A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Top 10 Songs

Throughout the ’90s, writer Novocaine132 extensively covered the Seattle hip-hop scene. You’ll find his byline on feature stories and record reviews in both The Rocket and The Stranger, and he contributed to the marketing of several Tribal and Loosegroove releases, too.

Over the past few years, he’s been posting a series on YouTube called Top 10 Songs where he digs deep into the work of a particular Seattle rap legend, surfacing the not-to-be-missed songs from their catalogs. Whether or not you agree with the specific choices, each video provides a great overview of each artist’s career and there are lots of audio samples so you can hear what each song sounds like.

He adds, “The project began in 2017 when I heard that Wordsayer had passed away. At the time I was retired from music and print journalism, and I was concentrating my efforts on documentary filmmaking. When Jon died it hit me very hard, and I had to evaluate my life and my work. He and I were good friends in the 1990s, and he inspired much of my work in the area of hip-hop writing. I made a Top 10 Songs video of Source Of Labor at the end of 2017 to help deal with the pain of losing Wordsayer. Then in 2018, I made one for Ghetto Chilldren, and it started to become a series. I named my enterprise “Overstanding Seattle” to give tribute and honor to Jonathan Moore, one of the most truly amazing musicians I have ever known.”

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

Yellow Suit

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

Digable Planets Live

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

PNW Rap: Taking back Seattle’s Soul

This six-minute documentary explores the impact of the rapid gentrification and displacement of arts communities and culture in Seattle.

Blue Scholar Prometheus Brown (aka Geo) strolls Pike Place Market reflecting on the collision of old and new. On success in the local music scene, he notes “Seattle’s big enough for you to pop, but it’s small enough that you can’t have an ego around here. You gotta work with people, you gotta get to know people.”

He then shouts out two local artists–Gifted Gab and Sendai Era–who he feels are keeping the soul of Seattle alive. Gab’s music is “effortless and classic, but it feels new,” he says. We then catch up with Gifted Gab. She notes how Seattle is a “melting pot for all types of artists.” Rapper Era of Sendai Era reminds us that “Asian Americans can rap” while expanding on how hip-hop has given a voice to emergent Pacific Rim communities in the Northwest.

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

Summerhouse

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

The Highly Hollerables

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

Chopped & Swung EP 1

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

Diaries of A Mad

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

Running Wild

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

Heron

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

UniverSoul

E-Real Asim of legendary 206 crew Black Anger presented the world with these tracks via social networks, and they are absolutely amazing. Remember when hip-hop was dangerous? I remember the first time I ever heard Public Enemy, and the uncomfortable feeling that formed in the pit of my stomach. That certainty that these people were genuinely upset, upset at me, my family, and every other sheltered, privileged bovine/porcine like me. This was music and energy tensed upon a knife-edge. The sense of violence and righteous retribution was thick with vintage PE, and even as a young kid, I got that loud and clear. I didn’t feel safe listening to them. Well, E-Real’s tracks here bring that sense back like no one else I’ve heard. He holds nothing back, and it’s a real shame that there aren’t more emcees willing to go the full distance as he does. Fuck complacency. Brilliant lyricism brought to you from a freight train crashing through your ears, brain, defenses, and ego. (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

The Scepter and The Sword

I fell in love with hip-hop full-tilt in 1991. It had been building up for a while by that point, but ’91 broke the dam. I was in middle school, and when I heard “By the Time I Get To Arizona” for the first time, it pushed me over the edge into hip-hop appreciation head first. With Public Enemy as the sounding board, I then branched out, forwards and backward, and across the map. Ice T and Ice Cube, LL Cool J, Naughty By Nature. Cypress Hill, Gangstarr, Digable Planets, the Native Tongues. Artifacts, Boot Camp, Wu-Tang, Mobb Deep. And each new tape I picked up just made me more excited to cop the next one. hip-hop was vibrant, it was fresh and progressive, it was building and growing; each artist and producer had a unique style, and identity, and crazy visions. To my young ears, the music was limitless.

There are things that happen with the passage of time, and with age: Looking back on the landscape of my life, from the midway point of an almost 40-year-old, I see the gradual and inevitable shift I’ve taken from active participant to spectator. I’ve moved away from the city and its frenetic creativity, my family and I now live in the woods, and I do my best to show my three young children those things I’ve discovered throughout my life, that I feel are important, and want to pass on. I play the music whenever I can. They’ve danced to Blowout Comb. Inner City Griots and Project Blowed. Kingdom Crumbs and Colored People’s Time Machine. Apocalypse ’91 has definitely still been on rotation… My crazy children know all of these albums. And recently, I’ve introduced them to a new one I feel is more than worthy of inclusion in this elite group of classics: Dawhud’s The Scepter and the Sword.

I’ve been fortunate to have been listening to this album in its various incarnations for a while now. Its inception began way back in 2013 when a particularly face-slapping track from rapper/producer Dawhud and rapper Ace-One caught the attention of the one and only DJ Premier. The track, “Battle Anybody”, which got a lot of airplay on Primo’s “Live From HeadQCourterz” program, is a slouchingly self-assured, boot-stomping show-stopper of a track, and acted as a catalyst for their creative energies as a duo.

By 2015 a full-length Dawhud and Ace-One (collectively known as David and Goliath) album was born: a raw, heavy-ass, two-headed monster of a record, with production handled by Dawhud and the Beatminerz. Although Dawhud hails from the Pacific Northwest and Ace-One is from Indianapolis, this album was full-on Brooklyn, circa ’95. As Dawhud called it, a “Tims and baseball bat video” of an album. This early version, although bearing some alternate universe-resemblance at times to the finished product, might as well be an entirely different album. Dawhud is an all-but self-professed perfectionist, and with edits and re-edits, re-recordings, and new material, The Scepter and the Sword continued to evolve. Becoming more sonically and thematically cohesive, the album coalesced into one brilliantly coherent and confident; adding participants, spawning the aptly titled mixtape Something’s Coming, and eventually eschewing the Beatminerz tracks until a later release. With Dawhud’s intricate and full production featured exclusively, through trials and tribulations the album moved forward until its release in July 2017.

And the product is sublime. Look up the definition if you’re unsure of what it means exactly. It’s the perfect balance of craft and wild spontaneity, of humble artistry and classic hip-hop bravado. As a young kid, consuming tape after tape, chasing after each artist and each release, on through the ’90s and as an adult into the new century, The Scepter and the Sword stands out like a beacon; an album that remains true to the art while simultaneously advancing it. This album, and actually quite a few others in the last 12 months, have signaled a sea change in hip-hop, a return to detailed, powerful production and dedicated lyricism. But nothing I’ve heard yet has grabbed me like this. To say it’s solid and full, and beautiful in its intricacy and depth, doesn’t do the album justice. It’s lean, no filler, no skits, no weak cuts, just a double lp’s worth of beautifully crafted songs – each as satisfying a listen as the one that comes before. There are heavy, HEAVY beats, the kind the push against your rib cage, and underneath them flow these incredible gems dug up from crates, of horn sections, vocal samples, pianos played like percussion instruments, and fuzzed-out basses. Complimenting the music, Dawhud and Ace-One’s lyrics and raps are the best either has ever laid down. Trading rhymes, alternating verses, and pulling out line after line of fresh new Rhythmic American Poetry, they easily stand aside peers (yes, PEERS) such as Masta Ace, Sadat X, and Rock from Heltah Skeltah (who all just so happen to appear on the album). The Scepter and the Sword is a record that is years in the making and is surely going to become more revered as time goes on. It’s an incredible achievement; it’s the most exciting release I’ve heard in a long time and gives me hope for a new revolution in hip-hop. Head over to Dawhud’s Bandcamp page to pick up a copy. The limited double Vinyl, with bonus tracks, is truly a thing of beauty. Listen, dance to it like my children do, and be excited about the future! (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

The Woods

Seattle musician Sol was doing a live chat. He shared his insight that the effort of making an album is one’s attempt at achieving a masterpiece.

