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Nostos: A Hero's Journey

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Sorry We Lost You

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Safe Travels

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Fantasy A Gets Jacked!

Everyone knows Fantasy A–proudly “a rapper with autism”–from his seemingly endless series of posters around Seattle, encourage us to be respectful.

In 2018, he starred in this charming comedy created by David Lewis and Noah Zoltan Sofian. It was shot in and around Georgetown and stars several other hip-hop artists from The Town, including Ready Ron, Logic Amen, and Peace & Red Velvet’s Acacia Porter.

Anyone who’s spent time in the hip-hop scene will find all these plot points familiar: Everyone’s trying to be famous and get ahead, but most of these cats are deluded and desperate. Everyone’s trying to sell their own rap CDs, but nobody’s buying. Fantasy A says “I got the day off from all three of my jobs because it’s my birthday.” Several characters are celebrating birthdays and there’s a talking ruined cake. White rapper Kobe Lebron is ashamed of his birthday, saying “Aftermath Records is not gonna hire a 25-year-old rapper!” Fantasy A then gets ripped off by rival rap crew the Shogun Thugz–who are also celebrating a birthday–and who need the money for better CD artwork.

This film is weird and funny and very, very Seattle. Throw it on and be entertained.

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Glewies World

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Orange Suit

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Kalito

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The Flavor: A Real Hip-Hop Magazine

From 1992 to 1995, Seattle was home to global hip-hop magazine, The Flavor. It wasn’t a magazine about Northwest hip-hop: It was a world hip-hop magazine based that was based in Seattle, with a peak circulation of 70,000 printed copies per issue. As editor and writer Mike Clark explains, the hip-hop genre was fairly new, there was a lot going on, and they “wanted to promote artists that we loved and help them be successful.”

This eight-minute documentary from King Khazm and Will Lemke is wonderful viewing. It’s a joy to learn the history of The Flavor, and the people interviewed are candid about their struggles alongside the successes of the magazine. They were the first magazine in the world to put Nas on the cover, only one example of how they were ahead of their time.

Publisher and editor Alison Pember acknowledges that local rappers would grumble about not being on the magazine cover, but they did have a strategy for putting the Northwest on the map: “Us putting a local artist in an issue with a national artist on the cover… People will pick up the magazine and they’ll read it.” Mike Clark adds the story of how The Flavor connected legendary local group The Ghetto Chilldren to a major label record deal with Geffen.

Finally, you’ll delight in learning about Carl Johnson’s infamous crossword puzzles. They were so incredibly hard and dense with rap lyrical references that the only person who ever solved the puzzle was later hired to work at the magazine.

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Vizard

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Unfollow

The Stranger selected Unfollow as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2018,” saying that:

MC/producer Specswizard has been teaching advanced courses at the old school since before you were born. His latest subliminal, ill missive, Unfollow, continues to burnish his rep as the city’s foremost hip-hop elder statesman, a master of chill braggadocio and weirdly funky productions. EP highlight “Rap Flow Stain” is a boast track—of which there are countless—but none has sounded as sonically and lyrically distinctive as this one. The track epitomizes Specs’s uncanny ability to keep your head nodding while wondering where he scared up all these brilliantly odd sonic sources and alchemized them into the stuff of supremely blunted hip-hop dreams. And on the mic, Specs is a master of concision and derision.

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FLEXA

In their annual year-end critics’ poll, The Seattle Times ranked Parisalexa’s Bloom and FLEXA EPs as the two very best Seattle album of 2018, saying:

Two years after a talented kid with a looping station turned heads at Sound Off!, R&B wunderkind Paris Alexa Williams proved ready for the spotlight this year, debuting with two impressive EPs that earned her more votes than any other act on our list. The now-20-year-old flashes a maturity and confidence — both vocally and conceptually — beyond her years on Bloom. The seven-track main course is about personal growth and self-love through romance narratives. Williams taps the ‘90s R&B she grew up on, brushing piano beats with her soulful mellifluousness on tracks like “Hole in the Ground” and “Dandelion.” The artist on the rise brings a more contemporary swagger to her following FLEXA EP, gracefully spreading her undeniable hooks over bass-heavy beats on “Ballin’ ” and “LV” — an earwormy humble flex about being proud of what you have. The scariest thing about Parisalexa’s breakout year is the fact that she’s still developing her style, meaning the next few years could be even more fun.

