A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Hear to Heal

On the song “Fly By,” featured lyricist Moka Only raps, “If vinyl could talk, it would probably say, what the fuck? Like why you put me through all the scratching and chops?” We throw around terms like “old school” whenever there are wax and jazz samples and turntable scratching. While those elements are all present here in abundance, there’s nothing old about Hear to Heal, a 2016 release from Ear Dr.Umz The Metrognome. I have OCnotes to thank for turning me on to this record, a 16-track prescription, where The Doctor collaborates with contemporary local cats to derive novel new approaches to boom-bap. This is a who’s who of the Seattle underground, featuring verses and beats from Able FaderSpecswizardSilas BlakMyka 9 and others. A standout track for me is “Whole ‘nother Level” with some special cool flows courtesy of Dex Amora and Zuke Saga, but really this whole record is solid from end-to-end, and a great response to “vinyl” on why all the scratching and chops.

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Think Tank

Seattle collective the Mind Movers released this ambitious record in 2008. City-wide in scope, the talents of over 30 Town emcees, vocalists, DJ’s and producers were utilized in the creation of this solidly underground compilation; probably exposing many of them to an audience that may have not heard them before, thus making it somewhat of a Do The Math for the Northwest’s third wave of hip-hop.

Think Tank is 21 varied and energetic tracks in length, and each song has multiple contributors. Crew cuts! I for one had only known of a few of the collaborators when I picked this up; it certainly opened my ears to a ton of great talent. The Mind Movers are made up of emcees Khanfidenz, Inkubiz, Mic Flont, Open Hands, Phreewil (who also handles production, and now resides in Hawaii), and producer/DJ Dead Noise. Besides those cats, the massive Seattle crew Alpha P/First Platoon represents as well, with features from emcees Jerm (also of Cloud Nice), Inkubiz and Phree Wil(again!), Kasi Jack Gaffle, Diez, Asad, Rajnii Eddins, Rufio, Jerz, Julie C, Yirim Seck, and Asun, who especially kicks it all over these tracks. Other names appear as well… It’s a huge who’s who.

Musically the beats are heavy, dusty underground gems. With six beatmakers in attendance, the tracks are surprisingly cohesive, although the ranges of styles are vast. Drum-heavy, broody, atmospheric tracks are heard in abundance (thanks mainly to Phree Wil), alongside upbeat soul samples, and mellow jazz piano loops. Whatever, it’s all nice; no beats out of a can here, this is artistic craftsmanship from the bottom up. Despite the huge undertaking, only the surface of the last decade’s hip-hop scene has been scratched with this release. The Town is bursting at the seams with talent. This is just a decent slice of it. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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