By way of follow-up, I asked him if any recent local records lived up to his definition: He barely hesitated in saying The Woods, a new thirteen-song album entirely written, produced, and performed by Otieno Terry. Not long after, we ran into Sol again at the launch party, held in November in Belltown at J. Moore’s old space. With lights and props, the room was magically transformed into a gathering on a forest floor.

In the weeks since I’ve been listening to The Woods and this is most certainly an album worth your time. The summertime crush of “Honesty” is a standout, evocative of sitting in the park and riding your bike on endless blue sky days. The electrifying, playful final 30 seconds of “Jaguar Stupid” leaves me in such a great mood I always rewind and play this song again.

Overall, the production is luxurious and tactile: you feel the physical thump of the drums and the bass notes. It’s clearly a record intended to be heard on headphones, connected to your intimate smartphone. More than once, the music is interrupted by the buzz of an incoming phone call, which causes you to stop and pull your phone from your pocket. It’s an effective magic trick, only slightly less successful when listening on a home stereo system or your car. What I love so much about “The Woods” is that it takes you on a journey, and Otieno is a man of so many talents and singing styles that you look forward to where the next track might take you, and it’s rarely where you expect. There’s also room for field songs like closer “Ashé.”

Congratulations on your masterpiece, Otieno.

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

Shadows

Since its release in August, Shadows has been a Seattle underground sensation, an old-school CD whispered about and passed around by people in the know, a favorite of beatmakers and crate diggers. People come up to me at shows and ask in hushed tones, “so, have you heard Shadows?” It’s, therefore, no surprise that this community voted big for this fantastic fever dream. It’s a product of two-and-a-half years of labor, tweaks and technical craftsmanship, when Wizdumb finally emerged from the lab with his solo debut. How to describe it? Imagine if MF Doom and J.Dilla cooked up a 1950s radio play about a hired gun, collaged out of samples, and featuring both old and new heroes of our town, like Specswizard, Moka Only, Able Fader, and Tuesday Velasco. The sweet spot begins with “Execs” and “Diggin’ Jawn” before “Suckaz” throws down the hammer. On the opening dialogue of the latter, Wizdumb makes it clear: “That’s nice, but I don’t give a fuck what you spit.” What follows is a pure ego dis-track, cutting through all our city’s pretension and bullshit, a straight-shot mercenary, knocking down the competition. “So Clear” is the victory lap that follows, with Specs on clean-up crew, rapping, “No apologies when I freeze all emcees.” Wizdumb’s unassuming alter ego can be found tending bar at Vermillion. Swing by one of that venue’s many hip-hop nights and get your hands on this CD, already on its third pressing. In honor of Wizdumb’s Mexican heritage, sip some tequila, and listen to the many mysteries emerging from those hallowed shadows.

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

Pearl

Pearl is an ambitious, soul-tinged departure from Dave B’s previous work, harnessing the energies of a live backing band to gorgeous results. “I don’t recognize the man I’ve become,” he croons, while surrounded by sweeping, spectacular guitar solos on album closer, “Sweetest Thing.” It’s a romantic and bittersweet torch song, like many of them here, that leaves you swooning. In their review, The Seattle Times described Pearl as a breakup record, and it’s true that these songs ponder the pros and cons of singledom, dating, and commitment. But after a year of bad news and presidential oxygen suck, you’ll also hear a strong longing to tune out the Twitter tirades through idle distraction, to say “Fuck it, I just can’t deal,” and binge Nextflix, drink a little too much, and scroll and scroll and scroll through social media. When that dark cloud threatens to overtake you, “whenever you find yourself bored,” that’s when you spin the two-track tour-de-force of “Scrolling” and “Magnum,” the latter an extended outro of the first, bursting with experimentation, screwed, chopped and—for me anyway—heavily on repeat. Dave B has had his world turned upside down this year: Selling out The Neptune, performing on The Tonight Show, and touring across America and Australia. This record demonstrates how much he deserves every accolade and success, with many more to come.

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

Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star

The 1991 novel Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis tells the story of an alien who experiences time backward, and who is perplexed by all our human behavior throughout the 20th century, where people become sick after visiting the hospital, and where the Holocaust births millions of new humans. Shabazz Palaces’s twin 2017 albums are concepted around a similar tale: Quazarz, the extraterrestrial, trying to make sense of contemporary America: Our capitalism, our fake news, our police brutality, and our smartphone obsessions. Throughout the verses, you’ll recognize your own habits and values reflected back, and see them as equally perplexing and strange. This second record, Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star, was originally conceived of as bonus material for the first (Jealous Machines) before taking on a life of its own. Songs have a stasis, a hazy quality, echoes of spare drums, and barely-there beats that stubbornly refuse to groove. Still, tracks like “Eel Dreams” and the Kraftwerk-inspired “Moon Whip Quäz” find their own abstract way to rock, taking you on a mystical space-travel journey. Overall, there’s an ease to the music on this record, an exploration of artists hanging out and playing and innovating, unconcerned with convention or commercial viability. Influences pull from everywhere: improvisation, sampler-based free-jazz, indie, and prog-rock, fusing the sound waves into a truly unique sonic landscape. This record opens your eyes. We’re all Quazarz. Our world is a confusing and magical place.

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

AntiHero Vol. 2

“iGo,” the opening track on Nacho Picasso’s 2017 release, AntiHero Vol. 2, was playing in my headphones. The vocals bounce around, across several voices. I went to look up who all the featured rappers were on this track, and to my surprise, it’s all Nacho, playing different characters, different intonations, inhabiting different bodies. A few songs later, I thought, “Into The Night” should be suffixed, “feat. Nacho Picasso,” even though it’s his record because here the opening vocals from Mistah F.A.B. and Kobe set up the pins for Nacho to walk in with the assassin’s verse and strike ‘em all down. This guy is a town talent, with impressive range and unorthodox idiosyncrasy. As evidenced by this cover, he’s also a big fan of anime, a genre filled with adolescent fantasies and multi-tentacled monsters terrorizing the orifices of every teenage schoolgirl. The songs on this record are fantasies of excess, too: sex and death and violence. (And a few of those monstrous tentacles.) “I’m on some murder shit,” he raps on “Cereal Killer,” before cracking a joke. Indeed, a lot of these songs are laugh-out-loud funny. On “Somehow (Feat. Raz Simone)” he suggests, “I got a dark past, so bring a flashlight.” The single “Queen of the Dammed” orbits around a deceptively simple loop, and will be permanently stuck in your head. This is but one in a recent series of collaborations with Harry Fraud. You’re encouraged to seek them all out, including 2018’s The Role Model EP, on all them streaming services.

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

Boombox Detox

Boombox Detox begins with a harpsichord sample, something Classical, and then drops a scratch and a dry boom-bap beat. Before I was writing about hip-hop, I scribbled a bit about Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and the gang, so I’m always pleased when an artist digs into that genre for samples and inspiration. That’s certainly appears to be the case with this instrumental full-length from Ear Dr. Umz The Metrognome. In November, an uploading error resulted in him leaking his own record before he’d intended to, reminding me of that famous quote that art is never truly done so much as it stops in some interesting place. “ANTARES” is a fav track, with sexy jazz horns and a fascinating reversal, as is the astro-space scratching on “CLOSETOTHECHEST.” Every one of these 13 tracks contains small, detailed moments that reward a careful listener: Pay close attention to all the subtle ways the funk bass is manipulated throughout “SYSTEMSOUND.” Two bonus tracks close out the record and add vocals to the mix, featuring rappers ALCAZAR and Gabriel Teodros, the latter of whom delivers some of his best, most relevant verses on “MOST WARS ARE STILL FOUGHT WITH STORIES.” The doctor has orchestrated a worthy prescription for your ears.

