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The Beautiful Baby EP

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Ready For Life

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Born Day EP

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How Long?

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Hidmo Next

Between 2006 and 2010, a Central District Eritrean restaurant called Hidmo served as an important hub for Seattle’s hip-hop scene. Its location at 20th and Jackson was “a community center masquerading as a restaurant,” according to Gabriel Teodros. It was run by two sisters–Rahwa and Asmeret Habtes–community organizers, activists, chefs, and entrepreneurs who offered up a safe space for artists, musicians, youth groups, nonprofits, and activists.

This 21-minute documentary from Scott Macklin captures the final closing night party for Hidmo. It’s “the place that fostered my art,” says JusMoni, before launching into a stunning acapella. Felicia Loud, Suntonio Bandanaz, THEESatisfaction, and OCnotes also share acapella songs and raps. The latter three crowd around a single microphone, for some “do-wop shit,” adds OCnotes.

There’s a real feeling of family throughout this film. Toddlers dance in the background during freestyle raps. You really get a sense of how special Hidmo was to the community. At one point, the camera veers away from the action and visits the kitchen staff and other people working behind the scenes. The director, Scott Macklin, makes a brief appearance in front of the camera to remind us that “Hidmo is about the we,” while addressing apprehension about what comes next.

This wonderful portrait is a beautiful testament to what culture can be fostered when “people just got together and did it.” Watching Hidmo Next in 2021 hits a little different: We lost Rahwa in August 2020 during our pandemic year. In a memorial tribute in The Seattle Times, Hollis Wong-Wear tried to sum up her impact: “Rahwa was the engine, the nucleus, the crucible of that space — I saw her as a titan.”

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Funk On Sight

Good god man, Seattle’s godfather of all things hip-hop has, in typical Vitamin style, unceremoniously released this handcrafted fonk mix: “A blend of funk classic and not so classic selections blended the way I do it! This is a REAL mixtape (no funny rapper shenanigans) for lovers of good music. done from vinyl with a touch of Serato. I promise you can’t front.” (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Loves Stevie Wonder Why We Celebrate Colonialism

Seattle Times music critic Andrew Matson picked this record as one of the best of 2010, saying:

This EP includes some of Seattle jazz-rap duo THEESatisfaction’s most straightforward songs to date and also their most psychedelic ones. Collage-style beats underpin super-controlled singing and sharp, hallucinatory rapping.

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Sweatsuit & Churchshoes

Seattle hip-hop blog 206UP picked this record as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2010,” saying that:

Candidt’s long-delayed Sweatsuit & Churchshoes is a refreshing and dynamic package of West Coast B-boy rap. Every local young buck in the game should take this album as the new hip-hop gospel for the way it connects Old School and New. Candidt doesn’t sound like anyone else in the city and his willingness to experiment with new sounds while keeping strict West Coast principles earns SS&CS major props.

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The Stimulus Package

Seattle hip-hop blog 206UP picked this record as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2010,” saying that:

At first consideration it seemed strange to include this release featuring an emcee so deeply associated with the city of Philadelphia. Fifty percent of the album artist credit is from Seattle though so how could it be excluded? The obvious truth is Jake One had as much (if not more) to do with the quality of The Stimulus Package as Freeway. Jake has a knack for creating fresh ideas while staying inside the bounds of traditional boom-bap. Stimulus is his best and most cohesive collection of beats, ever.

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Code Red

Seattle hip-hop blog 206UP picked this record as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2010,” saying that:

This star-studded EP by Seattle ex-pat J. Pinder had a professional sheen equal to most major label releases. And it was free, to boot. Unsurprisingly, the folks who built the foundation of Code Red are either consummate hip-hop professionals or quickly on their way: Vitamin D, Jake One, and Kuddie Fresh, among others. Pinder’s easy flow and accessible subject matter made this album easy to ride for.

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Crow Hill

Seattle hip-hop blog 206UP picked this record as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2010,” saying that:

A soaring achievement considering the bare-bones tools Air 2 A Bird (Gabriel Teodros and Amos Miller) had to work with when making this album in Brooklyn. In its creation, Crow Hill captured the very essence of hip-hop: eloquent poetics, masterful improvisation, and a revolutionary spirit (albeit on a quieter and more reserved scale). This album proves that hip-hop executed with class and panache can be just as effective as the bombastic variety.

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Victor Shade

Seattle hip-hop blog 206UP picked this record as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2010,” saying that:

The re-birth of RA Scion as the rap superhero Victor Shade saw a major shift in musical tone, but not a dramatic change in delivery or aesthetic. RA’s lyrics are still dense as hell and require close examination on paper in order to understand their meaning. It all sounded great, however, over MTK’s knocking production. RA Scion (aka. Victor Shade) remains the most professorial battle rapper in Seattle.

