A film about Northwest hip-hop from

NEWCOMER

This 82-minute feature film is an intimate introduction to Seattle’s vibrant hip-hop underground. It was assembled from hundreds of tiny performance clips—shot for Instagram—into a single, continuous concert mosaic, and stars 93 of the top hip-hop artists from The Town.

Here’s how KEXP describes it in their review: “NEWCOMER stretches the idea of the concert film to an artistic extreme: Sub-minute snippets artfully arranged to resemble a field recording of Seattle’s rap scene, the pieces fractured and pieced back together in a truly engrossing way. The narrative flows through venues like Barboza, Cha Cha Lounge, Vermillion, Lo-Fi, the Showbox, the Crocodile, and dozens more. It’s Khris P pouring Rainier into a Solo cup while he raps; bodies packed into regional landmark ETC Tacoma; SassyBlack improvising a song urging concertgoers to buy her merch; the delightfully awkward dance moves of white people in KEXP’s Gathering Space; Chong the Nomad beatboxing and playing harmonica simultaneously; Bruce Leroy bullying a beat next to the clothing racks at All-Star Vintage; Specswizard rhyming about his first time performing in front of a crowd while standing before The Dark Crystal playing on a projection screen. The film is about the moments we experience—as lovers of live performance—just as much as the performances themselves.”

NEWCOMER was directed by Gary Campbell and was an official selection at the 2020 New York Hip-Hop Film Festival and the 2020 Golden Sneakers International Hip-Hop Film Festival in Hamburg, Germany. Throughout November 2020, the film screened for four weeks on the Northwest Film Forum theatrical screening site in honor of Hip-Hop History Month.

You can watch the full movie below.

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

The Residency Presents: The Town

In the early weeks of the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic, when the music scene was knocked sideways by the cancellation of live concerts and “stay-at-home” orders came into effect, Macklemore’s The Residency and Crane City Music organized an hourlong cross-generational Zoom conversation between some of the biggest-ever hip-hop artists from Seattle’s past and present. The event was hosted by Town legend Jace.

Each of the participants was invited to offer up their individual perspectives about the past, present, and future of Northwest hip-hop, as well as talk about how the pandemic was personally affecting them and their music. At one point, Sir Mix-A-Lot says he hopes Seattle’s up-and-comers will “get on my shoulders and jump!”

The event was streamed live on April 18, 2020.

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613 EP

The 613 EP is a reemergence of sorts: Her name change from PSA (“Pop Star Archie”) to simply ARCHIE was intentional. As the sequel to her much-hyped Debutante EP from last year, ARCHIE explained to KEXP, it was time to “take ownership of her art,” and remove the separation between ‘Pop Star’ and herself. The Stranger highlights the “bombastic dance music and swirling triphop production” on this four-song project, while Artist Home says “her voice is disarmingly intimate.” Elicit Magazine adds that “her roster of pop bangers are expertly supplemented with hip-hop influences.”

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Gotham Fortress

Gotham Fortress, from AJ Suede, is a bold statement, an abrasive face-punch of certainty, punk-rap, chant-rap, looping, hypnotic, otherworldly. Throughout the upbeat pop-chorus of “Rain on The Parade,” he raps, “Fuck the competition, leave their bodies in the rain.” The restrained, resigned piano line found on “Gas Light” is inhabited by those waterlogged and distant vengeful ghosts who come ever closer. Remember that feeling of possession a few tracks later when you’re jumping on your furniture, shouting at the top of your lungs through the hardcore numbers, “Crypto Currency” and “Iconoclast.” This mixtape plucks you from your comfortable room and shoves you straight through the mirror to an underworld place stark, dream-like, nightmarish. Wunderkind producer Wolftone supplies the empty sports stadiums and the distant phantom cheering, rendering them as physical and tangible. AJ Suede’s versatility as a vocalist is on display throughout, reminding us: “I. Don’t. Waste. Any. Rhymes.” Participants in the haunting are some of the city’s buzziest collaborators: DoNormaal, Brakebill, Raven Hollywood, Crimewave, and youngster jiji. This record mines deep ore, revealing vital hip-hop hardly ready for the casket. These are zombies waiting at the gate.

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Goldtooth Squarepants

Goldtooth Squarepants, the latest album from producer Mario Casalini, made its debut on KEXP. The radio station describes it as “an ensemble patchwork… A whos-who of the all-star Seattle rap scene.” Casalini, who wrote and produced the entire EP, takes the mic sparingly, handing it instead to a talented set of features from Wishbaby, AJ Suede, Joey Kash, DoNormaal, Raven Hollywood, and Fatal Lucciauno. UK-based Fame Magazine says the record is “a sparkling collection of Northwestern rap gems.”

