A film about Northwest hip-hop from

The Emerald City Beginning

The Emerald City Beginning was released in 2020 as the first episode in a planned, upcoming series about the origins of hip-hop in the Northwest. The show was created by E-Dawg and Rubik: two Town OGs who certainly have all the right credentials to deliver an authentic portrait of ’80s Seattle.

They sit down with Sir Mix-A-Lot, Nasty Nes, and J-Skee. The centerpiece interview is with James “Captain Crunch” Croone, legendary emcee of The Emerald Street Boys. “Nobody could out-bop him,” says J-Skee about Croone’s skills on the mic. “They were sophisticated. They had no weaknesses,” adds Mix.

Captain Crunch tells the story of how The Emerald Street Boys met: Sweet J stole a rhyme from Sugar Bear, or that was the rumor, and they went off to fight him. In 1982, Seattle-King County Visitors’ Bureau had a contest to find a new nickname for Seattle, and “The Emerald City” was chosen. The Emerald Street Boys were originally named so as to take advantage of the newfound tourism buzz.

You’ll learn about some other of the artists from the mythical start of Seattle rap: Silver Chain Gang, Frostmaster Chill, Big Boss Cross, Chelly Chell, and Supreme La Rock. And you’ll learn how clueless the East Coasters were (and continue to be) about the Northwest. When Nasty Nes first brought Mix-A-Lot to NYC, the record execs said rap from Seattle was impossible, in a place “where there are only horse-drawn buggies and green grass.”

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Town Biz Mixtape

No list of essential Seattle hip-hop compilations would be complete without the inclusion of Jake One’s 27-track opus, the Town Biz Mixtape. He dug deep into the crates, surfacing lost hits, deep cuts, and the finest local hip-hop spanning more than 20 years. (From 1989 to 2010, when this CD was released.)

The mixtape is an essential playlist that surfaces forgotten gems and unexpected bangers. My favorite track here is Vitamin D’s “Who That??” feat. The Note (from Narcotik), but there are so, so many solid tracks. Everyone’s on this, from Blind Council to Mash Hall, The Physics, Tay Sean, J. Pinder, and Shabazz Palaces. Listening to Town Biz will leave you realizing how blessed we are to have so much musical talent in our own backyard. But we knew that already, didn’t we? Thanks to Jake One for compiling this so we can spin it on a sunny summer afternoon and feel hella proud.

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Beyond A Shadow Of A Doubt

This lost album was supposed to have been released in 1989.

On the heels of their success with 1987 song “King In Def Poetry,” buzzy production duo Incredicrew—Cornell “CMT” Thomas and Danny “Dee Rock” Clavesilla—signed a multi-album deal with Chilly Uptown’s label Ever Rap, with the intention they’d be in-house producers for a number of upcoming hip-hop projects. The first of these was a one-off single by Nerdy B and Chelly Chell called “He’s Incredible.”

It was one of Seattle’s first major rap songs with a female MC, and it was a big hit locally. Nasty Nes said that when he played the song on his radio show Fresh Tracks, his phone lines lit right up with requests to hear it again.

Based on that first single’s hype, Nerdy B, Chelly Chell, and Incredicrew went back into the studio to record a full album of furious scratching and charming verses. One of our favorite aspects of this vinyl is how elements from the song “He’s Incredible,” reappear throughout many of the other songs as a repeated motif.

However, financial troubles with the label’s distributor meant this 1989 project—and the whole Incredicrew deal—was shelved and these master tapes sat forgotten on the shelf for 31 years. The Beyond A Shadow Of A Doubt tapes were finally rediscovered, remastered, and released by Ever Rap on vinyl in 2020.

It’s hard not to wonder how Seattle’s early ‘90s rap landscape and this early “NastyMix” era might’ve looked quite different had this record been released as planned!

This vinyl contains 11 tracks of Nerdy B’s furious scratching and Chelly Chell’s clever rhymes. There are also two versions of their classic hit, “He’s Incredible,” a song that got Nasty Nes’s phones ringing off the hook. Against a backdrop of Nerdy B’s furious scratching, Chelly Chell raps hypnotically, “We got beats and bass, yeah, now we’re on wax… Now how ya like that?!”

It may have taken 30 years, but yes, finally.

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