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Tomorrow’s New Villain

In their annual year-end critics’ poll, The Seattle Times ranked Tomorrow’s New Villain as one of the very best Seattle albums of 2018, saying:

Producer and occasional rapper Sax G comes through with a cool collection of head-nodding beats, inviting guests like Navvi’s Kristin Henry to handle most of the vocals. Incorporating elements of soul and jazz, Sax’s productions often feel more East Coast than West — especially on “The Last Outlaw/8d8 Posse,” a rugged beat that could’ve scored a season’s worth of “106 & Park” Freestyle Fridays. Still, the results are savory enough to transcend area codes.

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Dear Thad

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Tales From The T, Volume 1

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Love Memo / S'WOMEN

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BlakWizard

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Northsbest

As Complex magazine says in their review of Northsbest, 16-year-old Seattle rapper Lil Mosey came “pretty much out of nowhere in 2017, with a viral catchy track and a bright future.” Millions of plays later, it’s understandable that everyone in the town will have an opinion on this short 11-track release and whether the buzz is deserved. The focus of this debut is all on Lil Mosey himself, with only one guest feature from Memphis bad boy BlocBoy JB. Hot New Hip-Hop says it “proves he’s more than a one-hit-wonder,” while Hypebeast claims that “Seattle has yet another star in the making.”

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Soul Food

“Keasha Beard seeks to impact the whole world with good energy and powerful potential,” says Respect My Region in their review of Soul Food. It “comes out the gate swinging with positive prose, bouncy drums, and driving hooks.” Solis Magazine notes how she “breathes optimism into the mic, emerging from a past of addiction and darkness, heavily endorsing love and peace,” while Beach Sloth adds to the praise: “Energetic to its very core, Soul Food shows off such swagger. A truly motivational spirit imbues every single piece. It has a tremendous vitality.”

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Cookie Jar

Throughout summer, Micstro, D.Mikey, and beatsmith Intylekt threw half a dozen Cookie Jar release parties in neighborhoods across the town. “This is that Seattle fire!” says Respect My Region in a glowing review. “Trio teamwork is in full effect… Micstro’s voice cuts hooks and verses, while D. Mikey’s chill demeanor never waivers under pressure. Seriously this guy is stone-cold on every track.” D.Mikey also released a solo effort in 2018 called Smokeables that’s worth your time.

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Darth Sueder

Darth Sueder is AJ Suede’s fourth EP of 2018, and every single one of them is great. KEXP says his work “possesses an intimate understanding of blackness as a radical act… A world always overcast, full of judgemental eyes, billowing smoke, self-medication… esoteric and unreliant on the standards of hip-hop,” becoming “glittering, hollowed out, and dreamlike.” Candy Drips calls this project “cohesive and bar-heavy,” while Harvard radio station WHRB applauds his “whip-smart lyricism” expressing “grit, of clenched teeth and white knuckles.”

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YOUGOOD?

YOUGOOD? has registered millions of streams on Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube since its release only a few short months ago. And then there was the 40-minute short film version, screened to accolades at SIFF. CityArts calls the project “a wildly ambitious trip through a young man’s confident, conflicted mind.” The Seattle Times says “this Burien emcee makes it look easy on his cohesive new album. It’s mellifluously dark and arrestingly human in moments, but still slaps when the timing’s right.”

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YungPatronus

Tacoma-based trio BADYOSHI have recently been burning up the Seattle hip-hop scene, but this album is a stellar solo project from that group’s MC Scribemecca. CityArts praises it for its summertime vibes, “fusing ’80s electro with ’90s G-funk, the Yungpatronus mixtape is your soundtrack for day drinking and night swimming.” Respect My Region compliments how it’s “laid-back, soulful instrumentals pair nicely with pinpointed lyrical concepts, delivered to perfection,” while Distinction adds that “his reinvention is the catalyst for some groove-heavy space disco.”

