a long time since we conversed,” he admits on “Lost Souls.” The theme of “Changes” is for each of us to live our lives in a positive way, avoiding an early grave. He dedicates this track to several of his fallen soldiers at the beginning. Gangsta Nutt, real name Lanell Jackson, passed away in 2021, rest in peace. Written by Novocaine132

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Daddy's Home

His debut album SWASS introduced Anthony “Sir Mix-A-Lot” Ray as a bragging, gold-draped mack who occasionally took helium-voiced comedy excursions such as “Buttermilk Biscuits” and “Square Dance Rap.” Sophomore record Seminar had all the same boasts, but things got political on “National Anthem.” Then came Mack Daddy.

The way “Baby Got Back” combined Sir Mix-A-Lot studio wizardry with the 1986 Channel One “Technicolor” sample is the stuff of legend. From the release of the track on Mack Daddy in 1992, to the Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance in 1993, “Baby Got Back” enjoyed decades of success as a pop smash. Mix followed up with Chief Boot Knocka in 1994, and Return Of The Bumpasaurus in 1996. For his sixth studio album, Mix stayed in his lane musically and lyrically. Daddy’s Home in 2003 fits well on the shelf as a final bookend to the Mix-A-Lot catalog.

Daddy’s Home is all about being on top. The creature comforts and the power are irresistible. However, it’s not all glory and happiness. On the chorus of “Game Don’t Get Old” for instance, Mix mournfully admits that this player lifestyle has costs, “I got no kids because of it, and I got no wife because of it.” The theme continues on “Ya’ll Don’t Know,” with the refrain, “Ya’ll fools don’t know about how much all this pimpin costs.” Heavy is the head that wears the crown, as the saying goes.

“At The Next Show” featuring the late Shock G is entertaining, and Shock raps about getting some action on his visits to Seattle. In fact, sex is definitely a main theme of Daddy’s Home. The album’s lead single “Big Johnson” is a good example. In the irreverent track, Mix makes various observations about dick size, including a shout-out to ’70s porn star John Holmes. “Nasty Girl” has sultry, seductive female vocals that could mimic the call of mythological sirens reeling in sailors. One woman whispers, “I’d love to show you these tricks, now what you wanna get with?”

Throughout his career, Mix has always been quick to do a guest verse for just about any fellow Seattle MC who asks. His name pops up on local track after local track, just check the history. The myth that he never did enough to support the Seattle rap community is not supported by evidence. He has always been a champion of rap in the 206, and that didn’t change when he hung up his rapping hat and put on his godfather one. Mix really is the king of the Seattle rap scene. Anyone who wants to get ahead in life should observe how hard Mix had to grind. It’s an inspiring life story that is still being written. Written by Novocaine132

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Tale Of The Tape

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&

Here

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Industreets

Here’s some forgotten greatness from the Northwest: Cyphalliance, a group of emcees, producers, and deejays spearheaded by Khazma 247, also known as the one and only Khazm. This was a relatively early project he and his MAD Krew was involved in (2003). Executive produced by 247 and Nosirrom, many of the tracks also give Khazm a producer and emcee credit as well.

Stylistically this is some high-energy, youthful consciousness mixed with a healthy dose of battle attitude. It’s some refreshingly energetic left coast music in the same vein as JKC or EX2, except that it’s so obviously from the 206.

The grayness that permeates so much of the tonality of Northwest music (both hip-hop and otherwise) is truly in effect here. The cover sums the music up perfectly – a group of young men standing in front of a cloudy sky backdrop, as seen in the reflection of a rain puddle in a drab parking lot. Perseverance in the face of the mundane. I was next to ecstatic when I found this long out-of-print chapter in Northwest hip-hop history, and I hope you enjoy it at least a tiny bit as much as I do. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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No Good

Seattle hip-hop renaissance man Vitamin D put out this lone 12″ on Rhymesayers back in 2003. Handling beats, rhymes, and scratches, Vita brought an updated sound to his murky, stoned production work that was Tribal’s signature. Cleaned up and jazzy, with thinly sliced guitar samples, vintage dialogue, and spare percussion, this release takes a few steps towards Madlib’s sonic territory. The title track is all Vita, while the B-Side, “Touch Da Sky” has a guest appearance by Sinsemilla’s H-Bomb. The bonus joint, “Enstramental”, is produced by Jake One. This 12″ was to be the leadoff in Vita’s illustrious career on Rhymesayers, but unfortunately, nothing more came of it. Their loss. I believe other tracks from these sessions eventually surfaced on his free Bornday EP from 2010. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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The Streetz Iz Enough

