A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Kash Me Out

Street Level Records arrived with a bang in 1998, putting out the debut F.T.S. album Full Time Soldiers, which is a true Seattle gangsta rap classic. After that success, Street Level extended its streak, releasing a second F.T.S. album in 2000, and solo albums by Byrdie and Syko the following year. Within F.T.S. a side project appeared called I.K. which stood for Independent Kash. The new group consisted of four members: BD, Brazy J, D-Sane, and J Dub, and in 2001 they put out a full album called Kash Me Out. According to D-Sane, “In hindsight, I should’ve just called it another F.T.S. album, but BD, the member who conceived and ran the group, didn’t want to.”

Kash Me Out contains similar material to the two F.T.S. albums, and features many of the same rappers. The album art shows I.K. flanked by looming Jacksons and Benjamins, and BD is holding a stack of bills. The theme of money is fully explored, as evidenced on the chorus of “I’m A Hustler,” which goes, “Cash cash, fetti fetti, gees gees, c-notes c-notes, stacks stacks, paper…” The members of I.K. want to be clear that they need to be paid in full for all their hard work. “It’s time for the industry to cash me out,” goes a heartfelt line from the album’s opener, the title track “Kash Me Out.”

Highlights include “Soggy” guest starring YG Red and Madd Dog which discusses “smoking wet,” referring to a blunt or joint that has been dipped in sherm or other dangerous chemicals. “I’m so wet I can’t focus on my fingertips,” admits one MC because the high is so intense, adding, “that’s why I only get soggy every once in a while.” Also, “I Know Where They B” featuring Creep-Lo shows promise with its low-frequency bassline, and lyrics about the need for retaliation. Josh Flack plays guitar on three tracks, “Mackadoshis,” “I’m A Hustler,” and “Ride Right,” adding texture and flavor to the mix. “R.I.P. To My G’z N Thugz” is a shout out to all those friends and family that lost their lives to the hardships of the game, and includes appearances by 211 and Popsykle from local group Self Tightld.

Shortly after Kash Me Out was released, F.T.S. split up due to internal differences between the nine group members. This meant that I.K. also stopped recording together, and Kash Me Out was the group’s only album. Despite the roster changes, Street Level continued growing its impressive catalog, dropping albums by Sarkastik, Dividenz, and Skuntdunanna in 2003. Written by Novocaine132

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Sykotherapy

On his first full album, Lyrikally Insane in 1999, Portland-based rapper Syko (Skilled Young Kreative Organism) incorporated what appeared to be an actual voicemail from Cellophane Square record store. The message politely informed him that the store could continue selling his ’98 Warpath EP project on consignment, but because of shopper complaints, he needed to replace the explicit artwork on the cover with something more PG rated. For the most part, Lyrikally Insane was hardcore gangsta rap, with a couple of notable exceptions. “When It Comes Down To It” took some experimental, artistic chances, and it showed Syko’s more creative, less destructive side. Another cut that stood out to me was “Famboshis” with its pleasant, addicting beat and the confessional tone of the track.

His second album in 2001 was titled Sykotherapy, and for this one Syko hooked up with famous Seattle producer D-Sane and his rap label Street Level Records, which already had success with Byrdie, I.K., and label marquee group F.T.S. aka Full Time Soldiers. The album art for Sykotherapy is unsettling. Syko, dressed in a hospital psyche-ward gown aims his best thousand-yard stare at the camera while writing in a huge three ring binder.

Byrdie features on four different tracks, “This World Of Mine,” “Ain’t S*** Changed,” “Chozen,” and “I Just Wanna,” which has a hook from honey-voiced local star Wanz. The emotional “I’m Goin Thru It” explains some of the circumstances that cause people to stay trapped in the game. “I’m goin through it man, keeping a pistol close, because it’s my life that I cherish the most,” goes the chorus. The album finishes with “End Game,” sampling the famous “greed” speech by Gordon Gekko from the movie Wall Street.

After Sykotherapy, he continued making music. In 2004, famous thizz-popper Mac Dre put out Syko’s album called Amerikkkan Syko. Syko was not just a rapper, but also an accomplished producer, and he made dozens of beats throughout the 2000s and 2010s. One of his last projects was creating three beats for former Full Time Soldier J-Dub’s album Envy Breeds Contempt in 2014. Syko, real name Theophilus Adams, passed away in 2018. Written by Novocaine132

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Money Motivated

F.T.S. dropped their first CD titled Full Time Soldiers in 1998 with six official members, D-Sane, J Dub, Villain, Drama, BD, and Madd Dogg. This debut album introduced F.T.S. as a mafia-style crime family, primarily representing the Aurora strip from 85th to Shoreline. But because of the crew’s numbers, their reach extended throughout the 206. On tracks like “Jackin Season,” “8-5 Dippin,” and “Million $ Dreams” the Soldiers described bleak scenarios of shootouts, drug deals, and pimping, the glamorous yet dead-end lifestyle of gangsters and hustlers.

Money Motivated in 2000 was the second CD from F.T.S., and this time instead of six there were nine faces pictured on the cover. Five of the six artists from Full Time Soldiers remained; however, Villain decided to leave the group. The four additions were early group members Brazy-J and Smoke Dog, who were joined by YG Red and Byrdie. A lot of names to be sure. The second album continues the themes of the debut. The combination of vocalist Lauren Salee and guitarist Josh Flack brings a new musical element to two songs, which helps to create more of a distinct mood on this album. Of all the voices on Money Motivated, one that shines is newcomer Byrdie. With a rhyme style that, for some reason, reminds me of verbal-machine-gun Big Pun, Byrdie is a double threat due to his sweet singing voice.

Right after the humorous “Hater Hotline” skit, title track “Money Motivated” jumps off right away, transmitting lots of punchy energy. Rapper Tuff Nitti and local group Self Tightld are featured on the mournful “Rest In Paradise.” “I got a head full of chemicals, stressed over that concrete, everything’s obsolete,” goes a line on standout track “Wet Dreams.” Believe it or not, album closer “Full Time” has eight performers as credited artists, and “I’m Still High” lists eleven! With so many voices it’s easy for the tone of a track to get lost, but the Soldiers maintain a good unity throughout these entire-crew-showcasing songs.

According to D-Sane, F.T.S. broke up in mid 2001 “due to internal fighting amongst members of the group.” Four of the Soldiers released an album, Kash Me Out, in 2001 under the name I.K. which stood for Independent Kash. Byrdie subsequently completed a solo project, Poetic Epidemic which also came out in 2001. Both of those albums were on Street Level Records, D-Sane’s rapidly growing brand. Written by Novocaine132

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