A film about Northwest hip-hop from 2020
The Don Of Diamond Dreams
In their annual year-end critics’ poll, The Seattle Times ranked The Don Of Diamond Dreams as the very best Seattle album of 2020, saying:
Ishmael Butler is a Seattle original. The enigmatic rapper/producer has been at hip-hop’s vanguard since Digable Planets’ Grammy-winning heyday in the early ’90s. During the past decade, the onetime jazz-rap leader and, ahem, Seattle Times paperboy became an influential alt-rap figure, further expanding the art form through Shabazz Palaces’ polyrhythms and Afrofuturist touch. This spring’s Sub Pop-issued The Don of Diamond Dreams ranks among the best work of Butler’s illustrious career, showing he hasn’t stopped moving forward in three decades.
Butler makes literary sport of hip-hop’s braggadocio traditions, name-checking 1920s French actors, and “catching mermaids without no hook” on the hypnotizing “Chocolate Souffle.” Elsewhere, the warped funk of “Fast Learner” is fit for an intergalactic space cruise or midnight drive through neon-lit streets. In a year when local hip-hop shined so brightly — and some in the mainstream might be catching up to his star-surfing ways — amid a tumultuous start of a new decade, there’s comfort knowing this Seattle visionary still carries a guiding torch.