Skuntdunanna dropped his CD, Trapped In Da Hatrixx, on Sea Sick Records in 1998. By the time his next album The Streetz Iz Enough came out in 2003, Skunt had joined D-Sane’s Street Level Records, home to Syko, IK, Byrdie, and the label’s marquee group F.T.S. The Streetz Iz Enough is a tour de force from one of the slickest rappers to ever emerge from Seattle. Spending all his time and effort in the studio paid off, allowing Skunt to develop a unique personality and character on the mic in real time, and the listener can hear him shifting gears between gangsta, hustler, pimp, comedian, and stone cold MC.

To me, one of the best things about Skunt’s material is the steady flow of truly hilarious punchlines. “Must have got help from the Post Office, because they turned thug overnight,” is one that always makes me chuckle. He makes joke after joke, using wordplay and insults, generally staying three or four steps ahead of the listener. Because his flow is so asymmetrical, there’s no way to know what he’s going to say next. Guest appearances enhance many of the tracks here. Wanz sings the groovy hook on “All I Got,” rap veteran Silver Shadow D lends some ragga chanting to “Soundproof,” and golden-voiced Byrdie drops a delectable verse on “Shake It.”

My favorite cut on this album is the title track, “The Streetz Iz Enough,” featuring underground Seattle rap hero Framework. This song goes so hard with lines like, “Memories of childhood days, but now instead of playing ball, I’m dropping flowers on graves.” Another hot track on this CD is simply titled, “Skuntdunanna.” “Pronounce the f***ing name right, dog,” he exhorts the listener. “Crazy Life Pt. 2” is an autobiographical piece which tells Skunt’s story of coming up in the Seattle rap game. There are even a couple of skits, “Rap Right Commercial,” and “Rejection Hotline,” which add to the entertaining vibe of the album. The cover artwork says this is the first official Skuntdunanna album, and the musical partnership between Skuntdunanna and D-Sane continued to grow throughout the 2000s and 2010s. Written by Novocaine132

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Glitta

This 2003 release from Seattle’s Sonny Bonoho needs a little better packaging. It’s a CD single of his song “Glitta,” but the song title does not appear anywhere on the front of the CD. Bonoho uses an alias here, Kutcrome, and includes the title of an album he was teasing, U Gets Tha Boots!, above his name. Once you open the CD, you see that the song is called “Glitta.”

Bonoho uses a very odd voice for this track, nasal and high-pitched, somewhat similar to B-Real from Cypress Hill. The lyrics tell the tale of an exotic dancer named Glitta who “wins wet T-shirt contests gettin sprayed.” She becomes addicted to drugs and of course this leads to a dangerous lifestyle. For instance, Glitta likes to speed on the highway at 100 mph. At the end of the track she has apparently fallen into prostitution.

The track is draped in a dramatic, minimal beat, and the instrumental is included here, along with an acapella. There is an also a remix of “Glitta” which exudes more of a snake-charmer vibe, and has much harsher percussion than the OG mix. The same year as “Glitta” dropped, Sonny Bonoho also had a track titled “4 Free” featured on the Reigncraft Volume Two CD. Written by Novocaine132

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The Paradyme

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The Merchandice

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Hollow Point Lyrics

Dividenz is a rap duo consisting of C.O.L.A. and Notes. Their first album is called Hollow Point Lyrics, and it came out in 2003 on D-Sane’s Street Level Records. Notes brandishes a bullet on the album cover artwork, while C.O.L.A. holds an umbrella. Skuntdunanna helps to fire up the party, dropping a punchline-filled verse on the album’s first cut, “It’s All Official.” “Too Much” featuring Bullet is one of my favorites on the album for its simple, gangstery beat and Nate Dogg-ish vocals on the hook sung by Jazz.

“Million $ Mouthpiece” features Seattle rap legend Byrdie, who had dropped his solo debut Poetic Epidemic two years prior in 2001, also on Street Level. Although the beat is catchy and smooth, the lyrics fall into the rap-about-rap trap, which limits the content of the track to solipsistic musing about being an MC. There are happy exceptions however, “I’m rollin by señoritas, yelling mama mia, they dream like they got shot with anesthesia,” raps Byrdie.