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Drive Theory

“The idea of Drive Theory is that everyone and everything is born with intrinsic needs,” says Raz Simone. The Music Essentials site describes this project as “a dynamic showcase of Simone’s musical and lyrical prowess.” The Hype Magazine says it’s “a deep dive into Raz’s inner monologue, revealing intensely personal experiences over hard-hitting beats,” while Hot New Hip-Hop says it “serves reflective bars about the street life over beautiful production.” Perhaps Respect My Region says it best: “This record is a master class in gangster rap.”

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Goldtooth Squarepants

Goldtooth Squarepants, the latest album from producer Mario Casalini, made its debut on KEXP. The radio station describes it as “an ensemble patchwork… A whos-who of the all-star Seattle rap scene.” Casalini, who wrote and produced the entire EP, takes the mic sparingly, handing it instead to a talented set of features from Wishbaby, AJ Suede, Joey Kash, DoNormaal, Raven Hollywood, and Fatal Lucciauno. UK-based Fame Magazine says the record is “a sparkling collection of Northwestern rap gems.”

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Marlowe

While this project—from producer L’Orange and rapper Solemn Brigham—has roots in North Carolina, you should still count it as local: L’Orange recently relocated to the PNW and much of this album was recorded in Seattle at Sendai Mike’s SODO studio. Pitchfork says Marlowe is “spirited, old-school rap that evokes the turn-of-the-millennium underground: There are no synths, no hooks, just bars, bars, bars over a collage of vinyl chops,” while HipHopDX finds synergy between an “MC connecting with the beatmaker on a deeper level to create something special.”

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Murder Me!

Anticipation for the MURDER ME! mixtape from Koga Shabazz has been high. He threw two completely different record release events: A listening party at Can’t Blame The Youth in the ID, and then a star-studded showcase at Chop Suey complete with a live band. In their review, Respect My Region focus on the literary aspects: “Pressing play feels like opening a book… Koga experiments with different flows and vocal approaches: raspy deep, light-hearted and quick spit, going from one vibe to the next, even smack in the middle of a song. It really blows your mind.”

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Wakanda Funk Lounge

Twisted Soul calls this Black Panther-inspired project “a ray of sunshine crammed with intricate details … A wonderful array of electronic R&B and soulful gems interspersed with subtle jazz touches.” Shondaland says this is “emotionally and sonically complex music celebrating black freedom that’s meant to make us think.” While Scratched Vinyl reminds you to head to the dance floor because of these “smooth dance anthems about black pride and the powerful mythology of Wakanda that will get your feet shuffling.”

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Local Dope Dealer

You may’ve passed Seattle spitter BlkSknn on the streets, out hawking one of his two highly-praised mixtapes—Small World and Disconnect. Now we have Local Dope Dealer, his proper album debut. During one skit on it, he says this is “some weird underground hipster shit.” But it’s also deeply inventive, poetic, and packed with social commentary. The Blow Up are big fans, while Sonic Smash Music blog praises “his uncanny rhyme patterns and infectious flows partnered with an unparalleled lyric ability… a musical tyrant over the past year.”

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love memo

Chong The Nomad was one of the breakout stars from Capitol Hill Block Party this past summer. The Stranger reviewed her set, describing her techniques of live-sampling ukulele and beat-box harmonica, and also the “heavy funk beats, marbles-scrambling bass frequencies, and torqued distortion… Holy shit.” NYC’s Tom Tom Magazine suggests that “multi-instrumentalist and producer Chong the Nomad is shaping the future of dance music.”

Here’s another take:

In their annual year-end critics’ poll, The Seattle Times ranked love memo as one of the very best Seattle albums of 2018, saying:

One of Seattle music’s biggest breaths of fresh air in 2018 came from this promising young beatmaker who hip-checked her way into the dude-dominated electronic scene with her coolly minimal love memo EP, which got a vinyl release this fall on Crane City Music. The real-life Alda Agustiano’s strain of hip-hop-informed dance music weaves eerie sounds through rippling sub-bass lines, with occasional tempo shifts keeping listeners on their toes during short-burst tracks. From the tasteful dubstep-y lurch of “for tonight” to the rapturous “chest pains,” the up-and-coming producer proves a master of subtle moods, gently shaking things up the second you’re too comfortable.

