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Mash Hall

This is the birth of Mash Hall. It is a wonder to behold. Released on CD in 2004, this EP rocked Seattle’s hip-hop norms in the same way cubism changed painting in 1907. Mash Hall has roots in a few different subcultures, It definitely shows influence by 90’s turntablist classics like Invisibl Skratch Piklz vs Da Klamz Uv Deth (1996) or Anti-Theft Device (1998). Songs are barely two minutes long, the aesthetic steers more toward punk than hip-hop or rap. But it’s not a punk record, these are 100% pure DJ and rap cuts of the highest grade. Don’t be alarmed if it doesn’t make sense immediately, Mash Hall exists to create chaos. There is barely any method to the noisy madness.

The Mash Hall EP exists without a booklet or a barcode, it’s just a screen-printed disc in a clear slimcase. On the left side of the image, Christine Supreme strikes a b-girl pose. On the right is a dapper-dressed Ronnie Voice. Smack dab in the middle, wearing a “206” baseball cap and captured in a floor-rocking freeze, is DJ blesOne inhabiting his alter-ego “Bruce Illest.” This is one of the rarest and most valuable items in the Seattle hip-hop canon.

DJ blesOne introduced a whole new genre with this Mash Hall EP, I just wish there was a way to name it. Just get a blender and add marching band, guitars, gunshots, drum loops, Chicago house, scratching, dope lyrics, reverb, distortion, and an entire bottle of Tabasco sauce. It’s amazing how much music has been vacuum-sealed into these six tracks on the EP. Every time you spin it Mash Hall sounds like it was just unleashed for the first time. Be prepared. (Written by Novocaine132.)

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5 Bux Aint Shit

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The Rebirth

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Checkmate

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Red Scribe Pages

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In Tha Mix

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The 7 Deadly Sins

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Live & Learn

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The Dead Stock Sessions

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Reigncraft, Volume 4: The Labor

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Thee Adventures

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N Flight

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Tropic of Cancer

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B.Y.R.D.I.E.

Seattle emcee Byrdie released this 12″ back in 2004, along with his album N Flight. Boasting production from the legendary Vitamin D and Bean One, this sampling of what the album has to offer is head-nodding and infectious.

The A-Side, “B.Y.R.D.I.E.”, with its minimal and angular beat, gives Byrdie’s flow ample room to slither and wrap itself around the corners. The B-Side, “Scattin'”, is more of a high-energy club cut. Layers of horns, percussion, vocal samples, and synth lines jump around, with Byrdie shouting to be heard over the cacophony. Entertaining stuff from this Northwest stalwart. Besides album cuts, instrumentals and acapellas are included as well. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Blue Scholars

Celebrating a sunny break in this weekend’s stormpocalypse with the Blue Scholars self-titled debut from 2004. Pictured here is the original 11-track spiral notebook “PNW version.” The CD was reissued one year later with different tracks and a different cover. It’s amazing to consider this album is almost 13 years old, making it slightly closer to the era of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” than the music of today. (Plus, Sir Mix is name-checked on track 7.) Regardless, this one is every note a banger, right from the unique-to-this-version “Solstice Intro” and all through the end. Gorgeous production from Sabzi and endlessly inventive verses from Geologic. These two are such a wicked pairing.

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Return of The Artist

Return of The Artist is an album that will always be ahead of its time. Specs One is a producer and rapper mixed into one person, a hip-hop genius straight from the 206. The CD begins with three solid vocal tracks “Open,” “The S,” and “Attack Of The Clones,” then the instrumental vibe of “North” cleanses your mental palate. The chorus of track five, “Who Is He?” comes in like hot green peppers, and your toes will definitely be tapping. “Who Is He?” is bonkers, simultaneously rough and smooth. “Rap Stuff” follows, then two more instrumentals, “Travel Addict” and “Home Suite.” While “North” and “Home Suite” could be described as musical interludes, “Travel Addict” is a full-length instrumental track that shows Specs One’s talent at constructing multi-layered soundscapes that constantly surprise and delight the listener. After a short love song titled “Only You” comes a skit, “Finding Mic” which leads right into track eleven, “Ode To Mics.” “Ode To Mics” is another signature Specs One slam dunk from this all-around superb release. Instrumental “The Block” sneaks by, then “Done” fades the album out to the last track, the wistfully sentimental “Wide World.” (Written by Novocaine132.)

Here’s another take:

Specs One, the mastermind behind the legendary 206 acts the Elevators, The Crew Clockwise, and many others, dropped this album in 2004. Return of the Artist is a fitting name for this album, as it heralded a rebirth of Specs as a rhyme artist and producer. For years Specs had been legendary as the most underground of underground heads in Seattle, releasing shit at shows and at the mom and pop stores on cassette and through mail order. This was his first widespread release (on CD!), as far as I know. Released on the Abduction label, this was also a change stylistically from his previous projects. On his various tracks from his salad days (Numerology, American Music, Balcony,etc) his work had a distinctly experimental vibe, allowing the tracks to stretch out and grow on their own. I revere this early stuff with something close to adoration. Everything I’ve ever found by Specs has been a treasure. Here, Specs goes as straight-ahead hip-hop as Specs gets, which means it’s still underground, scratchy, and experimental as most cats never dare to go, but it’s all systems ahead with beats to make the head nod and lyrics that are always engaging. No track ever lasts too long, and there’s never any lag between the musical/lyrical action. The songs are solid, distilled to the prime elements, and no-nonsense. This is a classic Northwest selection, ranked at the top. Long live the Green Lover! (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Evolution of Hip-Hop

In 2004, Seattle’s hip-hop scene was in transition. Enter Tendai Maraire of the group C.A.V.E’. which had recorded their album Holy Haters a few years prior in 2000. Tendai, a virtuoso musician who would later join with Ishmael Butler to create Shabazz Palaces, looked around Seattle, pulled fifteen tracks from fifteen different DJs and MCs, and combined them into this amazing compilation.

Evolution Of Hip Hop is an unfiltered look at Seattle’s diverse hip-hop community in the mid-2000s, and the music is top-notch. Ghetto Chilldren’s track “Young Tender” shows how good Vitamin and B-Self are at breaking words down to their syllables and rearranging them into a roller coaster of inflection. “Peaches and Cream” by Merm and Mal snaps the funk so hard that it was also included on the Town Biz mixtape six years later. In a nod to hip hop DJ culture, there are DJ-only tracks by Funk Daddy, Topspin, and DV One, three of Seattle’s veteran party and club entertainers.

Evolution Of Hip Hop has so many great artists that it’s hard to believe. With names like Candidt, E-Dawg, Jace and Blak, Boom Bap Project, Skuntdunanna, and many others, there is something for every possible listener. “Yeah Yeah Baby” by C.A.V.E. is one of the most blazing tracks on the whole project, careening like a car chase loaded with drama.

When compilations are at their best, they can capture a moment in time like a Polaroid. Evolution Of Hip Hop allows you to see through the camera from the point of view of a young Tendai Maraire. Push the button! (Written by Novocaine132.)

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