Fans of Hall & Oates may appreciate “We Don’t…” which interpolates H&O’s 1981 classic “I Can’t Go For That.” “I never been a sucker, I’m just a young hustler trying to have the world spinning in my hand,” goes a nice line from “We Don’t…” Overall, Hollow Point Lyrics is a solid debut. Six years later in 2009, the group would drop a second Street Level album, 10% Rap 90% Hustle. Written by Novocaine132

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Polarity

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Reigncraft, Volume 1: The Resources

The tech world is known for Silicon Valley start-up incubators like Y Combinator which launched in 2005. Incubators bring together talented people with different skillsets who team up to create new technology companies. In 2003, a fan of Seattle hip-hop named KNDNM was ahead of the curve. He decided to start his own Seattle hip-hop incubator called Reigncraft, which led to a CD compilation, Reigncraft, Volume 1: The Resources. KNDNM explains his goal on “Intro,” which is to introduce producers, rappers, and studios to each other so that they can all find someone who matches their creative vision.

“Sing A Song” by Willie Will and Illy Wonka starts things off, and it’s hella dope. At first it seems bubblegum, but as the track goes forward it gets more and more nutritious, and the MCs earn the candy beat with excellent flows. This is a sound that could be on the radio, it rides like a more wholesome version of “Headband” by B.o.B. and 2 Chainz, or a less repetitive “There It Go” by Juelz Santana.

Ricky Pharoe is a rapper known for alter egos. After all, he released four albums as Art Vandelay, George Costanza’s fictional architect. Is that meta enough for you? Here he uses the name Greasy Earl, and offers the track “Celebrity Status.” Earl hits it out of the park on this multi-dimensional, entertaining joint, with a gorgeous beat produced by I. Meek and J. Karp. “Keep clipping the coupons, I’m up in the penthouse, you sleep on a futon,” he disses. Pharoe dropped a full Greasy Earl album in 2003 titled Chief Executive Officer, with possibly my favorite rap track of all time, “New Earl Order.”

Illy Wonka returns with his own solo track, “This Is How I Feel,” which is another winner. Wonka found an excellent producer in Mugsy Styles, who also produced “Sing A Song.” While some tracks on The Resources are muddy and poorly mixed, Mugsy’s work is clean and his beats pop with clarity. The mood is positive and the lyrics provide something to build on, such as, “When you don’t practice, you lose.” I’m a big fan of empowering messages, and Wonka has plenty.

“Buildn 16” is the most complex track on the compilation. From the first line, “First floor apartment one, a single mom and her son,” the lyrics are very visual and descriptive. Rappers A.C. and Kevin deliver compelling verse after verse. The beat allows the message to stand out by staying in the background, but it brings plenty of funky weirdness and mood for days. Reigncraft was an ambitious project, and it would not be long before Volume 2: The Source arrived later in 2003. Written by Novocaine132

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We're Back Seattle!

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Seattle Rain, Vol. 2

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Piece

If, “Rap music is the invisible TV station that black America never had,” as Chuck D famously described it, then Laura “Piece” Kelley is an award-winning, prime-time news anchor. Her 2003 debut album titled Piece contains instructions on how to survive in the complicated 21st century United States. The album includes themes of race, class, drugs, and gender. No subject is taboo for Piece, she is fearless like a psychotherapist, and her lyrics prove that although some topics are difficult to broach, healing can only come by confronting society’s demons. A good example of this technique is found in “Gray,” which is one of the three acapella tracks on the album. In “Gray,” Piece combines raw slurs and coded phrases that have been used to drive division and represent racial conflict in America, but then she amazingly patches these awful words together into a quilt of unity and understanding.

Laura “Piece” Kelley is not slowed by her twin goals on this album of rap to a beat and traditional poetry. By surrounding her rap work with orchestral production and singing, she avoids the trap of dull beats. In fact, the whole album is a fight against average rap. By focusing on the creative and the positive, she successfully indicts the persistent clone world of gangsters, players, and pimps without a verdict or even a trial. In the track “Endless Cleansing” she gives the listener simple tools for inner strength, “When life is a test there is hope for a lesson/What would we learn if we chose not to question?” There are little jewels like that hidden in plain sight throughout this remarkable album. “Caution” is another track that delivers this therapeutic quality. The chorus hypnotically repeats “If you believe it/Then you should be it and live it/Or leave it be.” What seems like a simple tongue-twister or play on words is actually a profound mantra about having integrity in everything we do.