Similarly, The Stranger selected love memo as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2018,” saying that:

Over the last five years, Seattle’s become a hotbed of queer, non-male hip-hop, and relative newcomer Chong the Nomad (aka Alda Agustiano) stands as one of the scene’s potential superstars. However, her vinyl debut, love memo, isn’t strictly hip-hop, but rather a hybrid of that genre, neo-R&B, and edgy EDM. Chong the Nomad’s productions display a rare combo of emotive melodies and weird atmospheres while maintaining an off-kilter funkiness. In a feature I wrote about Agustiano, I described the seven tracks here as “more low-lit joints for intimate encounters than raucous club bangers,” but I sense that she could deviate from this steez and surprise all with her next release. I can’t wait to see where Chong the Nomad goes next.

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Greater Than

Greater Than is a local hip-hop supergroup that unites three of the biggest talents from our past decade: Dyme Def’s Fearce Vill, Grynch (“The King of Ballard”), and Grieves, who steps away from his usual role at the mic to focus on the beats and the music. Respect My Region describes this record as “a whimsical bounce that balances out the harsh rapid-fire bars from Grynch and Fearce… Greater than all these wack rappers thinking that their kindergarten level rhymes will take them to the top.” The song “Motor Mouth” is the big single, but stick around for tracks 3 & 4, too.

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History Rhymes If It Doesn’t Repeat

Gabriel Teodros’s latest album has been five years in the making and is subtitled, “A Southend Healing Ritual.” The South Seattle Emerald describes it as “an album of healing from cycles of violence and oppression… raw, nuanced, and more personal than political.” CityArts suggests we should “think of Gabriel Teodros as Seattle’s CNN… providing the kind of street-level reporting that Public Enemy so ardently embraced… progressive activism with generous intimacy.”

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The Burner Tape

Campana’s got talent in the bank and a year of successes that includes a high-energy performance at Prince’s Paisley Park mansion in Minnesota. On The Burner Tape, he steps into the role of a high-stakes dealer who’s “got that shit that can make you relax.” Earmilk says that “on Burner, he’s all about the hustle, delivering laissez-faire swag and humor over a bouncy backdrop.” Respect My Region praises this project too. Campana “picks up his stack of cash, and waves it in your face. Are you listening? Are you watching? Because you should. Dude is building an empire.”

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Channel Surfing

The Seattle Times describes this solo debut from Tacoma painter and rapper Perry Porter as “manic, with voice-cracking bars over thickets of trunk-knocking bass… short bursts that, like a good punk record, leave you craving more.” The Blow Up points to Porter’s “high energy chaos and smooth funk.” CityArts says “He bounces from syrupy drawl to chirpy double-time to suit each song’s character, street-hardened but self-deprecating, stoned, surreal, and cartoonish.” Distinction describes it as “an alt-trapper bouncer made of SoundCloud-era strangeness.”

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Spacesuit

Spacesuit is the latest chapter in J’Von’s ongoing “suit” EP series, continuing themes introduced earlier in Yellow Suit and Orange Suit. EDM site Trillvo describes these records as “a great love letter to past relationships with memorable vibes,” told through “catchy horns, chill beats and steady lyrics.” Santa Cruz radio station KCSC says there are “seven songs that flow smoothly and effortlessly.” Dancing Astronaut praises how “the soulful, silky-smooth vibe of Spacesuit the top-notch harmonies and heartfelt production, push boundaries in innovative ways.”

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Sweet To Me

The Seattle Times describes Sweet To Me, the third release from JusMoni, as “cerebral headphone escape, easier than hopping in a sensory deprivation tank… an aural candlelight massage after a joint and a glass of red.” ETC Tacoma, who hosted this album’s release event, say that seeing JusMoni perform is like “sprinkling blessings over listeners with every note.” KEXP adds to the praise, expressing that “her music constantly explores the boundaries of R&B and soul music, touching upon motherhood, spiritual transformation, the blood’s memory, and family tradition.”

Here’s another take:

In their annual year-end critics’ poll, The Seattle Times ranked Sweet To Me as one of the very best Seattle albums of 2018, saying:

Electro-soul singer Moni Tep steps out with this dreamy 10-song set that plays like an enveloping love meditation. Hypnotic, slow-rolling beats provide the perfect canvas for the Black Constellation affiliate’s swirling melodies that seemingly hang in midair. As soothing as a candlelight massage, Tep enchantingly layers her reverbed vocals on “Linked In” — an album highlight about the forces of attraction — before stacking them even higher on the sultry “Watching Planes.”