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

Cache Dump

Diogenes dropped this record in an unassuming way, declaring it simply as “four years worth of random beat and stuff, named by their Ableton file names.” It’s a modesty reminiscent of when Kendrick cast off “untitled unmastered” as some crap taking up space in his junk drawer. Cache Dump is an impressive 37 tracks, humility aside, summing to a lengthy hour an half of new music. In a recent review by The Stranger it was described as “a treasure trove of wonderfully warped instrumentals.” Diogenes is amongst the forefront of Seattle’s beatmakers with an impressive back catalog of transportive, manipulated melodies. Here, extensive crate digging has led to unexpected samples that are then chopped, detuned, reshaped, and reassembled. Each track tells a story, each one a mini-movie soundtrack, ranging from familiar to exotic, sometimes warm, sometimes unsettling, sometimes foggy. There’s a lot here to digest over multiple listening sessions, but let me tell you a few personal highlights: The singalong vibe of the ironically-named “shut up,” the easy-flowing “loopin feilds,” and the religious catharsis found in “earthly days.” Calling all vocalists: apparently, many of these beats were intended to be paired with words. Here’s to hoping some of you reach out to Diogenes, and that later this year he treats us to an EP of Cache Dump remixes with vocals and raps.

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

New Black Swing

In the three years since the dissolution of THEESatisfaction, SassyBlack has released nine projects: two full-length albums, three beat tapes and four EPs. For anyone devouring this prolific output, you’ll bear witness to an artist finding new footing, traveling through the cocoon to unveil this 2017 butterfly, New Black Swing. Early on the record, the stripped-down “Passion Paradise” seduces you softly with a slow burn, spacious synths, heavy bass, and sweet R&B vocals. That’s the case with many of the songs: starting skeletal, and then through verses and chorus, adding tendon and skin, until emerging fully, foot-tappingly formed around the three-minute mark. These songs demand repeated listening, each journey through revealing new layers and levels. Catchy single “Glitches” has a danceable snap-skip-step beat, while lyrics explore one’s struggles with trust and intimacy at the start of any new relationship. Intimacy is a good way to describe many of the tracks here, be it the hypnotic “I’ll Wait For You,” the phat guitars halfway through “What We Gonna Do,” or the singalong backstep funk of “Worthy.” There’s an Indiegogo-sponsored vinyl-edition rumored for release this summer. These songs are gonna sing sweetly on that vinyl. Regardless, I’m already addicted to this release.

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

WTF Happened

A menacing synth chord opens WTF Happened, this 15-track comeback thunderclap from Fatal Lucciauno, who returns to top chair after a five-year hiatus from the scene. The chord hovers, and swells, as Fatal begins rapping, slowly at first, building the intensity, growing in agitation and delirium. The videos from this record, “Sacrifice,” “Speaking in Tongues,” and “WTF Happened” all feature him staring directly at the camera, dispensing with adornment… In the case of the latter one, he’s shirtless, marching down an alleyway, half-naked and powerful, just a man spitting with that strong, unmistakable rapid-fire wordplay. Fav track “Power Play” is lyrical and hypnotic. There’s an elegant way that these songs unfold, downtrodden, but hopeful, deliberating choices or lack of choices, with songs like “I’d Rather Die,” contemplating time and mortality. This record is supported by the weight of the Black Umbrella collective, with guest verses from Raz Simone, Sam Lachow and Malitia Malimob, along with epic string-heavy production that’s become something of a signature for that label. It’s good to have you back and bold, Fatal Lucciauno. WTF Happened, indeed.

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

Apply The Pressure

WebbWavvy wasn’t much on my radar before September, when he was featured on the cover of Northwest Leaf magazine—alongside Kung Foo Grip, Gifted Gab and Yodi Mac—as one of Seattle’s “most stoned” emcees. It’s an auspicious way to make a debut, and I suspect for him it’s all magazine covers going forward. In October, that magazine, along with Respect My Region, mounted a hip-hop showcase featuring these four cover stars. (In my humble opinion, it was arguably the best hip-hop show of 2017.) WebbWavvy was first to the stage and he blew the roof right off. Next time you need to get the party started, hiring this talent should be your first task. Apply The Pressure is his too-short four-track EP. It’s a shot of adrenaline, a gritty trap blast straight to the heart. I’ve been playing this on repeat while waiting for a longer project from Mr. Webb. In my notes, I wrote, “love that FML song.” Later, when I went back to look up the title, I realized that “FML” is spoken and yelled and repeated throughout all four of these songs. It doesn’t matter: They’re all great tracks, containing a fresh and killer party vibe that’ll make you want to drink and smoke and jump around like a madman. Crank this in a car with a subwoofer and you’ll be hard-pressed to keep yourself to the speed limit. And seek out the trippy A.K. Romero-directed twofer video for “Detonate x Scholarship,” online now.

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

Life Goes On

Like West Hell and Koga Shabazz, Vic Daggs II is a graduate of Macklemore’s youth rap Residency program. In the careers of all three acts, the experience shows in the mature confidence found in their debut projects. With Life Goes On, Vic Daggs II has pulled off something remarkable: a self-released, self-produced record that sips like fine cognac and a comfortable leather chair. The song “$lide” has the singalong familiarity of something you’ve heard a dozen times before. Indeed, I was certain enough that it was a can’t-quite-place-it cover that I reached out to Daggs asking what record the original appeared on. (Is it Dave B? “Naw,” he replied. “That’s all me.”) Indeed, on the outro of “King,” Daggs says, “This might be some of the realest stuff I ever wrote, but it’s just the beginning.” Subtle, gentle production touches are added here and there from Beatsbynate. Mostly what I love about this record is the intimacy: Like you’re hanging in Daggs’s dark room while he’s recording this, and some of your idle chatter finds its way into little talking interludes and impromptu a cappella freestyles. As the languid guitar that meanders throughout “Day by Day” implies, you have nowhere else you need to be. Sink into the recliner and enjoy the Hennessy.

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

Play/Pretend

Sam Lachow’s confessional five-song Play/Pretend contains a disclaimer: “To my fans, I gotta warn you, this record is kinda dark.” I’m tempted to call this EP, “Sam’s hangover record,” as though he’s emerged from heavy slumber to coffee and considered contemplation of the fun fratboy party of his excellent earlier releases. Here on this record is something undeniably new: The first sound you hear is the angelic chorus of Maggie Lou May, whose voice is featured on every track, both sung and sampled and used to make melody. Her voice is a revelation and is but one of many new textures—alongside dialogue samples—that leaves this record feeling so fresh. This is not like the Sam Lachow records you’ve heard before. You need only consider exhibit B, on “Secret to Happiness,” where Sam’s voice is detuned through most of the song, to the point of being unrecognizable. This project is a portrait of a man wrestling with demons, staring deeply at funhouse reflections, stretching his skin. On “Worth Your Time,” a gripping, spiraling centerpiece, Lachow acknowledges that “Macklemore inspired me to admit my addictions,” while also questioning whether that matters, and then the next song, semi-answers, “I’m foolish, I’m fine. I’m chasing my high, and wasting my time.” This too-short EP is intended to tide us over until a full-length in 2018. Yes, more of this please.