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SeattleCali Fragilistic ExtraHella Dopeness

Seattle hip-hop blog 206UP picked this record as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2010,” saying that:

The album equivalent of a 2-0-6 hip-hop house party, by design SeattleCali wasn’t exactly an official debut LP for State of the Artist, but a showcase for much of the talent in the city. The three SOTA emcees were consistently outshone by their guests and a lot of times the lyrics didn’t seem to make any sense. As strictly a party album, however, there wasn’t one better.

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Talking Buildings

The freshest tracks to come out of the 206 in a minute, which is saying a lot. These three individuals have a lot of history between them. Through them, you hear the formation of Northwest hip-hop: You have The Fourth Party, you have Blind Council, you have Jasiri. You have Silent Lambs. You hear beats by Vitamin D, you hear beats by King Otto. These are some of the supreme rulers of 206 hip-hop, the originators of the style. And like the masters they are, they know how to mold raw materials into something new and unseen.

Black Stax manages to push the boundaries of hip-hop into unknown regions. This has been labeled “Avant guard”, and for lack of a better term, it works. For although the formula of mixed-gender, jazzy hip-hop has been played time and time again with similar results, the Stax turns it inside out and upside down, making it unrecognizable, and ultimately much purer than past experiments. Listen to the projects of some of the jazz greats – Ayler, Sanders, Coltrane – you listen to their albums and you don’t hear songs. You don’t get anything that structured. You get impressions. You get feelings, you get swept away by pure emotion.

With Black Stax’s music, you are left in similar care. This album isn’t a collection of songs. This is more a tapestry of sound and emotion, a Burroughsian cut-up experiment on the sonic level, taking what we knew, deconstructing it, distilling it, and ultimately bringing it back into sharper focus. There is none of the linear progression we’ve been trained to expect to hear. You are required to unfocus your ears and allow the music to rewire your mind. This is hip-hop reaching its maturity. Buy the record and let it wash over you. Put it on loop. Let it be your soundtrack. Listen to what they have to say and how they say it. With each listen, let it blow your mind a little more. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Magnetic Blackness

I recently picked up a copy of the rare Magnetic Blackness EP from THEESatisfaction & Champagne Champagne, circa 2010. It’s a 7” two-song single. And while it’s only like three-minutes per side, each song is so wild and alien and trance-inducing, I find myself routinely flipping it over six or eight times, listening to these two tunes on such infinite repeat until they form grooves. Solid listening here, but also a little hard to describe… You put this on and feel the vibrations of the planet and the universe around you.

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Town Biz Mixtape

No list of essential Seattle hip-hop compilations would be complete without the inclusion of Jake One’s 27-track opus, the Town Biz Mixtape. He dug deep into the crates, surfacing lost hits, deep cuts, and the finest local hip-hop spanning more than 20 years. (From 1989 to 2010, when this CD was released.)

The mixtape is an essential playlist that surfaces forgotten gems and unexpected bangers. My favorite track here is Vitamin D’s “Who That??” feat. The Note (from Narcotik), but there are so, so many solid tracks. Everyone’s on this, from Blind Council to Mash Hall, The Physics, Tay Sean, J. Pinder, and Shabazz Palaces. Listening to Town Biz will leave you realizing how blessed we are to have so much musical talent in our own backyard. But we knew that already, didn’t we? Thanks to Jake One for compiling this so we can spin it on a sunny summer afternoon and feel hella proud.

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Helladope

This week, I’ve been spinning Helladope, a 2010 self-titled sci-fi concept album from Tay Sean and Jerm D. Helladope’s space ambassadors are a funky, musical Bill & Ted, wending their way through an early ’90s action-movie musical landscape, phat synths, treble-positive snares. Throughout their adventure, our duo encounters amazing auditory aliens THEESatisfaction, Jarv Dee, Isabella Du Graf and others. Gorgeous cover art by War.

Seattle hip-hop blog 206UP picked this record as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2010,” saying that:

Helladope’s Tay Sean is far too young a cat to be making music with this much soul and expert tribute to the R&B and funk of yesteryear. Still, he accomplished the feat with ease. Along with emcee/vocalist Jerm, Helladope’s debut album offers a fresh take on the P-funk/G-funk rap amalgamation that originated in Southern California in the early ’90s. The sound is updated here with extraterrestrial gimmickry that amuses but isn’t essential to the album’s vibe.