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Third Daughter

Few albums have as much to say about our present, turbulent times—our year of protests and rebellion, of identity, race, and responsibility—as does Third Daughter from DoNormaal. Emerging from the dragon’s maw of “gold rooster” she declares of multicultural heritage, “They still make Americans just like they used to.” During a recent DoNormaal show, one specific moment brought this record clearly into focus for me: On the chorus of the addictively catchy “ego slave,” she repeats, “March on, march on, everybody needs to step front, I’m going be the only one to take a step back right now.” It’s a line spoken by an iconoclast outsider, that when performed live, you witness as the careful orchestration of adoring masses, asking us to close in, while she, the matador on stage, the only one to step back, waves the daring red flag because the time for sitting on the sidelines in silence is over. On “dodo call” she bluntly questions, “But will you show up when the people call?” These anthems are contrasted with moments of too-close intimacy, (“revenge”) and virginal sweetness (“my teacher” featuring partner Raven Hollywood). DoNormaal complements her stellar songwriting with a cadre of the city’s most talented beatmakers: Luna God, Brakebill, Mario Casalini, Fish Narc, Joe Valley, and others. There’s so much to love here, from the vocal experimentation on “heat lullaby” to Wolftone’s guest verse on “don’t make me wait.” This remarkable record, blistering with confidence and clarity, demonstrates why DoNormaal is the titan of the local scene.

The Stranger picked Third Daughter as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2017,” saying that:

Concise is nice, but when it comes to ambitious artistic declarations of purpose, I like them long, complex, and unwieldy. The 19 tracks on Third Daughter cover a lot of sonic, rhythmic, musical, and verbal territory, but they’re united by the voice at the center, reclaiming the rapper’s traditional role as MC, presiding over a retinue of producers (one for each song) and guests. That voice is compelling, commanding, even. The lyrics are firmly grounded in a quest to locate and express a self to can live—”young bitch in a pit of lions,” she says on “My Teacher.” “I don’t wanna give it up, standing still in the spotlight vulnerable as fuck.” Without the unified subject, it might just feel like a long, good playlist or promising mixtape. But this is an LP (a double LP, in fact, so fingers crossed for a vinyl pressing). It wants to be heard. And you definitely want to hear it.

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Solar Power: New Sounds in Seattle Hip-Hop

From UK music mag The Wire: “Fab comp on fab orange vinyl collating 14 leap-off points from a loose collation of Seattle based hip-hop artists and producers. The musical diversity here is ear-popping, ranging from the glitchy dubhop femme-gospel of DoNormaal and Stas Thee Boss and the electro ferocity of Remember Face to the rain-soaked doleful grooves of Jarv Dee. Crucially, the racial and gender mix ensures that the story told never gets dull; the album chops and changes to give an intriguing portrait of 14 artists you’ve never heard before finding their own ways to chart Seattle life and Seattle strength through hip-hop. Fascinating.”

From Michigan alt-weekly Northern Express: “This compilation, complete with its appropriately solar flare-focused cover art, brings together more than a dozen performers from Seattle’s hip-hop scene on a transparent, vinyl-only collection that gives these impressive artists the flair they deserve. Included here are tracks by Jarv Dee, who throws down an unforgettable remix of “I Just Wanna”; Gifted Gab, who mixes up R&B and late ’80s rap-pop on “Show You Right”; and Sendai Era, whose tropicália-influenced closer is an album standout.”

From Dusty Groove Records in Chicago: “A nice primer on the underground hip-hop scene in Seattle, circa the post-millennium teens! Solar Power doesn’t really set out to round up a succinct snapshot of a particular Seattle style and sound, so much showcase how diverse and distinctive the voices and producers in the city are. This compilation has the potential to survive as a pretty vital time capsule of this era in Seattle hip-hop history. It’s a lot more gender inclusive than many compilations, too, showing that it isn’t just a boy’s club – and tracks includes “Know Better” by New Track City, “Stop Calling My Phone” by Taylar Elizza Beth, “Front Steps” by Raven Hollywood, and more on colored vinyl.”

From Portugal’s Rimas E Batidas hip-hop magazine: “A new hip-hop edition with 14 tracks of emerging talent. Solar energy is the motto given to this compilation: The idea that Seattle stays true to its past while using its own strength as fuel for the change and renovation of its artistic panorama. This sonic self-sufficiency, a unique sonic imprint for the city, recalls the old glory of grunge, but it’s now in rap that this engine lies, emerging from a more underground, carefully manufactured sector, in the cellars and abandoned factories that will thrive there for not much longer. DoNormaal, Astro King Phoenix, Stas Thee Boss, ZELLi or JusMoni give voice to the manifesto of a constantly changing movement across the city.”

From Jet Set Records, in Kyoto, Japan: “Out of the city where Shabazz Palaces, Blue Scholars, Macklemore and Sir Mix-A-Lot made their base and their mark, a 14-song limited-edition compilation on orange vinyl. From emerging label Crane City Music, this one introduces you to the current Seattle hip-hop scene. The musicians explore various experimental styles, ranging from R&B to G-Funk. Seven of the tracks are from women artists. The jacket artwork by Seattle artist Ari Glass is also brilliant along with the content.”

