A film about Northwest hip-hop from

What We Leave Behind

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!

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Gemini

Gemini is Macklemore’s self-released celebration of our town: Because of their features on this record, local talents Dave B and Travis Thompson were on The Tonight Show singing “Corner Store,” and representing our hip-hop community on national television.

But let’s start here: I’m headbanging in my car. It’s 1:00 am and “Firebreather” roars. It’s no surprise there’s a car on the cover. This is car music. You turn up the dial and you keep wanting to turn it up.

Macklemore’s devout honesty is found throughout Gemini, leaving you with the feeling that you need to reduce the hypocrisies in your fraudulent life. Despite our desire to make work and be artists, “waking up to a screen and watching TV, it’s easy.” On “Intentions” he begins, “I want to be sober, but I love getting high.” Rather than pursue our own dreams, we choose to “live on social media and read other people’s thoughts.”

Recorded at home, in the basement, the music is intimate. Every song is so thoroughly considered and contains the sort of details it takes dozens of listens to notice, both in the music and the storytelling. In lieu of usual producer Ryan Lewis, there are talented local and mainstream collaborators galore here: Budo, Tyler Dopps, Xperience, Saint Claire, Dan Caplen, Abir, Donna Missal, Reignwolf, Otieno Terry, Ke$ha, Offset, Lil Yachty, Eric Nally, and Skylar Grey, whose hook on the second track is truly “Glorious.”

For everyone out there hoping to one day to have the worldwide stadium-level fame that Macklemore has achieved, may this record be your textbook for success.

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

&

This Unruly Mess I've Made

This Unruly Mess I’ve Made, from Macklemore and Ryan Lewis is defiantly uncool; celebrating hair metal, failed resolutions, books on tape and herbal tea. Few records from 2016 are more eccentric and audacious. At a time when seeming cool holds such a premium, Unruly Mess walks in the opposite direction and consequently sounds like nothing else. It’s also the only local hip-hop record this year that made me cry. Regardless of mega-star status, this record is still grounded in Seattle’s DIY ethic: self-released and supported on tour by local talents Dave B, Raz Simone, Budo and others. I always laugh at the line, “Give me the Macklemore haircut!” because Ben and I have been the same Capitol Hill barber. How Seattle is that? If you haven’t spun this one recently, go back and listen to it again.

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

The Finger & The Moon

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!

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

&

Treadin'

Treadin’ is a 2013 EP from Grynch and Budo. The title track finds our MC questioning whether his long dog paddle towards success is worth the hustle. “We’ve come so far… We ain’t going nowhere,” echoes Shaprece during the hook on “So Far.” This song also features a great guest verse from Brother Ali where he recalls people asking him, “If you’ve made it, why you still riding the bus?” Success is indeed an elusive, fickle lover. Included are instrumental versions of these tracks, and it’s here where we can really hear Budo’s production shine. He’s an engaging multi-instrumentalist, effortlessly mixing the textures of horns, slide guitars, and badass synths. On headphones, so many delightful audio treats await. The vinyl is an icy grey splatter and every copy is individually numbered: My copy is 500/500. Keep at it Grynch.

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

&

The Heist

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about success. We’re all clamoring and hustling for success in our own ways. Do you follow Macklemore online? That dude works every single day. He’s always in the home studio or on tour. Every day. On “Ten Thousand Hours” he raps, “The Greats were great because they paint a lot,” and you see this with Ben. So when was the last time you listened to The Heist all the way through? I’ve been listening to it a lot lately and there’s such a clear concept from start to finish. It’s not just a collection of random hits: You can see a summer day, walking our green streets, past the big, luxurious northern Capitol Hill homes up to Volunteer Park. You know all these songs, all those songs that played on the radio all summer in 2012 and into the next. There’s so much Seattle on display here. I met Mr. “Thrift Shop” Wanz at a party a few years back and, and I was celebrity struck talking with him. Many of the themes on The Heist have only grown in relevance in 2017, in an America where our president says it’s okay to hate and discriminate. Somewhere between the gentle piano that opens “Same Love” and the chorus of angels that ends it, Macklemore raps, “No law’s gonna change us,” which succinctly summarizes the current mood of defiant Seattle. Don’t be jealous of Macklemore’s money or fame. Be jealous of his impressive flow, his honesty on display, the chart-topping arrangements from Ryan Lewis, and the fact that they did it all themselves on their own terms. No labels. It’s all self-produced and self-released like 90% of the other records I review here. “A life lived for art is never a life wasted.” Pictured here is the 5lb, double vinyl, gator-skin, 18-insert, bonus tracks, box set. It’s a big audacious statement in an age when most are releasing virtual music for free on SoundCloud. Lots of my fav local cats were involved with this record: Nathan Quiroga, Eighty4 Fly, Budo, Hollis Wong-Wear… And then you think, “Damn, this DIY record from Seattle won a Grammy!” What does success mean to you if not this?

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Yours Truly

Seattle hip-hop blog 206UP picked this record as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2012,” saying that:

On Sol’s Bandcamp page, the rapper dedicates Yours Truly to “the human pursuit of deep understanding,” an endeavor the MC is no doubt currently pursuing on a post-college graduation trip around the world. Most of this album — the culmination of a series of shorter, free EP releases — is an attempt at universal appeal, heavy on the pop hooks and R&B melodies which serve to make it all just feel very…easy. But when you consider Yours Truly in the context of the artist’s statement, it makes sense: we’re more immediately bonded together when our commonalities are highlighted, hence the depth of understanding we can find when enjoying an album like Yours Truly together. This may sound annoyingly meta and shit, but the threads that connect us through musical experience don’t exist at the surface of listening, which is true even when an album as easily enjoyable as this comes along.

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

One Bird On A Wire

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!