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

Everything Before Was Practice

“Everything I do from now on is gonna be major” raps Noo towards the end of a reflective track titled “Nike Box” on this February 2017 EP. It’s a fitting sentiment on a record called Everything Before Was Practice, a seven-song EP you’ll find on Bandcamp. (Today, by contrast, he releases High Points, another EP, but this time on “major” platforms like Apple Music and Spotify.) Hailing from Tacoma, Noo is a self-contained one-man spitter and producer. EPs like this one demonstrate his talents as a gifted, captivating storyteller. He renders autobiographical, a stream of consciousness tales that bounce around on and off the beat, only rhyming half the time, and sometimes landing in perfect little gaps. It’s a sound that comes across as sort-of effortless but is undoubtedly a result of intense practice. Fav track “Mean Kid” shows off both his production chops and mastery with the rhymes. “Black Girl Magic” is built around an unexpected Akira sample. “Pre Game” accurately depicts his ambitions: “I’m trying to parlay these rhymes to high risers.”

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

Hodgepodge

Hodgepodge is a 2017 album from Samurai Del that came out back in February. It’s a polished showcase—a wide-ranging mix that demonstrates the versatility of “The Samurai” as a producer, while also featuring some of the top singers and rappers Seattle has on offer. This album was included in KEXP’s picks of the year which comes as no surprise. You’ll find sweeping synths, smooth EDM/hip-hop crossovers, and inventive sampling, like the vocals treatments towards the end of “Sailing to Japan on an Air Mattress” or the gorgeously sensual “Weightless” (featuring Kristin Henry). “What You Need” is a delightful surprise with Travis Thompson on the mic and also a banging dance number. The collab with J’Von contains one of my favorite verses of the whole year: “She’s like a breath of fresh oxygen, but if the concept of oxidization holds true, then over time I’m breathing toxins in.” (Damn, what a line!) I went to the launch party for this at the Croc 10 months ago and since this record has rarely been out of my rotation. Rappers and singers: Samurai Del is THE producer you want to work with on your next project. Hit him up. Hodgepodge is a treasure-trove of top talent.

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 By Choice

I don’t purport to know a ton about the Spokane hip-hop scene, but every so often a record from there pops and catches my attention. That’s certainly the case with Alone By Choice, a stellar 2017 seven-song EP from Jango. The first track, produced by RicandThadeus, has among the best opening 20 seconds of any song I’ve heard all year, and the whole EP only gets better from there. (Actually, I want to shout out to all the wildly talented producers who contributed to this record. What a group who’s assembled here.) On “Alone,” Jango raps about his defiance from the haters who want him to fail. “Invitation” is reminiscent of Dave B’s finest work, while also pushing that sexy sound in new directions. Centerpiece “Nobody” is the song you’ll sing along to when you’re on your own, holding all those emotional beats as you emote, “Don’t let noooobody tear you down…” It’s a song that recognizes the strength we all have inside, that no one can ever take from you. And that’s worth celebrating.

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

BabeSpace

Toward the end of the first track, “Welcome,” featured artist Anjaliqua warns, “You think they’re ready for this? They better get ready, and fast.” So begins the bold BabeSpace mixtape from Da Qween, the most fun 9-track romp you’ll experience all year. Seattle’s queer hip-hop scene is home to some of the absolute best music currently emerging from our city. But this record ain’t featured here as an exceptional black queer classic: BabeSpace is easily one of the top hip-hop gems of 2017. Back in the spring, I saw first saw Da Qween take the stage at Substation and lead us through a breathtaking performance in an immaculate white suit. I was subsequently captivated, and since have been enthusiastically singing Da Qween’s praises to everyone I know while waiting for this record to be released. Few long-players give so much pleasure from start to end, from entrancing R&B tracks worthy of Sade record (“BabeSpace”) to the demolishing pounding of rapid-fire spit verses on “H.O.M.O. (Hang Out Make Out).” The key change in “White Nightmare” always gives me chills. Da Qween explores themes both personal and familiar: From trying to find and establish your identity, to the small mundane social media moments of “double-tapping my ‘gram.” I’m reminded of a 20-year old single Vitamin D & The Note (from the Born Day EP) called “Who That??” which would slot in surprisingly well on this record. This perhaps goes to demonstrate how perfectly BabeSpace fits in the long Seattle hip-hop canon. Seek this one out, even though you probably ain’t ready for this.

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

GREY NEON

A few years ago I visited Alaska and was quite struck by native stories of the Raven, a mighty trickster bird who can imitate a wide variety of human voices. I have all these recordings I made on my iPhone while walking through the woods because the bird calls were so incomprehensible. You walk through the forest and you hear these sounds that you struggle to describe. This brings me to Seattle’s own musical trickster, Raven Hollywood. His 2016 record, Disco Christ, was one of my favorites of the year, commandingly straddling multiple genres, defiantly refusing to be classified, and similarly incomprehensible in all the best ways. I love music that manages to be both playful and this daring. In August of this year, he dropped GREY NEON. I’m at a loss for how to describe it, short of saying you should immediately go to SoundCloud and listen for yourself. Some future generations of sad kids will sing this version of “happy birthday” at their sad parties. You’ll want to hold hands with a loved one while you both sweetly sing along to “snakes in the moonlight.” The track “headed down” manages to sample one of my favorite Elliott Smith songs while sounding completely fresh. “sad sack” is a loop? As far as the musical composition of the chorus of “wounded teenager,” we currently lack the tools to notate on sheet music how this would be played by other humans. Both Wolftone and AJ Suede add their musical gifts.

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

S'WOMEN

Stas Thee Boss subtitles this record, “An aquatic explanation of failed female companionships.” Pitchfork described it as “a collection of innuendos that deliver bravado and honesty with ease.” Regardless what you call ’em, there are 11 terrific tracks here, the sum too short at 23 minutes total running time.

Most songs are dense 120-second pops. French chefs have a name for their tiny, tasty morsels: “amuse-bouche” or “entertaining to the mouth.” Let’s call these songs “amuse-oreille” because they greatly entertain the ears, like little explosions of audio delights.

Back in September, I was talking with Stas outside a party and she said this record is made from “hella samples” and that for her, samples contain life and soul.

In each track, the individual elements breathe at their own pace. Songs slowly coalesce as though you were half-listening to multiple stories all at once… When magically their grooves transfixingly lockstep. I wonder if this is a reflection of Stas’s prolific DJ life, always queuing up a new joint while the current one shakes the speakers.

On December 21, Erykah Badu quoted this memorable verse from “Tried It” to her 2.6 million Instagram followers: “How you got the sage and the incense, but still got the rage in your intent?” These are songs you can listen to 10 or 20 times through and still hear something new. That’s the beauty of breath, and of samples that have souls.

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

Signs

Signs is a new five-song EP full of reflection from Mojo Barnes. Sometimes he sings, sometimes he raps… Throughout Mojo is a man at a crossroads, questioning the moments that have made him the man he is, laying bare his insecurities, and expressing cathartic anger. The opener “Following” is a vengeful number about a missing father, while on “Heartbeat” he considers the possibility of being the father he never had. “OHMYGOD” and “Awakened” speak to the confidence that comes from commanding a crowd from behind the mic. The latter is backed with some lovely guitar work.

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

No Gimmicks, Vol 1

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing I Am Chamel perform multiple times recently and she always brings the house down. I agree with her assessment on the opening track: “They ain’t never known a broad who can spit this heat.” Which brings me to this record: No Gimmicks, Vol 1, a 2017 release from this talented young Federal Way rapper. Last night she was a guest performer on queer hip-hop web series THE BEAT, where, when asked about the title she said, “To be successful, you’re pressured to have a gimmick as if you can’t just be yourself and succeed. This record is all about being yourself.” The G-funk song “Vibe” lays bare the struggles of being an independent artist, while “Winnin” is an anthem worthy of a major sporting event. Audience favorite “Against All Odds” refutes the pressure to be someone else and features some solid synth production from Tacoma’s one-stop-shop Cold Clock Productions and engineer Kyle Layng. This is a record with some serious heat. I can’t wait for volume 2.

