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.

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

The Blank Canvas

Filmmaker and hip-Hop musician Rafael Flores spent six years making The Blank Canvas: Hip-Hop’s Struggle for Representation in Seattle. The film attempts to document the unique identity of hip-hop culture in Seattle, through interviews with over 100 rappers, producers, DJs, graffiti artists, break-dancers, fashion designers, and promoters from The Town.

It takes us on a journey that investigates the origins of Hip-Hop in the Northwest, the legacy of Sir-Mix-a-Lot, the notorious 1985 Teen Dance Ordinance, Clear-Channel’s dominance over commercial Hip-Hop radio, the increasing popularity of white rappers in Seattle, and hip-hop’s struggle for representation in a seemingly liberal city.

The full 96-minute film is available for rent on Vimeo for $5. Watch the trailer below.

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

The Otherside

The Otherside is an hour-long documentary predominantly covering Seattle’s Capitol Hill-centric “third wave” hip-hop scene, circa 2010. This was a time when MP3s and streaming were fairly new and completely reshaping the music industry. Artists like Blue Scholars were experimenting with Kickstarter and direct fan support. Everyone was trying something new.

There’s a wealth of great interviews, concerts, and backstage footage from artists across the Town. There are hella people in this movie. It’s clear the filmmaker tried to talk with anyone and everyone who was willing. There are some great long chats with Jake One, Prometheus Brown, and Sir Mix-A-Lot. There’s also lots of footage of pre-stardom Macklemore & Ryan Lewis as they prepare to drop The Heist.

Larry Mizell Jr. offers up a four-point guide to being successful in the Northwest: “Be truthful to yourself. Be respectful and knowledgeable of what’s going on and what came before you. Be good: Work on your craft. Further the culture at all times.”

The Otherside premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival and was an audience favorite, selling out two consecutive screenings. It was also chosen as “Best of SIFF” by festival programmers.

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Cinémetropolis

I’m calling it: It’s time for a Blue Scholars revival. With the many recent waves of economic and social upheaval, it feels as though Seattle could use some new Scholars right about now. On the closing track on their last record, the 2011 magnum opus, Cinémetropolis, Geologic raps the refrain: “Ain’t no America left, it’s all fragments.” It’s but one sentiment here that grows in truth with each passing day. The curiously inventive rolling beat on “Fin” exemplifies Sabzi‘s musical mastery, though I could’ve pointed to almost any of the 15 tracks here for lessons to be learned. This record was an early Kickstarter success story, funded by fans, and generating a pre-album $62,000 in donations over six weeks, and funding a subsequent 33-date national headlining tour.

The strategy allowed the group to film videos for many of the record’s tracks, keeping with the “ciné” theme. I’ve been watching these recently, too. More than one features the duo driving around the town surveying our many eateries and hangout spots. Watching will leave you feeling nostalgic for places gone and those that may soon disappear. But honestly, this album is one of the defining pillars of Seattle hip-hop and should be required listening for anyone in this game. I’m always a sucker for the sweet supportive love song, “Anna Karina” and the opening on “Oskar Barnack”–and later, the bass–which apes the structure of Pink Floyd’s “Money” My copy is oft-played and much loved.

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

OOF! EP

Seattle hip-hop blog 206UP picked this record as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2009,” saying that:

An experiment of sorts by Seattle’s most nationally relevant hip-hop group. I wrote previously that this is what it sounds like when Blue Scholars go on vacation. They accomplish their musical goals with mixed results. “Coo?” and “HI-808” are two of their best songs ever, but I still don’t like “New People” (though it has grown on me a little). Sabzi remains the best hip-hop producer in the Northwest. And Geo is one of the three best emcees. Now, can we have more of the normal Scholars revolution in 2010, please?

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Butter & Gun$

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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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Bayani

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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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Joe Metro

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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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Freewheelin'

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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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

The Long March EP

The Stranger picked The Long March EP as one of the “Top 6 Hip-Hop Albums of 2005,” saying:

To end the excellent year, Blue Scholars released an EP with eight melancholy tracks that match the mood of late fall, with its denuded trees and low grey clouds. Against Sabzi’s slow and soulful beats, Geologic digs deep into his life, his troubled upbringing, his education, his labors, and his anger with the wage (slave) system. Unlike the duo’s positive debut, Blue Scholars, there’s now a hint of defeat in Geologic’s voice and raps, as he tries to figure out ways to overcome capitalist exploitation and unify the realities of workers in Peru (for example) with the realities of workers in South Seattle. He wants to topple what Public Enemy once called “the power,” but how in the world can this happen? In the song “La Botella,” Geologic goes to a bar and drowns these difficulties in happy-hour drinks. For this reason, Blue Scholar’s sophisticated brand of music, gloom, booze, and radical politics can be described as Maker’s Marxism.

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Blue Scholars

Celebrating a sunny break in this weekend’s stormpocalypse with the Blue Scholars self-titled debut from 2004. Pictured here is the original 11-track spiral notebook “PNW version.” The CD was reissued one year later with different tracks and a different cover. It’s amazing to consider this album is almost 13 years old, making it slightly closer to the era of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” than the music of today. (Plus, Sir Mix is name-checked on track 7.) Regardless, this one is every note a banger, right from the unique-to-this-version “Solstice Intro” and all through the end. Gorgeous production from Sabzi and endlessly inventive verses from Geologic. These two are such a wicked pairing.

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