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Long May We Rain / Lost Gems

Here’s a split vinyl of quarantine protest jams from two Seattle heavy-hitters: AJ Suede & Specswizard. Both artists were inspired by 2020’s Black Lives Matter protests, mask-wearing, and stay-at-home orders to produce boom-bap tunes that could only exist in the 21st Century.

The Seattle Times picked AJ Suede’s brilliant Long May We Rain as one of the best albums of 2020, while Insomniac magazine praises the “next level lyricism.” On the flip side of this cross-generational split LP, you’ll find the vinyl-only Lost Gems project from Specswizard, a veteran of Seattle’s scene, who’s released dozens of albums and EPs since his start in 1988.

The familiar sound of buzzing amps and tape hiss makes way for major-key soul turned into pensive bangers. Specswizard’s low, late-night-in-the-living-room baritone conjures the feeling of recording in a cramped apartment while the neighbors are sleeping. Still, the beats knock like side doors and his narratives hover like heavy rain and cumulus clouds of weed smoke.

Together, these two records provide a powerhouse portrait of Black life in the American Northwest today.

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Long May We Rain

Taylor Hart from West Coast cannabis hip-hop site Respect My Region selected Long May We Rain as one of the very best Northwest albums from 2020, saying:

AJ Suede is anything but a stagnant artist. He’s a swiftly flowing river of creativity whose songs reflect on the exact moment of time and season at which they were released. This year alone we’ve seen five albums from him. His third project of the year, Long May We Rain, being released in May.

Long May We Rain captures the essence of that time when spring transitions into summer. Things are still kind of wet, but the sun is starting to warm up and shine more often. It reflects on the pandemic and the protests that sparked, at that time, following the murder of George Floyd. I feel like Suede knows that there is beauty in simplicity and it shows through on this album. He didn’t have to pull any frills out of his sleeves, just gave us some straight-up bars over chill ass beats.

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I'm The One

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!

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NEWCOMER

This 82-minute feature film is an intimate introduction to Seattle’s vibrant hip-hop underground. It was assembled from hundreds of tiny performance clips—shot for Instagram—into a single, continuous concert mosaic, and stars 93 of the top hip-hop artists from The Town.

Here’s how KEXP describes it in their review: “NEWCOMER stretches the idea of the concert film to an artistic extreme: Sub-minute snippets artfully arranged to resemble a field recording of Seattle’s rap scene, the pieces fractured and pieced back together in a truly engrossing way. The narrative flows through venues like Barboza, Cha Cha Lounge, Vermillion, Lo-Fi, the Showbox, the Crocodile, and dozens more. It’s Khris P pouring Rainier into a Solo cup while he raps; bodies packed into regional landmark ETC Tacoma; SassyBlack improvising a song urging concertgoers to buy her merch; the delightfully awkward dance moves of white people in KEXP’s Gathering Space; Chong the Nomad beatboxing and playing harmonica simultaneously; Bruce Leroy bullying a beat next to the clothing racks at All-Star Vintage; Specswizard rhyming about his first time performing in front of a crowd while standing before The Dark Crystal playing on a projection screen. The film is about the moments we experience—as lovers of live performance—just as much as the performances themselves.”

NEWCOMER was directed by Gary Campbell and was an official selection at the 2020 New York Hip-Hop Film Festival and the 2020 Golden Sneakers International Hip-Hop Film Festival in Hamburg, Germany. Throughout November 2020, the film screened for four weeks on the Northwest Film Forum theatrical screening site in honor of Hip-Hop History Month.

You can watch the full movie below.

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Finesse The Cube

Finesse The Cube is one of several 2019 releases from the prolific AJ Suede. His relaxed, shoot-the-shit talk-rap grounds the often drumless production from BB Sun, Wolftone, and Khrist Koopa. It plays as though you’re walking around town together, with Suede casually discussing Seattle gentrification, WikiLeaks, Star Wars and The Matrix with you. Insomniac Magazine says these songs “wake up heads worldwide.” The self-aware seven-syllable rhymes and clever local criticism result in one of my favorite lyrics of the year: “You’re living in a bucket that’s full of crustaceans.”

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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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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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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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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.

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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.

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7 Slaps In The Sack

7 Slaps In The Sack is a video interview series created by Carrick Wenke. Shot between 2014 and 2020, the show has more than 50 episodes, each of which involves going record shopping at Everyday Music on 10th in Seattle with “your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper.”

Everyday Music is sadly gone now, but you can view all the episodes from the series on YouTube. A wide range of Town talent has spent the day shopping with Carrick, talking about favorite records, influences, and craft, including Jarv Dee, Keyboard Kid, Nacho Picasso, Romaro Franceswa, Travis Thompson, and many others.

We’ve embedded a few of our favorite episodes below.

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