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

Black Babylon

Black Babylon came out in March, so I’m a little behind in writing about it. Artist Donte Peace calls this work his “three-year diary,” and it’s full of reflections on the passage of time and the rejection of labels. “Trapped Folk” reminds us how the game is gamed, disadvantaging black communities through urban living, poverty, and lack of education. The song “Ghetto Boys” is a contemplative, thinking man’s number punctuated with pensive pianos. Much of the production is courtesy of producer D-Sane who brings gravitas to these tracks, alongside reverb-heavy classical music instrumentation that recalls the best work of Raz Simone. Indeed, lotsa innovative producers on display here, including one of my personal favs Max Watters, who works some magic on “Soufside,” with a funky beat and a never-ending slowdown over the final two minutes of the track. “Flaw” features UK rapper Just Jess, providing an accented counterpoint to Donte’s often relaxed flow. These are 12 songs worthy of your contemplation.

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

TYTHBAVFE

Released on Valentines Day this year, the acronym-named TYTHBAVFE (Thank You This Has Been A Very Fun Experience) was intended as a retirement record from Bujemane, as he shifts focus from music to other creative pursuits. He’s not completely disappeared though: We met up at Luis Vela’s “We Tried®” event last month and got talking about this EP. He described it as his “party record.” When compared with Tacoma’s usual suicide trap, there’s definitely humor and sarcasm here. It’s clear that Buje’s having a great time taking the piss. You only have to skip to the funny and weird “Try It” feat. Khris P. I always find myself giggling through this track, with lines like, “Khris P might be the new Dr. Dre.” When you hear the lovely and sad dance floor synths on “More” it’s clear that collaborator and producer Gary Ferguson is in on the joke, too. (And Ghoulavelii is doing his thing on track one.) Go check this one out, “cause you won’t know until you try it.” The brilliant/terrible cover art from Benji Navas is all part of the package.

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

&

Omni EP

Regardless of what I write here, you won’t be ready for the otherworldly, dimension-bending, gothic, and Gregorian opening of “War Ready,” the first track off of the newly-released Omni EP, from Macntaj and Levitate. This project fuses rap with industrial EDM, producing four songs of pure adrenaline. Imagine the noise of hip-hop hard drive failure, of succumbing to the latest hacker virus, blended in a smoothie with the twisted metal and shattered glass of car crashes. I was riveted in my chair, taking in one of the most spectacular sonic spectacles of the year. The metal-plate vocals on “Lightwaves remix” emerge from the machines, reaching sci-fi sentience before Raz Simone and Gunplay bring down a digital thunderstorm. Holy cow. My brain is broken. I love discovering music that sounds this fresh.

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

TRUNK

The young Tacoma hip-hop scene is on fire. Roughly once a month, in a secret location with a list of secret artists, there’s Toe Jam: A series of cathartic, hip-hop raves, held in sweaty basements, as raucous celebrations of musical debauchery.

That context is useful for understanding the epic, grinding rap-synth-punk sound of Sleep Steady (aka Perry Porter and CidVishiz) and their 2017 album, TRUNK. Like the gaudy and in-your-face cover art–reminiscent of Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy cover by George Condo–this record balances messy, raw emotion with sweetness, and then hits you in the gut.

Put on the first track, “HABITS,” and let the strident synths overtake you. Beneath all that digital distortion is music screaming for an intimate, close connection. This is anti-algorithm music that, as someone commented on Bandcamp, “goes way hard.”

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

Crow's Nest

Thanks to Carrick Wenke for sending me this cassette of Crows Nest, a 2017 six-song hip-hop EP from local player Crow. I haven’t listened to a cassette in ages, so part of the fun of this release was getting reacquainted with the idiosyncrasies of the medium. I’ll admit the zombie-scarecrow-corn-maze cover left me expecting slightly more murderous music: Instead, I was treated to a sort of tribal emo goth-rap that, in retrospect, the zombie art also effectively evokes, and which I found myself deeply attracted to. I’ve been listening to this tape a lot recently. Many of these songs are swimming in swaths of reverb, diving deep into emotional depths, vocals deeply processed through layers of auto-tune. This approach works throughout, but is most effective on the last track, “And I (Rude)” where the manipulations sound at times as though the tape is stuck in the machine, and also, on this track, RudeAssMogli delivers some killer vocals. Great beats on “Don’t Look At Me When I Cry.”

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

Black-N-Gold

Black-N-Gold is a subversive seven-song EP from Seattle artist CarLarans. He’s the full package: An intimidatingly talented singer, rapper, dancer, piano player, songwriter, and entertainer. In October, he commandingly claimed top prize in the four-week Discovered hip-hop performance contest, judged by Silas Blak, Georgio Brown and yours truly. In November, he created and launched The Beat, a weekly online interview and variety show featuring up-and-comers in Seattle’s superb queer music scene. And yeah, this 22-minute H-bomb is one polished, hella confident and damn fine record. Opening track “Black Xcellence” begins with a quiet swagger, a sweet seduction, and softly becomes a menacing race war manifesto: “Better grab your lawyers because we’re coming for you.” I want to hear the epic strut and floor-thumping bass of “Do Tha Walk,” on a crazy loud club stereo. That night, the DJ will end up playing the whole record and we’ll all sing along to the refrain, “Don’t fuck with me, no, no, no” while dancing our best tropical salsa during “Don’t Come For Me.” What I’ve learned in the last six months is that CarLarans is an unstoppable force.

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

Elevator Music: The Art of BEATS Vol 1

If you’ve heard the song “Front Steps” by Raven Hollywood, then you’re familiar with the beat-making magic of local musician Uncle Shredded Wheat. He specializes in a sort of grungy hip-hop vibe that you’ll find throughout this 20-track instrumental mix, Elevator Music: The Art of BEATS Vol 1. There’s a lot to love here, but my favorite aspect is how the momentum for each cut comes from an unexpected place, like on “Montra,” where sudden silent pauses carve out the beat where the music should be. There’s something gorgeously organic about these directional pivots: Two-thirds of the way through “WeRock TaRock DaRock” you’re bopping to a drum you’re not sure was ever there before, and you’re not sure when you started tapping your foot to it. I always rock out to “Whole On,” but there are so many great tracks here. If you’re a singer or rapper, def go hit up USW for a collab. Also, what a crazy awesome cover this record has!

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

Alchemy Union 4: Gaia

Alchemy Union produce these absolutely killer mix compilation CDs, like AU 4: Gaia, pictured here. They are intimidatingly good. This one explores themes related to climate change. Track two, Alden Lightning‘s enviro-anthem title track, produced by Vaughn, has bass drums pounding down like hydro-fluorocarbons. She sings, “I don’t know why you think this will end well for you.” Some tracks are gorgeously, technically precise, Gershwin… or Classical-even. A few tracks in, your speakers are transformed into tin cans, while Araless raps, “We Can’t See” with verses about all the discarded plastic bottles in the ocean. And moments later, during Carter Wilson‘s “Present Tense,” you’re involuntarily snapping your fingers, and singing along that we’re all “trying to do the right thing.” Mixes like this remind me of the wealth of talent in this city. And damn, this is definitely the place where you’ll find it.

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

& &

Demo Mix '17

This seven-song mixtape, Demo Mix ’17, from Scribe Mecca, Yodi Mac and Wffls, is only available on physical CD-R. In an age when the public acts increasingly entitled to steam anything they want for free, it’s refreshing to see the conviction of these Tacoma musicians in producing a rarity: An underground physical release that you have to put effort into obtaining. (i.e. Go follow and DM the creators.) I will say you should absolutely go seek this one out. It hits the ground running: It seems impossible for these guys to write a bad song. There’s an overall laid-back vibe like you’re hanging out in a basement with a tuneful trifecta. Singalong raps like track 3, “Don’t waste your time you’re better off” or track 4, which recontextualizes samples from Rihanna’s Anti, are refreshingly out-of-step from what you’d expect from trap-centric Tac. (p.s. These guys should totally do a collaboration with fellow Tacoma resident Noo.) The last track, “ENEMIES,” recently found its way onto SoundCloud alongside a coveted Luna God remix. This whole mixtape is fire.

