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Walkman Rotation

Conception Records was founded in Seattle in 1993 by Sureshot and Mr. Supreme, two enterprising DJs who also performed locally in their band Sharpshooters. Over the next three years, Sharpshooters dropped a couple of projects on Conception, each of which is now certified holy grail status. Then in 97/98, the label flooded Seattle with a ton of banging new hip-hop singles. Walkman Rotation is basically a Conception records compilation that contains the best tracks from that era. Hearing them all together is such a valuable resource and this comp gives the listener instant access to that time period. Jake One and Supreme made most of the beats, and the sound is slow, blunted, and totally addicting. Highlights include “Any Last Words” by Supreme, “Essay On Pseudoism” by Jake One feat. Arcee, and “My Position” by Eclipse. There are two Conmen (Supreme & Jake One) instrumental beats here as a bonus so all you aspiring MCs can practice at home. Walkman Rotation has aged into the 21st century like a fine wine. This is a 206 classic! (Written by Novocaine132.)

Here’s another take:

Ranked right up there, this fantastic ’98 compilation from Seattle’s Conception Records got dubbed to TDK on the first listen, and then that tape LIVED in my tape deck for months. It’s a dope collection of all-Conception artists, many of them from the Northwest, but also featuring cats from places as diverse as Cali, Ohio, and Canada. Producers Jake One and Mr. Supreme pretty much set the screw-faced theme and run the show here, concocting their signature blunted urban atmospherics. As beatmakers go, I always thought these two worked incredibly well together – their beats quite often were placed on opposite sides of the vinyl from one another, creating two distinct, yet complementary moods. It’s one of the reasons Conception wax was always such a pleasure to hear; they were more than just singles–they were cohesive and complete documents, thanks to the ebb and flow Jake and Supreme set down. Another reason for Conception’s greatness, obviously, was the amazing lyrical talent. I swear, there wasn’t a weak verse in their entire catalog. This comp features many of the dopest tracks from Conception’s short-lived output. Fourfifths, Kutfather, Arcee, Eclipse, Third Degree, and Samson represent vocally with tracks off of their various 12″s, with outside production by Samson & Swift on their track and MoSS one of Eclipse’s tracks. In addition, there is exclusive output on this comp from J-Rocc, Diamond Mercenaries, Jake One, 3D, and Arcee. It’s more than just an overview of the label, it’s crucial listening. Period. The CD version was given the Beat Junky treatment, with J-Rocc providing the tracks in mixed form, keeping shit funky. The vinyl comes unmixed, so you can hear each track in its complete form. Listening to it as I write, it’s still as mind-blowing and groovy as it was when I first heard it. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Earth Wind & Fire

From ’97, here is the lone single by Cuneiform and Sub-Zero (AKA Trust and Nickle Slick, at least according to the interwebs), collectively known as Fourfifths. I’m not sure where these cats are from, but this release was on Mr. Supreme’s Conception Records, so the chances are they were Seattle emcees.

Side A contains the Remix of “Earth, Wind & Fire,” with an early production effort by Jake One. Side B has the original version of “Earth” as well as “The Science,” both by Supreme. I’m struck by how different the two versions of “Earth Wind & Fire” are from one another. Jake One’s beat gives the track a slinky, nocturnal, and dangerous vibe, while Mr. Supreme’s trademark penchant for melancholia turns the song into a world-weary grind. Oddly enough, Supreme’s beat totally wins out. (In fact, I think it’s one of the best cuts he’s ever done.) It’s an infectious and beautiful track with a melody that sticks with you.

Apart from this 12″, Fourfifths can also be heard on two of the best tracks from the Sharpshooters’ Choked Up (“Analyze” and “Trust No One”). It’s a shame that they didn’t go further, because as their slender output attests, they were heat. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Everything is Nice

“The country’s losing lives while the leader’s out of touch… The shit that be happening… is what got me rapping…” These lyrics loop throughout the title track of Everything is Nice by Seattle hip-hop OGs Prose & Concepts (aka Six In The Clip) whose trippy self-released second album, from 1997, is perfect headphones music for these times. The production is inventive ear candy, while the lyrics continue to hold deep resonance 23 years on. Novocaine 132 wrote this review for The Rocket music newspaper back in the ‘90s about it:

The second album, Everything is Nice, from Seattle’s legendary Prose & Concepts, is as much a Northwest original as the neon Red Hook sign shown in the cover photo. Their debut record, Procreations, brought increased pride to Seattle rap fans through tracks like “W.O.T.R.” “Do You Know?,” “Allone in This Field” and “Roll Call on the 1 and 2’s.”