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

&

The Key With No Lock

This is the laid-back collaborative effort from Ricky Pharoe & Tru-ID, from 2007. Both emcees are adept at fire; Ricky P’s debut album, Civilized, was an angry young paranoiac’s manifesto, while Tru-ID’s one played out like the diary of a poet in front of a dramatic, cinematic score. Here they tune it down a few notches, creating an album together that rarely achieved the energy of either emcee’s solo outings, but instead played out easy like a late summer afternoon.

Neither emcee tries any stylistic acrobatics in favor of relatively basic flows and sing-song choruses. The beats are likewise relaxed and mid-tempo. Mr. Xquisit, Jewels Hunter, and Camila lend their vocal cords, and Budo, Apoulo, Laidback Luke, Stuart Rowe, Graves, and Artistic Propaganda produce. The album was recorded and mixed by Macklemore (who also contributes lyrically to “The Real Kings.”)

Up until recently, I wrongly thought Ricky was getting beef for making this record; as it turns out for whatever reason it was Ricky who didn’t feel it was up to par with the rest of his work. He may not be naked on the news screaming “come and get me” on this album as much as his previous efforts, but I for one appreciate it as a fine stand-alone record, and as my introduction to these two distinguished emcees. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

&

Civilized

From 2005, this is the debut full-length from vitriolic Seattle emcee Ricky Pharoe, also know as Art Vandelay, Greasy Earl, and more. Co-billed with beatmaker Budo, Pharoe raps articulately over the layers of samples and beats, wastes no time getting his point across.

Ricky evidently has a lot to get off his chest here, and he addresses each gripe head-on without fear of critique or retribution. The commercialization of hip-hop is addressed, as is the vapidity of American capitalism, in abundance. Mixed in thoroughly is a bold-faced pro-sobriety stance, a deep-seated hatred of club culture and the misogyny it feeds off of, and general disgust with the hoops one must jump through to traditionally be successful in the arts in this country. It’s rare that an emcee has the guts to preach his ideals when those ideals are so outside the norm – not only is he anti-club and anti-drug, but he openly mocks those who partake in those lifestyles, both of which play a big part in hip-hop culture.

Overshadowing the entire 53-minute rant that is Civilized is Pharoe’s frequent references to the Illuminati conspiracy, which plays a role in everything else he expounds upon, a force in control of the world’s governments just as much as it controls our thoughts and actions. I’ve never read Robert Anton Wilson, or Behold A Pale Horse, or any conspiracy theorists, so I can’t support or discount what he’s saying with any authority, and I’m guessing much of what Ricky’s preaching is lost on me. But obviously, he slung quite an undertaking over his shoulder with this record; a record that never quite has enough time or space to plumb the proper depths, but still manages to compel the listener.

I imagine he’s probably made himself a few enemies in the process of his career as an emcee; but as a cohesive, clever, and articulate statement, this album’s successes far outweigh its shortcomings. Pharoe is a white underground rapper with a dense, articulate flow and a penchant for self-exploratory poetry, so comparisons to Slug and Aesop Rock are unfortunately unavoidable. And yes, the comparison is somewhat warranted, as all three lyricists examine hip-hop from a personal perspective and capture images through the lens of an outsider.

However, Pharoe separates himself from the others with his subject matter and his unapologetic stance on the issues he tackles. He’s gutsy with his various interconnected foci; on the commercialization and dumbing down of hip-hop, which has been a subject of controversy in the past when coming from white mouthpieces in hip-hop. (Remember DJ Shadow’s “Why hip-hop Sucks In ’96”?) Ricky takes his critique several steps further, citing specific and often-reverent examples in popular hip-hop culture, mocking them to pieces, and beating them with a squeaky dog toy into submission. He manages not to sound like a prude with his anti-drug stance, due to his relating his own chilling drug-addled past. As much as he rails against the backward capitalist system this country employs, he readily admits taking advantage of it whenever he can. This gives him some credence; he can genuinely critique these things because he’s been there.

Although the mainstream is in the hot seat, Ricky’s underground compatriots also fall victim to his particular knife, as well as bonafide hip-hop legends. The most poignant example falls on the apocalyptic track “The Not So Great”, where Ricky both tells his own story as well as that of a man much like himself, aware of the sickness that infests his world. But this character chooses to ignore the honorable person within and gives in to temptation. Most effectively, and also most brazenly, he lifts the famous line from The Wu’s “Method Man” as his chorus (“I got myself a blunt, I got wide owl dub and I’m about to go get lifted. I’m about to go get lifted. I got myself a forty, I got myself a shorty and I’m about to go and stick it, yes I’m about to go and stick it”). The intent is blurred, with only the vehemence in Ricky’s voice to show that he’s passionate about what he speaks even when he borrows from another and the philosophy is on another planet, but tantalizingly within reach all the same.

Although masked in self-depreciation and humor, Civilized is an articulate work of anger and frustration. He’s targeting the world Pharoe has been placed in, and often specifically at his very audience – the drunk club-goers and stoners that are too busy listening to themselves bullshit to hear his music and his message of the peril surrounding us. I get the feeling this is music from an artist who’s driven to orate, and receives little, if any, satisfaction in the process.

Despite the laugh-out-loud moments on the record, I don’t hear Pharoe smiling during his delivery. Besides Budo on beats, Pharoe does it pretty much by himself here, with the exception of in-line contributions from PacNW heroes Billy the Fridge and Jewels Hunter. After this record, he put out a collaborative effort with the stylistic master Tru-ID, then released a couple of funny-as-fuck online EPs before resurfacing as Art Vandelay. His new album under that moniker, Face Tattoo, is dope. But this is where you should start. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Reigncraft, Volume 4: The Labor

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!

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!