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Hotel Mega

Bothell-based Kenz is a 17-year-old talent whose family moved here from Indonesia when he was young. He composed every note on Hotel Mega, created all the beats, wrote all the lyrics, sung, and produced every track. In a roundtable review, The Blow Up says “the production is fire AF … So different from everything else poppin’ right now. He’s gonna be a buzzing name around here soon.” In an interview in Woodinville Weekly, Kenz describes his unorthodox melodies “Hip hop is a big trend lately. Separate yourself from others by having your own sound.”

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In The Comfort Of

CityArts declared In The Comfort Of as their Album of the Month for March. They describe the magic of this record as Sango’s “wholehearted embrace of change as an agent of evolution for the city and the nation.” DJ Booth touches upon the emotional intensity of the music, “capturing the peaks and valleys of personal growth with an unfiltered lens… Sango reveals himself as a true empath.” Pigeons & Planes praises the “infectious Latin rhythms, romantic and lush, while still having a sleek electronic sheen… it is a perfect project to get lost in.”

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It's A Long Game

Before it was released, Key Nyata announced that It’s A Long Game would be his last project under this moniker. Given the major buzz this project has received, you have to wonder if he’s still committed to hanging up his brand. Us Versus The World praises these “10 feel-good tracks … an emotional ballad, a grimy banger… Key Nyata does his thing on every single track.” All Hip-Hop presents this record as a mix of “classic West-Coast sounds of the ’90s with bars from today—a funky juxtaposition the rap game is primed to embrace.”

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Kiss The Sky

Kiss The Sky is “a catchy, fun listen with stand-out production and memorable lyricism” says Respect My Region in a glowing review. They say the record is an “honest and uplifting project… It holds nothing back, showing no regrets for the amount of work, passion, and discipline Romaro has put into his music over the years.” ETC Tacoma’s review takes a different approach, suggesting a listening experience somewhat more akin to incantation: “Pressing play will take you down a neon-lit rabbit hole.”

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Gotham Fortress

Gotham Fortress, from AJ Suede, is a bold statement, an abrasive face-punch of certainty, punk-rap, chant-rap, looping, hypnotic, otherworldly. Throughout the upbeat pop-chorus of “Rain on The Parade,” he raps, “Fuck the competition, leave their bodies in the rain.” The restrained, resigned piano line found on “Gas Light” is inhabited by those waterlogged and distant vengeful ghosts who come ever closer. Remember that feeling of possession a few tracks later when you’re jumping on your furniture, shouting at the top of your lungs through the hardcore numbers, “Crypto Currency” and “Iconoclast.” This mixtape plucks you from your comfortable room and shoves you straight through the mirror to an underworld place stark, dream-like, nightmarish. Wunderkind producer Wolftone supplies the empty sports stadiums and the distant phantom cheering, rendering them as physical and tangible. AJ Suede’s versatility as a vocalist is on display throughout, reminding us: “I. Don’t. Waste. Any. Rhymes.” Participants in the haunting are some of the city’s buzziest collaborators: DoNormaal, Brakebill, Raven Hollywood, Crimewave, and youngster jiji. This record mines deep ore, revealing vital hip-hop hardly ready for the casket. These are zombies waiting at the gate.

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All Star Opera

In early January of 2018, All Star Opera launched the audacious “Seattle World Tour,” a five-stop jaunt through several neighborhoods in our city, each night selling out a different venue and each night sharing the stage with artists representing a dozen genres of Seattle music. Most of the profits from the tour were donated to Mary’s Place shelter. It’s, therefore, no wonder that this five-piece hip-hop rock band have endeared themselves to the community. I was lucky to see them on stage three times that week, and each live performance shined brighter than the last. Not to mention you get to witness the sheer joy on the face of guitarist Will Greenburg throughout the set. Their self-titled debut, All Star Opera, is the next best thing: ten tracks of singalong roots-rock hip-hop that sounds amazing on headphones. The back half is where this record really packs a punch, from the half-Spanish “Indigestión” and it’s prog-rock trip around The Dark Side of the Moon, to the nightmarish “1,000,” featuring Remember Face and Nacho Picasso, and the seven-minute “Clocktopuss” that jams its way into a frenzy. Album closer, the similarly-lengthy and gracious “A.S.O.,” is enhanced with a string section, showing they are already ready for their MTV Unplugged debut, and all the other famous stages where Seattle has shined.