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Hiding Places

Hiding Places is a 2016 gothic trip-hop long-player from Brakebill. He’s appeared as a producer on several of my top recent records, so it’s interesting to hear a whole album of his own singular music. This is the sound of the nocturnal: The deep, distant echoes of traffic when you’re up late, when you can’t sleep, when the night fills an infinitely large canvas. Vocalist Nance adds old soul texture to “Homecoming” and “Portrait,” two of my favorite tracks. Both are drowned in nighttime reverb. Here’s music that meanders at a celebrated unhurried pace, at times reminiscent of the work of Silver Jackson or DoNormaal, the latter of whom is featured on the song “Charisma.” Very appropriate, haunting cover image.

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Quadruple Funk

The name Mario Casalini first turned up for me in the production credits of exceptional songs by Raven Hollywood and DoNormaal. I was therefore very excited to discover Quadruple Funk, an 8-song release from the man himself. His music taps into a nostalgia for a time that never was, a sort of space-age ‘70s dance funk mixed with perverted video game music, 8-bit, reversed, turned way up on the low end. Fav track “Temporary Girl” has a Daft Punk feel and the opening of “Too Much Heart” may blow out your speakers. Welcome vocal support on some tracks from Donte Peace, DoNormaal, Ill Skyy, Forza, Planet 39, Munky Do and others. Certifiably fresh. This one sounds like little else.

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Armadilla Lexus

A recent “My Philosophy” column in The Stranger turned me on to Nu Era and their latest Armadilla Lexus. Fresh beats, smooth rhymes, multiple rappers throwing verses, wicked production… This is a record where I get about five songs in and then go back to the beginning and listen to those same songs again. And again. So many standout tracks, especially “More Alice.”

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Disco Christ

Disco Christ, from Raven Matthews, is quite possibly my favorite album of the year. Channeling some of the spirits of Beck’s anti-folk Loser era, this creative and wide-ranging record is an endlessly inventive musical playground. Rambunctiously mixing hip-hop with grunge and pop and EDM, Matthews sings and raps sweetly. You rarely anticipate where the next track is going to take you, but it’s always someplace amazing. Take, for example, the gurgling, carbonated bubble pop of “Soda,” the relentless forward drive of “Don’t Stop Baby,” or the musical round of “Bikini Bottom,” featuring DoNormaal. With each track, I think “This is my new favorite song.” I saw him at The Crocodile a few weeks ago and he was a radical, committed live performer. Go see him if he’s playing near you.

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#TEN

Shout out to DJ Zeta and his ongoing series of All City Chop mixtapes. Pictured here is his latest, #TEN, a sampler of the best the local hip hop scene has to offer, featuring tracks from DoNormaal, Raz Simone, Dex Amora, Nacho Picasso, WIZDUMB and many more. He’s an awesome champion of Seattle hip-hop, has his fingers on the pulse, and has introduced me to more than a few amazing local musicians who were not yet on my radar. Get this sampler free on Bandcamp. Alternately, go see Zeta perform live at Vermillion every third Friday as part of his ongoing “Wild Style” residency.

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Distinction Management Essentials 001

This opens with DoNormaal’s “50 Jasper Horses,” (feat. the newly renamed “Rave Holly”), and the placement of that song, first, forces you to hear it anew. The flow into “Dead Rose” by Nightspace is seamless, demonstrating the genre fluidity inherent in Seattle music. (The Deadmics track, with Hekl, The Mad Scientist is a revelation.)

Distinction Management throw these ultra-hip underground parties, at places with made-up names, where everyone attending is a celebrity and you have to know them, or know of them, to know who and where and when. Last Thursday’s had pop-up clothing shops, Taylar Elizza Beth and Aaron Cohen.

Distinction puts out these coveted mixed CDs–this is the first one… The second one was just released. It’s their collection of who’s hot right now, and they know: nerdy hard rock-tronica from Youngster Jiji, gender-fluid Michete (who’s “Red Rover” kicks some serious team-switching ass), musical chameleon Wolftone and of course Sleep Steady. Anna, Jasmine, Sasha and crew, hats off to you. Of course this CD is great.

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

DoNormaal EP

Hmmm... There's not a lot of information about this project in the museum encyclopedia. We'd love your help! TOWN LOVE is maintained by an awesome community of passionate volunteers who keep it all up to date.

Do you know something about the history of this record? Do you have a favorite lyric or a favorite memory? Send us an email on why this is one of the great hip-hop albums from the Northwest. Thanks!

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Jump or Die

Jump or Die from DoNormaal has been making waves since its December 2015 self-release. She has a timeless sound that’s hard to place–a bit lackadaisical ’90s trip-hop, a bit ’40s Billie Holiday, and very, very contemporary 2016. When asking local musicians, friends, and readers who I should cover next in this series, this buzzy underground up-and-comer is an artist almost everyone brought up. The album is free on Soundcloud, so you should go grab it now.

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