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

Photographs of Other People

There’s an old joke from when Baywatch & Knight Rider star David Hasselhoff’s career was floundering stateside that at least he was still a massive sensation in Germany. Seattle spitter Nick Weaver has a low profile on the local scene but is an equally big success in Germany. Indeed, last fall he mounted a four-city tour of that country, hitting Frankfurt, Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich. Before that, he released Photographs of Other People, a five-song EP about mental health and self-care, especially in the face of each day’s anxiety-inducing news cycles, and the constant barrage of upset from the White House, gun violence, denial of health care, and so on. “Stephen King couldn’t write a scarier media day,” he raps on floor-shaking centerpiece “Soundbyte.” His earnest consideration of social issues can’t help but draw comparisons to Macklemore, especially backed with polished, hook-filled production, often punctuated with horns. Some moments I love on this EP: the acapella blast at the end of “What You Doin These Days?”, the chorus on “Roll,” where Nick shows us he can sing, too, and the indietronica-inspired “I Might See.” With songs like these, it’s no wonder this guy is big overseas. Time to catch up, Seattle.

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

#GUAPSEASON

Ready to go viral, #GUAPSEASON is a hashtag-ready 2017 full-length from SneakGuapo featuring 12 trap-heavy tracks that explore our personal, intimate desires for power, our paranoia and our posturing for position. I’ve recently taken up running and this record has been my go-to all week. I get Sneak’s fights with insecurity and depression and his sense of striving, of pushing through, of putting a smile on your confidence even when it feels fake. Songs like “Hot Boy” and “Goals” come on just as I’m facing a big hill and I want to turn around and go home and hang up my shoes, and they help me to push through to the next hill. (And there are so many physical, mental and emotional hills to overcome in this city…) The production from tblunty on “Live” is sublime and full of surprises, as are the guest verses courtesy of Cam The Mac, Lil Dre, Badluq James and others.

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

Moonshine

On the opening lines of Moonshine, Cosmos frontman Campana spits, “Just about a year ago, they didn’t know my name and now… I gotta hunch that we’re gonna be colossal.” In September, the group traveled to Paisley Park, MN—Prince’s former estate—to represent the hopes of all Seattle at the national Musicology competition. This was just the latest step on the ladder for a band that crushed the competition at 2016’s Sound Off! battle of the bands. This 2017 mixtape, Moonshine, pulls together a mosaic of influences. While listening, I wrote this perplexing scribble: “math-rock Northern Soul EDM dance jazz rap.” They knit together this wide range of influences into a unified, singular sound. There’s so much sonic goodness to savor here, from the Hendrix guitar axe crash on opener “North Star,” to the house club dub of “Mixed Signals,” or the gorgeously weird moments in “To The Moon” and “Silver Lining.” There’s also a smart choice of featured contributors, including Parisalexa and MistaDC, two talents whose star power has been rising all year. This is shake-your-booty music, channeling all the energy of a live five-piece band, while also engaging in advanced studio trickery. Cosmos’s live shows, such as the 4/20 launch party that kicked off this record, are a highly recommend experience. These guys are destined for big things. That opening hunch ain’t so far off.

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

Overture To The Unknown

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about sources of energy—those wells from which we draw our creative sparks, and how wherever our top Seattle talents are digging lately is largely unmapped geography. I felt this strangeness with Porter Ray’s Watercolor earlier this year, and this new wavy energy is as good a preamble as any from which to discuss Overture To The Unknown, the brilliant seven-song debut EP from Koga Shabazz. On the first play, this record will strike you as distinctly alien: Distorted voices, beats, and verses that run parallel and not always together—and sometimes in reverse—alongside out-of-place samples that spar with bass notes so low they’re under the floor. And then during the decimating “Ol’ Faith” the drums drop away for a moment, and a clear voice speaks, “This is your conscience calling…” In that moment of waking you realize how much this rich playground has been tapping deep channels in your subconscious, haunting like the cover art. Koga’s wordplay operates like tightly knit Zen koans, unpacked through meditation. This record is a dense trip, and from each subsequent listen you emerge with new truths, and you’re so hungry and so thirsty for them you’ll replay and repeat, and replay again. (Yesterday I listened to this album five times in a row.) “Overture” pushes some of the town’s brightest stars to new heights—Jake Crocker, Gifted Gab, Dave B, Jake One, Max Moodie, Ralph Redmond IV, Vinciboy, and Samsara. You’ve heard little like this from any of them before. Bravo to executive producer Sam Lachow on the assemblage. Find a comfortable chair, fire this up, and be ready to rewire your brain.

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

&

SUPASUEDE EP

I first saw AJ Suede perform in a packed, sweaty basement that violated most—if not all—fire codes, and he was a revelation. The intensity of that live show and the frenzy of his thrash-punk rap had the room moving like a single organism undergoing cathartic release. The four-song SUPASUEDE EP, with Supa SortaHuman and produced by Wolftone, offers a tiny taste of that experience, opening with contemplative piano lines, and then turning the dial up a notch with every bar. Pay careful attention to the killer rolling bassline in “Sad Piano,” the Drake references in the introspective “Real Tree” and the counterpoint flow in “Four.” AJ Suede’s just dropped a full-length called Gotham Fortress. Go check that out, too.

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

Something YOU Wanted

Something YOU Wanted, a 2017 EP from Pinder opens with the upbeat, jazzy vibe of a day at the beach, of curling your toes in the sand, and swimming. (Only a few weeks ago were we all sunning ourselves at Madison Park Beach, too.) The Seattle rapper made a big splash 4-5 years ago as J. Pinder, then relocated to Los Angeles, dropped the “J” and emerges this year with a trio of new projects: two EPs and a full-length with producer 10.4 ROG. This particular five-song EP is unhurried and sexy as hell, especially a song like “Want” where long instrumental breaks provide time to contemplate our desires and the absolution of our regrets. Indeed, I was listening to this while riding Light Rail this morning and found myself so lost in thought I completely missed my stop. I was off in California somewhere, sitting on the beach.

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

Presto

There’s a lot to love on Presto the 2017 debut from Tacoma’s :30, a group that includes more than one member of ILLFIGHTYOU. But my favorite things are the drum breaks. It’s like when some experimental music is in 5/4 time or in thirds. The bass drops away when you least… In the meditative, minimal “Not Me No Mo,” a song barely held together, it’s floating above the grooving waves of a giant lake, in a cave, and you’re spelunking. On “Trappin Ain’t Dead” the bass emerges like a heartbeat and for a while, in the middle, you’ll realize that your jaw is on the floor. The drums accent like scaffolding, that scaffolding that’s everywhere these days in Seattle, dusty and another sign of emergence, of a new egg. This hatchling is a bold tower, ready to reach and stretch and cast a shadow. “Fees | Things” has much to say about this new economy.

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

Watercolor

Someone said the slow-burn groove of Porter Ray’s 2017 Sub Pop release, Watercolor was “decidedly wavy.” It’s a good descriptor of the push-pull forces at work here: just as songs begin to take off, they slow down again. It’s this ongoing tension that makes the record so fascinating and so perplexing.

This is headphone music, demanding your attention, full of hushed lyrics, buried voices under the verses, mumbles deep in the mix, and smooth ass bass lines. (Shout out to BRoc on the production.)