Piece is a dense masterwork of hip-hop culture. The half-dozen different producers all bring heat and you won’t find any duds. “Cornerstone” has no production, but there is a beatbox performance that creates a live cipher vibe. I love the honesty of Kelley’s delivery and how she can say so much with so few words. In “Cornerstone” the line “Hip hop is colossal/Commercial is awful” makes me nod every time I hear it. (Someone should scratch that up DJ Premier style and make it the chorus of their own track.) She turns phrases and words like a magician, as she puts it, “Instant Aristotle in a bottle.” This album propelled Piece to great heights, earning her a spot on the Def Poetry Jam tour in 2005 at which she performed perhaps her best-known acapella track “Central District” at venues around the country. This track is indescribable and must be heard to be experienced; a rap with no beat begins with verses about her personal history of survival, moves on to discuss Seattle gentrification, and builds to a climax of words, rhymes, and breath. Piece is one of the best rappers out of Seattle, hands down. (Written by Novocaine132.)

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The Natural

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Champagne Wishes Kaviar Dreams

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The Coldest Winter

Mad Passion was a Seattle record label run by Matt Wong in the early 2000s. It only released a handful of projects, including this terrific 2003 album titled The Coldest Winter by Mista Ock. In the CD credits, Mista Ock writes to Wong personally, “thanks for not only believing, but also giving me a platform to be heard.”

There are a few tracks that don’t quite hit for me. For instance “Come Home With Me” is romantic but trite like an LL Cool J love ballad. “Ride Tonight,” featuring Central Intelligence members Key and Diopolis, is an attempt at gangsta rap but the beat is too basic to capture any real tension or suspense. By contrast, the sound effects and tonal urgency found in “Countdown To Genocide” combine these same violent themes into a more successful track. High-energy club joint “Workin It Out” tries its best, but this is another style which isn’t a natural fit for Ock, who sounds too laid-back and calm here to convey the requisite party/dance hype.

But enough criticism, the majority of The Coldest Winter is top level. Ock’s talent shines when he speaks from a place of honesty about overcoming struggle, and those songs are serious and downright compelling. The line, “S*** was all a joke, but it wasn’t too funny, I remember days, Mom scraping up ends for lunch money,” in “All I Ever Knew” is a descriptive and visual example of the humiliation that accompanies poverty. Tracks like “Changes,” “Through My Eyes,” and “Hold On,” feature Mista Ock baring his soul and his feelings to the listener. On “Forgiveness,” Ock speaks to his deceased father in a moving confession.

Title track “The Coldest Winter” is excellent, probably my favorite on the CD. “You only lose when you stop trying, and I ain’t trying to stop,” he cleverly raps to a solid beat. That’s going to be my new motto. After the success of The Coldest Winter, Seattle trio Cancer Rising signed with Mad Passion to put out their second album Search For The Cure in 2005. Written by Novocaine132

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The Sport-N-Life Compilation Vol. 1

Sportn’ Life Records launched in 2002 with a two-song, twelve-inch rap single. The A-side was called “We Are” by Last Men Standin, and the cut lyrically served as a rectangle-sticker-on-their-chest introduction to the group and the label. The single’s B-side was by Danger, later known as D. Black and now Nissim Black, and titled “You Need A Thug.” Both tracks were produced by Vitamin D of Tribal Productions fame. Sportn’ Life co-founders Devon Manier, Emery “Slim” Buford, and Jamal Henderson quickly began to attract talent, and in 2003 the label put out a massive collection of Seattle hip-hop called The Sport-N-Life Compilation Vol. 1, containing twenty one tracks.

Let me apologize ahead of time to some of the fine artists that I will not have time to mention, there are too many tracks here to cover them all. Danger and Fatal Lucciauno start things off with their excellent “Make A Change.” Both performers have an economic way of rapping, using supply and demand to create phrases, sentences, and verses of extreme value.

The aforementioned Vitamin D carries some weight on Compilation Vol. 1, producing four cuts on the CD. Besides the two songs from the 2002 Sportn’ Life single which both appear here, Narcotik’s easy-paced Seattle classic “Chips To A Cell” from the group’s 1995 album Intro To The Central is also featured. Vitamin’s own track “Pimp Of The Year,” is yet another example of his talent both in the booth and twisting the knobs.