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2KFG

In the liner notes for this record, music critic Larry Mizell Jr. says “Kung Foo Grip have always been flamethrowers, but lately they’ve been eating straight gunpowder.” That’s the conclusion reached by anyone who’s heard 2KFG: CityArts magazine declared it their Album of The Month in February, describing its sound as “bass-heavy beats, braced with digitized melodies, classic West Coast minimalism and cloud rap.” Respect My Region states it plainly: “The new Kung Foo Grip album is finally out, and it is fire.” The Seattle Times says it is “infectiously cool… a knockout blow.”

Here’s another take:

In their annual year-end critics’ poll, The Seattle Times ranked 2KFG as one of the very best Seattle albums of 2018, saying:

This versatile hip-hop duo have made a name for themselves with explosive live performances, but emcees Greg Cypher and Eff is H show their true range on the Keyboard Kid-produced “2KFG.” One minute they’re kicking melodic hooks that could siphon Sol fans, while getting grimy with Nacho Picasso on the slithering “Risin’” the next. They have the bars to please purists, but Kung Foo Grip are neither boom-bap throwbacks nor cloud-rap play chasers — a group truly cruising in their own lane.

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Bloom

“Bloom is the story of how I fell in love,” says Parisalexa. The seven tracks that make up this project tell a story of personal growth through botanical metaphors. We Out Here magazine praises “the storytelling throughout the project is impeccable,” while CityArts highlights the “lush vocal harmonies that flow over breezy, warm boom-bap textures,” adding that there are hints of soul, jazz, and the ’90s R&B. KEXP adds that Bloom is “empowering, lovely, and elating all at once,” while The Seattle Times calls Parisalexa “one of the brightest young stars in Seattle music.”

Here’s another take:

In their annual year-end critics’ poll, The Seattle Times ranked Parisalexa’s Bloom and FLEXA EPs as the two very best Seattle album of 2018, saying:

Two years after a talented kid with a looping station turned heads at Sound Off!, R&B wunderkind Paris Alexa Williams proved ready for the spotlight this year, debuting with two impressive EPs that earned her more votes than any other act on our list. The now-20-year-old flashes a maturity and confidence — both vocally and conceptually — beyond her years on Bloom. The seven-track main course is about personal growth and self-love through romance narratives. Williams taps the ‘90s R&B she grew up on, brushing piano beats with her soulful mellifluousness on tracks like “Hole in the Ground” and “Dandelion.” The artist on the rise brings a more contemporary swagger to her following FLEXA EP, gracefully spreading her undeniable hooks over bass-heavy beats on “Ballin’ ” and “LV” — an earwormy humble flex about being proud of what you have. The scariest thing about Parisalexa’s breakout year is the fact that she’s still developing her style, meaning the next few years could be even more fun.

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Love, Love? Love.

Someone recently described Seattle to me as an exhausting place where everyone is trying to out-cool everyone else. I wonder if Isabella Du Graf was feeling those vibes when she wrote the chorus of her latest single, “All The Different Ways.” In it she sings, “Take off your cool, let me show you, all the different ways I could love you.” For those unfamiliar with this record, Du Graf’s music occupies a terrain somewhere between jazz and R&B, while also dipping her toes in Seattle hip-hop, on local tracks as featured vocalist, guest performer, and producer. Her body of work speaks to the ongoing malleability of music is this town. The aforementioned “All The Different Ways,” channels a space-jazz sound reminiscent fellow local chanteuse JusMoni, while “Looking All Around” shakes a Motown dance floor. Both are tracks from Love, Love? Love.. an album that it appears is being assembled in real-time, with new songs added to SoundCloud every few weeks. (Current track count: 6) It’s perfect music for a sunny Saturday afternoon like this one.

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