I’m a huge fan of Porter’s back catalog of mixtapes, but even then, it took me a dozen listens to make sense of this 18-track double vinyl. We live in a time of five-second sound bites and snap judgments, and this record defiantly rejects both. It builds slowly. It demands investment and patience.

Watercolor starts to kick into gear around track 4, “Past Life” (feat. Ca$htro), before easing down again into an instrumental interlude.

Watercolor slowly primes you to achieve that moment where you’re ready to receive bold truths. This record is musical yoga, held in stasis, where the smallest movements are rendered epic, practice through repetition, recurring themes, and verses throughout multiple songs and MCs. Just breathe. Those bangers come later: “Lightro,” “Beautiful,” “Sacred Geometry”—all on the latter half of the record—deliver in spades. The longer you spend in this dream space, the deeper the dream goes. Lay in corpse pose. It’ll come to you.

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

Fresh Cut Flowers

The Fresh Cut Flowers EP from Taylar Elizza Beth summons that primal childhood feeling of hiding under the covers, reading by flashlight, afraid you might be caught, where the smallest rustling carries massive weight. But these delicate petals summon phantom roots, asserting growling resilience against the wind. “I am afraid of no one,” Taylar declares on “High & Haunted,” before conceding, “I am afraid of myself.” This track is a menacing centerpiece emboldened by Wolftone’s dirty production. This EP has many highlights, but foremost are the collaborations with five of city’s producers-du-jour: Luis Vela’s reverb wash, Urban Nerd’s electro-pop, Luna God’s ear for funky timing, and the mesmerizing keys on “The Storm,” from Sendai Mike. This is music that smolders at an unhurried pace, aware of its mortality. On “Synthesis” she sings, “I am dying,” and in that pause, you are faced with the fact that you and everyone you know are marching through life toward our collective, eventual deaths. At only 18 minutes, these are five-song mic drop moments worth clinging to.

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

Surviving Not Living

Thanks to Kelton Sears and Seattle Weekly for constantly hyping local hip-hop and for turning me on to Trowa Barton and his devastating 10-song EP Surviving Not Living. I’ve been dealing with a bunch of personal life shit lately—not unlike the acid cloud hovering over the cityscape on this cover—and this 2017 record has been an addictive salve, featuring songs of moody, broken, and redemptive transfiguration. Take for example the haunting “Mannequin” where he repeats a chorus of “I can’t keep pretending that I’m happy: I’m not.” Towards the end of this track, when you feel near the bottom, the beat steps aside to reveal a chorus of angelic voices. Song after song Trowa argues, in the darkness of depression, there’s still hope. On “Departures” he raps, “I don’t have a plan but I think I might make it yet.” This record is yet another solid entry in Tacoma’s 2017 trap canon—an already crowded field—with eardrum-tickling production that elevates and sets it apart. This one is a real grower and has been a constant companion in recent weeks: With every spin, I connect with it more deeply.

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

Lose Sight of The Shore

Shout out to local group New Track City whose latest release is currently charting in the top 12 of the NACC college airplay charts, alongside Kendrick and Jay-Z. When you hear Lose Sight of The Shore it’s no surprise to hear they’ve been traveling across the nation playing venues in LA, Chicago, and Fargo, North Dakota in support of this sensational record. Opener “Right Now” builds on a bed of vocals from the ever amazing Falon Sierra, before dropping verses from dueling rappers Bem and Chi.Stone. Each emcee has honed a uniquely solid style, and their constant counterpoint is what makes this album so special. Past releases have relied heavily on samples: With this one, they challenged themselves to maintain their signature sound with original performances, and I’d say they were more than successful: The exercise elevates their sonic landscape, with production that is gorgeous, rich, viscous, sticky stock, rolling bass, and bright horns. Spin a track like “Close” or “More and more” or “Judgement” and you’ll see what I mean. Rarely am I sitting on my couch at home waving my hands in the air, but that’s the sort of participatory devotion this record commands. It’s on all the streaming services. This is easily one of my favorite releases of the year, and I suspect when you check it out it will be one of your favorites, too.

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 Wizard of Ounces

When I was first writing this, I wrote the phrase “singular sound” multiple times. Stop reading and go listen to “28 Grams of Wizardry,” and then come back. Oh, you’re back? Let’s start here: In the movie, “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy’s house is plucked up from its familiar environment and era and dropped into technicolor magic land. Pictured here is the brand-new The Wizard of Ounces cassette from Rik Rude which is indeed that colorful, exotic place. It revives the rave-soaked summer of 1995, filled with drum-n-bass music—like Goldie’s Timeless and Photek and all those Metalheadz 12” singles. The sound essentials from that summer Rude delivers in an electrifying recontextualization, all fresh and new for our present time. You’re going to hear this record and then you’re going to look up ‘90s drum-n-bass records on YouTube and then you’re going to want to make more new albums like this one. “Let this record spin,” he says, in that amazingly multidirectional flow. While the record spins the magic happens: Once you see these colors you’ll struggle going back to b&w. “Spark a spliff and meditate,” he says on the spectacular “Gold Standard.” I’m genuinely addicted. It’s good to hear Kelly Castle Scott featured on a couple of cuts. Listen for the many piano details during the “Rolling with a pack of lions” song… It’s called “Bronze Lions of Glory.” Headphones are a must.

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

Solar Power: New Sounds in Seattle Hip-Hop

From UK music mag The Wire: “Fab comp on fab orange vinyl collating 14 leap-off points from a loose collation of Seattle based hip-hop artists and producers. The musical diversity here is ear-popping, ranging from the glitchy dubhop femme-gospel of DoNormaal and Stas Thee Boss and the electro ferocity of Remember Face to the rain-soaked doleful grooves of Jarv Dee. Crucially, the racial and gender mix ensures that the story told never gets dull; the album chops and changes to give an intriguing portrait of 14 artists you’ve never heard before finding their own ways to chart Seattle life and Seattle strength through hip-hop. Fascinating.”

From Michigan alt-weekly Northern Express: “This compilation, complete with its appropriately solar flare-focused cover art, brings together more than a dozen performers from Seattle’s hip-hop scene on a transparent, vinyl-only collection that gives these impressive artists the flair they deserve. Included here are tracks by Jarv Dee, who throws down an unforgettable remix of “I Just Wanna”; Gifted Gab, who mixes up R&B and late ’80s rap-pop on “Show You Right”; and Sendai Era, whose tropicália-influenced closer is an album standout.”

From Dusty Groove Records in Chicago: “A nice primer on the underground hip-hop scene in Seattle, circa the post-millennium teens! Solar Power doesn’t really set out to round up a succinct snapshot of a particular Seattle style and sound, so much showcase how diverse and distinctive the voices and producers in the city are. This compilation has the potential to survive as a pretty vital time capsule of this era in Seattle hip-hop history. It’s a lot more gender inclusive than many compilations, too, showing that it isn’t just a boy’s club – and tracks includes “Know Better” by New Track City, “Stop Calling My Phone” by Taylar Elizza Beth, “Front Steps” by Raven Hollywood, and more on colored vinyl.”

From Portugal’s Rimas E Batidas hip-hop magazine: “A new hip-hop edition with 14 tracks of emerging talent. Solar energy is the motto given to this compilation: The idea that Seattle stays true to its past while using its own strength as fuel for the change and renovation of its artistic panorama. This sonic self-sufficiency, a unique sonic imprint for the city, recalls the old glory of grunge, but it’s now in rap that this engine lies, emerging from a more underground, carefully manufactured sector, in the cellars and abandoned factories that will thrive there for not much longer. DoNormaal, Astro King Phoenix, Stas Thee Boss, ZELLi or JusMoni give voice to the manifesto of a constantly changing movement across the city.”

