A film about Northwest hip-hop from

The Blank Canvas

Filmmaker and hip-Hop musician Rafael Flores spent six years making The Blank Canvas: Hip-Hop’s Struggle for Representation in Seattle. The film attempts to document the unique identity of hip-hop culture in Seattle, through interviews with over 100 rappers, producers, DJs, graffiti artists, break-dancers, fashion designers, and promoters from The Town.

It takes us on a journey that investigates the origins of Hip-Hop in the Northwest, the legacy of Sir-Mix-a-Lot, the notorious 1985 Teen Dance Ordinance, Clear-Channel’s dominance over commercial Hip-Hop radio, the increasing popularity of white rappers in Seattle, and hip-hop’s struggle for representation in a seemingly liberal city.

The full 96-minute film is available for rent on Vimeo for $5. Watch the trailer below.

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

The Otherside

The Otherside is an hour-long documentary predominantly covering Seattle’s Capitol Hill-centric “third wave” hip-hop scene, circa 2010. This was a time when MP3s and streaming were fairly new and completely reshaping the music industry. Artists like Blue Scholars were experimenting with Kickstarter and direct fan support. Everyone was trying something new.

There’s a wealth of great interviews, concerts, and backstage footage from artists across the Town. There are hella people in this movie. It’s clear the filmmaker tried to talk with anyone and everyone who was willing. There are some great long chats with Jake One, Prometheus Brown, and Sir Mix-A-Lot. There’s also lots of footage of pre-stardom Macklemore & Ryan Lewis as they prepare to drop The Heist.

Larry Mizell Jr. offers up a four-point guide to being successful in the Northwest: “Be truthful to yourself. Be respectful and knowledgeable of what’s going on and what came before you. Be good: Work on your craft. Further the culture at all times.”

The Otherside premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival and was an audience favorite, selling out two consecutive screenings. It was also chosen as “Best of SIFF” by festival programmers.

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Yuk The World

Seattle hip-hop blog 206UP picked this record as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2011,” saying that:

Here we have the trio of Brainstorm, S.E.V., and Fearce Villain behaving in the way we’re accustomed to: Mixing top-shelf brag rap with sobering tales about growing up hard in the South End. It’s been over four years since Space Music, the area’s official introduction to the Three Bad Brothas from Renton. Since then, the crew has been missing a key component to their hustle: The production of Bean One, whose lively trunk rattle serves as the perfect delivery vehicle for the three MCs’ sharp witticisms. Thankfully Bean is back here, providing the majority of the framework in which Dyme Def gets busy. One complaint: Yuk The World is too long, but that’s only because Dyme Def’s real voice hasn’t been heard in some time. Consider this a year-ending takeover attempt by one of the SEA’s most important groups in history.

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Town Biz Mixtape

No list of essential Seattle hip-hop compilations would be complete without the inclusion of Jake One’s 27-track opus, the Town Biz Mixtape. He dug deep into the crates, surfacing lost hits, deep cuts, and the finest local hip-hop spanning more than 20 years. (From 1989 to 2010, when this CD was released.)

The mixtape is an essential playlist that surfaces forgotten gems and unexpected bangers. My favorite track here is Vitamin D’s “Who That??” feat. The Note (from Narcotik), but there are so, so many solid tracks. Everyone’s on this, from Blind Council to Mash Hall, The Physics, Tay Sean, J. Pinder, and Shabazz Palaces. Listening to Town Biz will leave you realizing how blessed we are to have so much musical talent in our own backyard. But we knew that already, didn’t we? Thanks to Jake One for compiling this so we can spin it on a sunny summer afternoon and feel hella proud.

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Panic EP

It’s been a tensely political week in a highly political year. I took a brief break by rolling the clock back to 2009 when the nation’s concerns were recession and house foreclosures and dealing with the great George W. Bush hangover. Obama was a brand new president and we didn’t know what to make of him yet. It’s in this context that Dyme Def released their Panic EP, featuring seven highly political songs from another era. The title track repeats the refrain, “somebody please help me.” Most of the work here is classic boom-bap, with naked drums, sample-heavy riffs, brass hits, and sirens that channel ’90s NYC, like on the captivating “Pick Up A Flow.” There are some great spacey stereo effects on “Foot Up On The Gas” worthy of your headphones. It’s track 3, “Not That Dude,” that most closely contemplates the identity politics of our past week, with a verse that begins, “you’re not like me and I’m not like you.” Let’s hope we can all find common ground regardless. I’m bummed I missed both of their summer ’17 Seattle shows, but hopefully, we’ll hear more from Dyme Def soon.

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The Cause & Effect

Today, I’m sharing the history of the 2007 G-Funk debut of D.Black, The Cause & Effect. It dropped descended from a line of hip-hop royalty: The son of James Croone (aka Captain Crunch J Croone) of Emerald Street Boys and Mia Black from Emerald Street Girls. As a youth, D.Black was mentored by Vitamin D, then co-managed by Sir Mix-A-Lot’s manager Ricardo Fraiser and Source of Labor’s J.Moore (RIP).

At age 16, he was a co-founder of legendary Sportn’ Life Records alongside Devon Manier, and a driving force behind one of our town’s most important hip-hop artifacts, the 2003 Sportin’ Life compilation featuring Oldominion, Narcotik, Silent Lambs Project, Frame, and others. The label also launched the careers of Fatal Lucciauno and Spac3eman.

So in the middle of this tornado, 19-year-old D.Black released The Cause & Effect, a debate-ending anvil from a talented prodigy. It features production from hip-hop heavyweights: Bean One, Jake One, Supreme La Rock (as part of The Conmen), Fearce, and Ryan Croone (famous for the funky gangsta sound of Squeek Butty Bug’s excellent Really Cheatin’ from 1997). A bunch of cuts were produced by D.Black himself. Every track oozes confidence and certainty. There are so many gems here.

Like most mid-00 CDs, 19 tracks fill the full 72-minute capacity, and there are features galore from Fatal, Choklate, J. Pinder, Dyme Def, and The Parker Brothaz. This a true Seattle classic available on Spotify and Bandcamp. Go listen today.

Here’s a curious twist to the story: Shortly after releasing this record, D.Black abandoned his gangsta roots and cut ties with this project. Years later, he finally returned to the mic under a new name, Nissim, and a new identity as a black Orthodox Jewish hip-hop artist based in Israel.

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Space Music

Space Music by Dyme Def from 2007 isn’t one to listen to on headphones: Channeling old-school rap, remixing heavyweights like Kurtis Blow and The Beatles, this is the album to bring to the next beach party–preferably on cassette on a ghetto blaster–and play loud while kickin’ it with friends. This is music to be shared. I love the interplay between the three emcees and the way sample hooks are derived from the less obvious parts of the song, like “Clap your hands…” from “The Breaks.” A good soundtrack for summer.

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The Coolout Network

Here’s a full episode of Georgio Brown’s The Coolout Network, from either 2006 or 2007. (This might be Sportn’ Life Swagger Fest from April 2007?)

Coolout hosts Gloria Medina and Royce hang out backstage at Chop Suey and chop it up with the performers, surfacing candid comments and impromptu freestyles from Fatal Lucciauno, D. Black, Mackelmore, and Dyme Def.

There are some great live performances here from big names working small stages early in their careers. “If you weren’t here at Chop Suey on a Tuesday, you missed it.” How familiar does that sound? This scene never really changes.

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