Everything is Nice continues to prove that literacy and hip-hop aren’t necessarily antonyms. From the cannabis-soaked “Tiny Bubbles,” to the poetic tactics of “Courting Miss Understood,” to the sweet, drifting chorus on “The Ballad,” the album stands head and shoulders above the recycled gangster releases pervading the charts. My personal favorite cut, “Turntable Rhapsody in E Minor,” had me asking turntablist DJ Ace why he didn’t “put that on something” (for instance, Return of the DJ Volume II, where it certainly belongs). I wish I could truly say that everything is nice, but like Goodie Mob said, “I wanna tell you that it’s all good but it ain’t”; one of the group’s MCs, Michael “Dub” Weltmann, died on the last day of 1996. His verse in the closing song “Loose Cannon” will, to many, always be an eerie reminder of just how fragile life really is. I think we need a moment of silence.

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Procreations

There was a time in the mid ’80s when I loved rap like life itself because it was exuberant and out-of-control and made me wanna swagger down the street kissing boys I didn’t know (in my mind only, understand). But later on, rappers started getting cooler and cooler, and I fuckin’ hate cool people. They’re always telling the rest of us to mellow out and stop embarrassing them.

I liked Six in the Clip, though. They were a local, racially mixed crew of screwballs whose snotty rhymes could inspire entire roomfuls of jaded rockers to…actually move.

Now they’re called Prose and Concepts and they are serious. Uh oh…

Gone is the uneven feel of Six in the Clip; now all these guys rap like pros. Like most rappers who “get serious,” they’ve laid back a bit, but not everyone will see that as a problem. The DJ is superb, the samples understated-no real show-offy stuff, except in the lyrics, which are mainly the old school type raps about how great the rappers are, with some nonsense rhymes that sound good thrown in (“Knick knack paddy whack, give the fools a Prozac”). That’s all fine by me; I don’t need to hear any more about big butts or big guns for a while.

My fave here is the insanely catchy “P,” which is about pee. It’s one of the only moments on the album when the guys seem to really cut loose and have some fun. In fact, some of the songs have an almost sinister undercurrent to them; sampled minor chords throb hypnotically behind droning rhymes.

This is an impressive enough first effort, but now that these guys have proved they can rap, maybe they’ll go all out and throw us a party again. (This review originally appeared in The Rocket and was written by Dawn Anderson.)

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The Power of Rhyme

Let’s be honest: The Seattle rap scene has become a disappointment. At one time a couple of years back it was being hailed as a budding talent pool, just notches below New York and LA. NastyMix was at the forefront of Northwest rap and Kid Sensation looked to be a potential national hit right after his first LP.

Kid Sensation’s new album, The Power of Rhyme, will not be the area’s savior. The style is a mediocre hard hip-hop attempt–showing no improvement from his debut–with one noteworthy song, “The Way We Swing,” a collaboration with Ken Griffey, Jr. It’s not enough to save this album. The LP has been out since early spring, and by now it is fair to judge the Kid’s mass appeal; outside baseball collectors, there has been little. (This review originally appeared in The Rocket and was written by Scott Griggs.)

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Skin 2 Skin

The original version of the song “Skin 2 Skin” appears on Kid Sensation’s 1990 debut album, Rollin’ with Number One. It’s a slightly clunky love ballad, punctuated with synth stabs and banging drums. Through a series of telephone skits and rap verses, Kid attempts to convince a girl to come over to his place, expressing his sincerity and honesty, citing how Janet Jackson and Milli Vanilli said it’s “Alright.”

The brand new 12” “Naked Mix” featured here on this vinyl reimagines “Skin 2 Skin” as a new song, centering the music around a bright, funky guitar, while also dialing back the drums and adding a wide range of trippy left-right stereo effects. The mix takes the song in a fresh, intimate direction, one where you’re more likely to be won over by Kid’s flirtation.

On the flip side, you’ll find two versions of a superb new Kid track about wealth, racism, and society called “Homey Don’t Play That.” He recounts a series of misadventures that warn of the perils of money and fame: Girls who want to spend all his dough, fair-weather friends who need to “borrow” $20… He heads to a fancy restaurant and is instructed to use the service entrance. The Maître D’ insults him, saying “Black folks are only welcome to shine our shoes.” At the closing of the song, Kid and his friends are singing the chorus as a group. One guy yells out to stop, saying “The white girl is off-beat.”

Something to love about early Kid Sensation records is how they were a playground for new ideas and new talents. They’re daring. This record features the first vinyl appearance of a young DJ Ace: His work with Prose & Concepts and the ECP in the mid-‘90s made an important mark on the scene, and his appearance here is no doubt part of the reason this 12” single is such a stellar record.

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