A film about Northwest hip-hop from

The Coolout Legacy

NYC filmmaker Georgio Brown moved to the Northwest in the early ’90s. In 1991, along with VJ D, he founded The Coolout Network, a public access show on cable television that would record the evolution of Seattle’s early hip-hop scene. As Georgio says at the beginning of this film, “we went to the community centers, parks, schools, clubs… Every place that hip-hop was happening… We wanted to cover it.” They certainly did. Coolout ran for 16 years on television, from 1991 until 2007. Various forms of the project continue online to this day.

This particular film, The Coolout Legacy was made by Georgio Brown himself. He narrates and reflects on the impact of the show and its importance to our local hip-hop community.

There’s vintage footage here galore: A teenage Funk Daddy shows off a trophy “taller than me” that he won at a DJ contest, before showing us some of the moves that earned him the victory. Laura “Piece” Kelley addresses the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated rap scene. She often faces the insult that “she can rap pretty good for a girl.” But she replies, “I rap good for the world… And I don’t rap good. I rap well.”

Rapper H-Bomb heaps some well-deserved praise on Specswizard: “Nobody’s been doing hip-hop in Seattle longer than Specs.” We then catch up with the ‘Wizard and he shares a book of graffiti sketches from ’93. The late, great J. Moore shares his wisdom for success and acknowledges the importance of that Coolout played in “coalescing a scene.”

There are numerous live performances and freestyles of Seattle legends in their early days, as well as national acts like Mary J. Blige and Leaders of The New School. Brown talks about encouraging young artists who bravely stand on a stage with a mic and bear their truths. It’s hard. But with Coolout filming you, “every little victory helps,” adds Ghetto Chilldren’s B-Self.

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Straight Lace Playaz

E.C.P. (Emerald City Players) had three members, Stylez, L1D, and MC Linn. According to Discogs, “E.C.P. got into the music game through their close friend Kid Sensation, who landed a deal with Nastymix Records in 1990. The group first appeared on the debut Kid Sensation album on the dedicated cut “Maxin’ With The E.C.P.” On Kid’s second and third albums, The E.C.P. played a greater role by lending a hand with verses and production. In 1995 the crew released their solo album (Straight Lace Playaz)…” In the credits for Straight Lace Playaz the group gives respect to the E.C.P. original lineup, which included legendary figures like Attitude Adjuster, PLB, and Maharaji.

The rippling beat of “Twistin Corners” is nothing but smooth, glassy g-funk, with lyrics about car culture, a hip-hop staple. Perhaps the strongest cut on the album is the two-part, “Emerald City Players.” The beat on part one has twists and turns, but mostly just bounces along under the verses, which describe the pimping lifestyle rather literally. “Emerald City Players” part two is also about hustling and pimping, but it’s more of a view from 30,000 feet. For example, “Cake a** n****s wanna love em, take a h** home, hide em, hug em, kiss em, feed em, purchase em gadgets, whips, cars, clothes, gold, trinkets, I think it’s, way beyond player status, your profit’s gone.” The spoken word-ish cut “Cold Souls” by Star Breaka evokes the arresting street tales of Iceberg Slim captured on his 1976 album Reflections.

“When I Wonder” is a peppery cut with more reflective and personal lyrics than other tracks on this album, and it shows that while E.C.P. wholly embrace the pimp culture, they also have other topics from which to draw. “Livin in this Mecca of a city filled with dreams,” goes a standout line. Straight Lace Playaz seems to be the group’s only album, so if you like pimp tales then give it a spin. Written by Novocaine132

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Listen To The Greg B

In the late 1980’s a DJ named Greg Buren began to emerge as one of the more prominent hip-hop artists in Seattle. He started in a group called The Latin Lovers, and then created a duo with Kid Sensation called 2 Fresh 4 U. After that, he teamed up with a rapper named Willin (Owen McCants) and they they called themselves Ready And Willin. By the early ’90s he was operating at a very high volume, and he dropped two remarkable albums back to back. Buren released a solo tape called Listen To The Greg B in 1992. Two years later, in 1994, his crew Crooked Path featuring himself, Jay-Skee, and Dee-Lyrious released their debut tape titled After Dark.

