A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Poetic Epidemic

Fresh off his enlistment as a Soldier on the second F.T.S. album, Money Motivated in 2000, Seattle musical artist Byrdie was ready to take a giant leap of his own. Having joined the Street Level family, he had VIP access to beats by D-Sane, and also tons of MCs for guest spots. Byrdie got his ducks in a row and released his first CD, Poetic Epidemic in 2001. Poetic Epidemic was a solid debut that flagged him as an artist on the rise.

The tracks cover a variety of topics, which keeps the listening interesting. An unlikely name check of a Supreme Court Justice shows up in “Dirty Politics,” with the humorous line, “I’m not arrogant, I’m just honest, Street Level Records, all my CDs sell out like Clarence Thomas.” “Lyricide” produced by Syko carries a gothic, vampire vibe, drenched in echo and reverb as though it was recorded in an actual castle. Jonathan “Wordsayer” Moore, the mayor of Seattle hip-hop, appears on “Society,” dropping a forceful verse, “for brothers out on the grind, and sisters with conscious minds.” It’s probably an uncontroversial take, but the strongest cut on Poetic Epidemic, in my opinion, is “Player’s Policy Pt. 2” produced by D-Sane, and featuring vocals from Wanz. The first version of “Player’s Policy” including Byrdie, BD, and Creep Lo appeared on Money Motivated.

Thanks to some direct action and protests, “Player’s Policy Pt. 2” actually got rotation airplay on KUBE 93 FM, Seattle’s notoriously insular pop music station. According to the excellent 2020 history text by Dr. Daudi Abe, titled Emerald Street, “the tension that had been growing between KUBE and the local hip-hop community eventually came to a head in the spring of 1997.” The movement was led by Seattle hip-hop artists including Silver Shadow D who felt like they had no chance of being on the radio in their own city. Thanks to their efforts, over the next few years KUBE made some adjustments, allowing for “Player’s Policy Pt. 2” to get on the air and become a hit in 2001.

Byrdie has the intangibles that can carry a rapper to the top of the pack. His flow is airtight, with literally no space between the syllables. This is basically a modern flip of iambic pentameter, a written style worshipped for centuries. Very few artists ever climb to this level of lyrical altitude, and with his golden voice, the words just roll off his tongue. But Byrdie fans would have to be patient, for there would still be three more years of waiting before Byrdie would drop his true masterpiece, 2004’s N Flight. Written by Novocaine132

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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

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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