From Jet Set Records, in Kyoto, Japan: “Out of the city where Shabazz Palaces, Blue Scholars, Macklemore and Sir Mix-A-Lot made their base and their mark, a 14-song limited-edition compilation on orange vinyl. From emerging label Crane City Music, this one introduces you to the current Seattle hip-hop scene. The musicians explore various experimental styles, ranging from R&B to G-Funk. Seven of the tracks are from women artists. The jacket artwork by Seattle artist Ari Glass is also brilliant along with the content.”

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

Third Daughter

Few albums have as much to say about our present, turbulent times—our year of protests and rebellion, of identity, race, and responsibility—as does Third Daughter from DoNormaal. Emerging from the dragon’s maw of “gold rooster” she declares of multicultural heritage, “They still make Americans just like they used to.” During a recent DoNormaal show, one specific moment brought this record clearly into focus for me: On the chorus of the addictively catchy “ego slave,” she repeats, “March on, march on, everybody needs to step front, I’m going be the only one to take a step back right now.” It’s a line spoken by an iconoclast outsider, that when performed live, you witness as the careful orchestration of adoring masses, asking us to close in, while she, the matador on stage, the only one to step back, waves the daring red flag because the time for sitting on the sidelines in silence is over. On “dodo call” she bluntly questions, “But will you show up when the people call?” These anthems are contrasted with moments of too-close intimacy, (“revenge”) and virginal sweetness (“my teacher” featuring partner Raven Hollywood). DoNormaal complements her stellar songwriting with a cadre of the city’s most talented beatmakers: Luna God, Brakebill, Mario Casalini, Fish Narc, Joe Valley, and others. There’s so much to love here, from the vocal experimentation on “heat lullaby” to Wolftone’s guest verse on “don’t make me wait.” This remarkable record, blistering with confidence and clarity, demonstrates why DoNormaal is the titan of the local scene.

The Stranger picked Third Daughter as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2017,” saying that:

Concise is nice, but when it comes to ambitious artistic declarations of purpose, I like them long, complex, and unwieldy. The 19 tracks on Third Daughter cover a lot of sonic, rhythmic, musical, and verbal territory, but they’re united by the voice at the center, reclaiming the rapper’s traditional role as MC, presiding over a retinue of producers (one for each song) and guests. That voice is compelling, commanding, even. The lyrics are firmly grounded in a quest to locate and express a self to can live—”young bitch in a pit of lions,” she says on “My Teacher.” “I don’t wanna give it up, standing still in the spotlight vulnerable as fuck.” Without the unified subject, it might just feel like a long, good playlist or promising mixtape. But this is an LP (a double LP, in fact, so fingers crossed for a vinyl pressing). It wants to be heard. And you definitely want to hear it.

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

Gemini

Gemini is Macklemore’s self-released celebration of our town: Because of their features on this record, local talents Dave B and Travis Thompson were on The Tonight Show singing “Corner Store,” and representing our hip-hop community on national television.

But let’s start here: I’m headbanging in my car. It’s 1:00 am and “Firebreather” roars. It’s no surprise there’s a car on the cover. This is car music. You turn up the dial and you keep wanting to turn it up.

Macklemore’s devout honesty is found throughout Gemini, leaving you with the feeling that you need to reduce the hypocrisies in your fraudulent life. Despite our desire to make work and be artists, “waking up to a screen and watching TV, it’s easy.” On “Intentions” he begins, “I want to be sober, but I love getting high.” Rather than pursue our own dreams, we choose to “live on social media and read other people’s thoughts.”

Recorded at home, in the basement, the music is intimate. Every song is so thoroughly considered and contains the sort of details it takes dozens of listens to notice, both in the music and the storytelling. In lieu of usual producer Ryan Lewis, there are talented local and mainstream collaborators galore here: Budo, Tyler Dopps, Xperience, Saint Claire, Dan Caplen, Abir, Donna Missal, Reignwolf, Otieno Terry, Ke$ha, Offset, Lil Yachty, Eric Nally, and Skylar Grey, whose hook on the second track is truly “Glorious.”

For everyone out there hoping to one day to have the worldwide stadium-level fame that Macklemore has achieved, may this record be your textbook for success.

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

De Mim, Pra Voce

De Mim, Pra Voce, is a sample-heavy solo effort from Sango. (Fav track “Devolva” is the most strongly reminiscent of his work on Tomorrow with Dave B.) Here’s an artist who understands the transformative power of the conjured environment. On this release, smooth, languid and huge floor-shaking bass meanders in opposition to stuttering, chopped sounds from the Latin world, creating unexpected motion, unhurried, while at the same time full of momentum. It’s a tough trick to pull off. Think drum-n-bass on your headphones as you sit, lost in thought, on a train racing past exotic countryside. “Eu Te Devoro,” surfs the waves, periodically plunging you underwater. “Vista Da Gávea” marches you through carnival night and carries you through to the light of the next morning’s dawn.

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

Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines

Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines, the first of twin 2017 releases from Shabazz Palaces, isn’t a traditional record: This is a visceral auditory experience. It blows up every preconception you had about music. As you read this review on your “glowing phantom limb …swiping all the time,” consider the following description: Try as you might, you will struggle to latch onto a center in this music. It moves, certainly, it shimmies and sways, it has beats-per-minute, yes—though rarely the same from bar-to-bar. These are sounds you experience emerging from your bones at a cellular level rather than, say, through your ears as all other music has worked for millennia. There are moments on this record, especially at the right volume, that you hear it beating from inside your body, like exhuming a long-dormant language you used to speak. Primal DNA music. Ishmael Butler raps on the first track: “Pay attention close you kids, this the shit don’t got no lid,” and he’s right. These songs will take you down a path of hypnosis: My mind traveled to far-off corners, lost memories, and summoned recollections that I’d long forgotten. Listening to Quazarz cracks open a door in your mind, like during the transfixingly long instrumental section at the end of “Effeminence.” The beat on “Julian’s Dream (ode to a bad)” is nonsensically, cheesily spectacular. And the verses on this same song will have your mouth dry with a hunger for the wanting of fruit and sunny summer days. Okay Seattle, the Shabazz Palaces crew have dropped the gauntlet: How do you reply?

The Stranger picked Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2017,” saying that:

Deciding between Shabazz Palace’s excellent two-album set that came out in July, I’m going with Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machines. On it, we’ve been graciously invited to inhabit the cosmic cool that is part of Ishmael Butler and Tendai Maraire’s universe. This album is pure pleasure from start to finish, from the rapturous rhymes to the freakishly weird beats and the elegant, preternatural soundscapes. Also wins the award for best album of the year to listen to when getting blazingly high with your deepest, dankest bud.

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

Planet

Any of the times I’ve met EMI at a party, she’s radiated an aura of celebrity, as though there’s a spotlight shining down on her through the crowd. I suspect this has to do with the careful orchestration of her image, not to mention numerous gorgeously elaborate photo collaborations with Lea Godoy. (Of which this cover art is a great example.) It’s therefore of little surprise to find that PLANET, her too-short, eight-song EP from May, is centrally concerned with appearances and identity. On “Like Us” she endeavors to find the ideal analog to a perplexing relationship, singing, “I’d say we’re Bonnie & Clyde, but they fucked up and died,” before concluding, “They ain’t make ‘em like us no more.” Throughout this album, EMI asks big questions of those close to her: How do you want to be treated, are you part of my life, are you in the squad, are we in this together? Her heart often held forth, vulnerable, in all this seeking still holding on to hope. Play “Fools,” produced by Sevn Thomas and Rex Kudo, as loud as your neighbors and your stereo will tolerate. Trust me here. Synth-heavy and singalong, this is great late-night driving music and one of my favorite local releases this year.

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!