Listen To The Greg B is a long album, which shows how extremely productive Greg B was during 1991 and 1992. Buren enlists Jay-Skee and DJ Skill for assistance on Listen To The Greg B. Highlight tracks include “Neighborhood Coroner” which narrates a sordid tale about drug addiction and domestic violence seen from the cold medical viewpoint of hospital and morgue staff. The irresistibly slinky “Out To Be Raw” uses a simple, funky bassline that lets the lyrics shine, and “Damn Ney Ruthless” is peppered with a harder street edge than the typical B-Boy aesthetic that Greg B cultivates. “Eat Up A Fat 1” and “1-2 Um Buckle My Shoe” are two highly technical DJ turntablist slideshows that are both lots of fun. They show off Greg B’s love of record scratching and cutting, a technique in which he has tremendous talent. He almost certainly inspired other Seattle DJs to do their own turntable-based projects such as Table Manners 2 by Vitamin D which came out seven years later in 1999.

Not every track is a hit, “Peace C’ya Later” is formulaic and a little predictable as Greg B tells stories of dating women and how he brushes off the ones he doesn’t want to see anymore. “Lil Snitch” borrows a little too heavily from “Five Minutes Of Funk” by Whodini which limits the originality of the track. A similar problem exists in “I’m A Pimp,” which prominently samples Color Me Badd’s “I Wanna Sex You Up” in a manner that is distracting and minimizes the track’s freshness. The album’s strength is the diversity of tempos and variation in beat production from song to song. Each of the tracks feels unique and therefore your ears never get dulled by repetition. Greg B has a wide imagination for sounds and beats thanks to his extensive experience as a party DJ. Shortly after Listen To The Greg B, Buren settled on his new moniker Funk Daddy and has gone on to become one of the most celebrated DJs in Seattle history. Written by Novocaine132

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Prisoner Of Ignorance

For almost a century, vinyl records had been the dominant medium for music playback, but in the ‘90s, the format’s long reign was quickly eroded by two newer options: cassettes and CDs. Both were smaller, cheaper, less fragile, and portable. You could play cassettes and CDs in your car, throw them in a boombox, or go stroll with headphones and a fancy new Walkman.

“Prisoner of Ignorance” marks the first time NastyMix put their marketing and promotion efforts behind a cassette edition rather than the vinyl. (A plain-sleeve vinyl was made for DJs, but it was the cassette of “Prisoner” that got the cool cover art.)

NastyMix also splashed out on an MTV music video. In it, Kid Sensation is tied to an electric chair. He’s about to be executed. A white, racist cop narrates, saying “another Black youth is being appropriately punished.”

When asked if he has any last words, Kid raps that he’s a product of the system: “My only crime from birth is dark skin.” He recounts how he was expelled from school, how he turned to the streets and gangs. He started running with the wrong crew. In desperation, he tried to rob a liquor store. It went bad. He took a hostage, he killed two cops, the hostage was killed, too, I think? The story gets a little convoluted, but the message is clear: The system has failed him over and over again.

For his fall, he blames bigots, the school system, the media for promoting white supremacist falsehoods as truth. Americans are being brainwashed. Where is his piece of the so-called American dream?

At the end of the music video, Mix-A-Lot stands over Kid Sensation’s grave and makes the song’s anti-gang message clear: “Minorities make up 93% of all gang membership in the United States of America today. Whether you choose to call this genocide or just straight-up homicide, you brothers need to remember it’s all suicide.”

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Rollin' with Number One

The debut full-length from “teenage lady killer” Kid Sensation dropped in 1990, while Kid was, indeed, still a teenager. He and Sir Mix-A-Lot originally met back when pre-success, mid-80s Mix was a popular recurring DJ at Boys and Girls Club parties and events. Kid was a teen who’d linger after the set and help Mix put away his gear.

The backside of Rollin’ with Number One has all the best songs, like “Two Minutes,” where he shows us how it’s done by spitting verses for two minutes straight with barely a breath. The drums on standout “Legal” pierce your synapses at unexpectedly pleasant times. This one tune was co-produced by Mix-A-Lot—whose shadow looms large over the whole record—but it’s very much Kid Sensation who’s the star here, making all the beats and dominating 10 tracks with a smooth, speedy bullet train cadence.

Side B opener “Flowin’” is a great example of Kid Sensation’s dual threats of production and rapping. “I’m impossible,” he says at one point, adding, “Sucker emcees can’t comprehend because they’re too slow.” Kid then lays down a ground cover of drums, samples, and vocal wordplay, demonstrating his impressive skills, letting you know he’s “cutting you down like grass in a mower.”

The song is yet another NastyMix tune that incorporates elements of “Posse on Broadway.” (That’s 4, for anyone keeping count…) I’d love to know if there’s a larger story here.

Deft samples include movie lasers, a heart-rate monitor, and the infamous “funky drummer.”

The jacket will have you plotting your next beach fire at Golden Gardens. Listen closely to the lyrics and you’ll hear references to Rainier and Seward and other Town locales. This one is on Spotify so you can go bump it right now.

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