A film about Northwest hip-hop from 2002
At the Bandcamp music website, users can add their reviews. In 2022, Seattle hip-hop artist Wizdumb wrote a very flattering post about the twentieth anniversary re-release of Numerology by Specs One: “(Numerology) formulated my approach to hip hop. It showed me that it doesn’t need to be a clean slate, it can be dusty, the mic distorted, there can be imperfections, that the rule book could be thrown out the window.” I have to agree with his assessment of Specs One’s music on this complicated and beautiful album.
Numerology starts with a ten minute track called “Morning Hustle,” which is a triptych of three successive instrumental beats. “S.F.R.” (Swiss Family Robinson) is the first track displaying Specs One’s very distinctive, fuzzy, lo-fi rap style. As far as content goes, Specs is neither gangsta nor conscious. His raps are word puzzles, concise phrases that match together. “Your beats are like Rover. Fetch! Y’all don’t know what the fuck’s next. Putting young bucks to rest,” is a nice line from “Over Wit.” “Give me a mic onstage, it’s all over wit,” goes the chorus, drawn from the Lord Finesse track “Bad Mutha.” Since the word “wit” means “inventiveness” and “humor,” this track title takes on double or triple meaning.
“Night Hustle” is instrumental just like “Morning Hustle,” and it’s a good example of the Specs production style. Things usually start with a looped beat which then goes through permutations and subtle rearrangements until you feel like you have looked at it from every angle. If you don’t pay attention things will sound repetitive, but there is much happening below the surface of every Specs One beat. Other times he will flip a 180 and run the same sample over and over ad nauseam until it becomes hypnotic.
I think my favorite on the album is “Genosha.” It’s four minutes long, a full track, as opposed to fragments like “The Call,” or “Smoke Break.” The dense lyrics of “Genosha” flow fast and furious. “You’re crying boo hoo, wasn’t hip to the voodoo,” he mocks. The simple melody in the beat is confoundingly addictive, my ear can’t decide if it’s dissonant or harmonious. I should also give a quick shout out to the excellent “Eastward Glance” and its long recited list of Seattle hip-hop luminaries. Specs One aka Specswizard has had one of the longest-running careers in Seattle rap history, and he is still active in the rap scene. If you want to get hip to Specs, 2002’s Numerology is a perfect place to start. Written by Novocaine132