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The Youth Die Young

This is Seattle hip-hop group Mad Rad’s audacious sophomore effort, The Youth Die Young, from 2010. Who remembers this record? It’s odd to me that, ten years on, this polarizing local group is rarely mentioned in casual conversation. From 2007 thru 2011, Mad Rad was on hailed as Seattle hip-hop’s second coming: selling out Neumos and getting banned from other venues around town for their reckless and rowdy punk-inspired shows. They dominated headlines across the city: The Stranger’s Charles Mudede positioned them as flag bearers for “a new third wave of local hip-hop.” Seattle Weekly saw them as a “globally-dominant outfit… Generation Y’s new Beastie Boys.” One article described them as “the best Seattle hip-hop act since Sir Mix-A-Lot.” In a Spin magazine countdown, they beat out Shabazz Palaces as “Seattle’s Best Kept Hip-Hop Secret.” A supergroup of sorts, Mad Rad brought together pre-Iska Dhaaf’s Nate Quiroga, Fresh Espresso’s P Smoov, Terry Radjaw, DJ Darwin, and Trent Moorman. They released only two records: This one pictured, and their 2008 debut, White Gold. Some people really liked them a lot. Some others called them “a steaming pile of hipster bullshit.” Regardless, it seemed everyone once had a divided opinion on the group and hotly debated whether Mad Rad or Blue Scholars deserved Seattle’s turn-of-the-teens hip-hop crown. Then there’s a feisty Seattle Times article from 2010, by Andrew Matson titled, “Is Mad Rad still relevant?” (He concludes no.) But it’s a question I raise again today, some eight years later… What are your present-day thoughts on Mad Rad? Has your estimation of this music grown over the years?

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Gravity

Last night at Uppercuts, I got into an in-depth conversation with Def Dee about his record Gravity, released eight years ago in collaboration with LA (Language Arts). There are many cats in this town, when pressed, who will say this is one of the greatest classics Seattle has ever produced. Me, I’ve been a longtime fan of the stories rapped by this emcee and his pointed criticisms of how the town has changed… Back when Gravity was released in 2010, The Stranger‘s Larry Mizell Jr. described LA as “one of the strongest MCs in the 206 and more people should know this… With a clear ear for classic flows and sharp rhymes… He throws zero dirt on his own rep.” About producer Def Dee he said: “Vinyl-cracklin’ mid-90s-style boom-bap… Insomniac vibes, but sloppy emulation it is not. The beats have some of the album’s best moments.” Something I learned last night that has me spinning Gravity with fresh ears today was the discovery that this music was all recorded live in the studio: Def Dee on the MPC and LA freestylin’ overtop. If either of them f-ed it, they wound the tape back and started over. How many records are still made this way today? In a post from earlier this year, Respect My Region described Gravity as “an album of pure, raw hip-hop.” What do you say?

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Roll With The Winners

Seattle hip-hop blog 206UP picked this record as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2010,” saying that:

This “debut” album from the emcee formerly known as “Language Arts” featured expert throwback production by an unknown producer named Blu-Ray, whose heavy soul sampling sounds like The Alchemist on his most nostalgic day. The highlight, though, was La’s take-no-prisoners lyrical work. Hearing raw talent like this is akin to watching Allen Iverson play basketball for the first time. At this stage in his career, La is still all fearless potential, but on paper, he might already be the most technically sound rapper in the city.

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Cidewayz: Full Circle

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4 The Love of Music

Imagine a family reunion where everyone is there. I mean everyone. That means you get to see grandpa captivate people with his charm and wit, and you can hear a few of the aunts harmonizing a lovely new song they just made up, but you may encounter some not-so politically correct language from certain relatives. 4 The Love Of Music contains 17 tracks from across the family of rap and hip hop in the Emerald City as it existed when this comp was released in 2010. The expert curation by Tendai Maraire places tracks by superstars like (his own band) Shabazz Palaces, Macklemore, and Sir Mix A Lot, alongside offerings by other artists familiar to fans of Seattle hip hop. Thee Satisfaction contributes “Queen Supreme” and The Physics give us “Booe’d Up.” Fresh Espresso’s “Sunglasses On” stands out for its synthwave aesthetic, while “What Up Pimpin” by Draze is impossible to dislike, it’s simple and catchy. Unfortunately, there are too many more artists to name them all, but I must mention “Can’t Stand The Reign” by Mash Hall. Clocking in at five minutes and thirty-six seconds, this track is mysterious and inventive, calling to mind a hallucinatory Harmony Korine movie soundtrack. 4 The Love Of Music is one of the most complete assemblies of Seattle’s diverse rap community, and this compilation is a must-own. (This review was submitted by reader Novocaine132.)

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