Producer J Bellamy gets flutey on J. One’s pop-sounding “Tonight,” featuring a short rap by Wojack and vocals by Sophia. “No Ordinary” by Footprints is one of my favorites of the whole set. “The rumor is I’d make a million overseas. America, she’s so hard to please,” is one of Proh Mic’s effortless lyrics. Mall Saint also entertains with “Caught In The Red,” showing off his very unique, speedy rapping style.

Three huge names finish the long compilation, Silent Lambs, Fleeta Partee, and Candidt. Sportn’ Life managed to accomplish so much with this ambitious CD. The thoughtful project brought together artists who may not have otherwise appeared together, which added so much character to the listening experience. I would be remiss if Bean One did not get a shout out too, for producing over a dozen beats on Compilation Vol. 1. Written by Novocaine132

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The Grey Area

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Sirens Echo

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If We Try...

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

All In A Day's Work

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!

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Twice As Nice

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!

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Love Walked Past Remixed

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!

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Danger In Your Eyes

This is 2003’s Danger in Your Eyes EP by Seattle hip-hop group Sharpshooters. They were active for ten years, from the mid-90s to the mid-00s. The duo was made up of Supreme La Rock and DJ Sureshot. This particular EP has them going head-to-head with dueling remixes. Supreme’s side is pounded with a four-to-the-floor bass kick. It’s spare—just that and vocals from Christina Honeycut in a reverb-filled room. Sureshot’s interpretation shifts focus to a spritely snare drum and upbeat snap. DJ scratches add extra texture. The two mixes are similar enough that you keep wanting to flip the record over again to compare them further.

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Bright Black

After the success of Digable Planets, including a Grammy for Best Rap Performance in 1994, Ishmael Butler decided to go in a different direction. He collaborated musically with rappers Camp Lo and electronic act 4-Hero, among others. Around 2001, Ish teamed up with Thaddeus Turner, Gerald Turner, and Bubba Jones to create a jazzy new hip-hop project named Cherrywine. The group released one album, Bright Black, in 2003.

The backing music on Bright Black alternates between twangy guitars and eight-bit video game beeps and boops. So much reverb drenches Ishmael’s vocals that every “s” turns in to a tsunami of echoes. I picture the engineer smiling next to a delay knob that goes to eleven. “Anchorman Blues” is contradictory like paintings by Belgian artist René Magritte. “I had to lie to you,” this announcer cheerfully admits to us, and the track can make us think about how the news media makes their decisions regarding what to present to the audience.

“See For Miles” is thematically similar to the “Quentin’s On His Way” skit by The Pharcyde. While “Quentin” was a brief joke about the group’s weed dealer, “See For Miles” goes psychedelic, sprawling, and spacey for six minutes of mumbling and repeated cheering that, “The cocaine’s coming.” Listening to this song really places the listener into a vortex of addiction and inevitable consumption.

As a rap traditionalist, my favorite tracks on this album are “Dazzlement” and “A Street Gospel.” “Dazzlement” perfectly captures the themes of excess which Bright Black explores. “Flow like a rap kid, piles of blow did, million dollar nest,” goes one lyric. On “A Street Gospel,” Ishmael raps in his trademark stream-of-consciousness style, adhering to the conventions of rap yet remaining free-form, a skill he frequently utilizes throughout Bright Black. When placed alongside classic works like The Great Gatsby, or Wall Street, this album shines as a multifaceted study of American wealth. Written by Novocaine132

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Sippin' Music

Cancer Rising is a hip-hop group with two MC’s—Gatsby and Judas—and one DJ, Tiles One. Sippin’ Music is the group’s first album, and it is a strong effort with a wide scope. The songs range from rowdy uptempo party jams like “Stop, Drop, Roll” and “Serious as…” to slower, more pensive tracks like “Fly Away” and “Who Woulda Thought.” Album highlights include “Sleight Of Hand,” which tackles the subject of political and military corruption, and the punchline-heavy head-nodder “Get A Hit.” The hidden masterpiece here is “IAM (Impressions And Memories),” with a beat that evokes the genius of J-Dilla, and lyrics which show a deep understanding of hip hop and rap’s fundamental ingredients. Sippin’ Music’s best quality is its ability to show off a new style on each track, no two songs sound the same. Cancer Rising introduced itself to Seattle with this record, and immediately cemented its status as one of the most relevant and creative acts to come from the 206. (Written by Novocaine132.)

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