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Rahmeece

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The Revenge of OTA Benga

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The Town Love Hip-Hop Awards

At the start of January 2019, Crane City Music invited Seattle’s hip-hop community to pick their favorite WA state hip-hop records from the past year in a public vote. A total of 267 records were in contention for the top prize. A total of 5,498 votes were cast. Parisalexa’s Bloom took home the top prize, narrowly beating out Kung Foo Grip’s 2KFG and Travis Thompson’s YOUGOOD?

The top 20 winners were revealed via an elaborate laser show countdown event held in February at the Pacific Science Center Laser Dome in Seattle. The laser show itself was choreographed by Joseph Reid and Gary Campbell. The event opened with a playlist of ’90s Seattle hip-hop and a short tribute to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s legacy and the 30th anniversary of his debut, SWASS.

A 14-minute film was made by Taylor Hart that captures highlights from the night.

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Kalito

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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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WTF Happened

A menacing synth chord opens WTF Happened, this 15-track comeback thunderclap from Fatal Lucciauno, who returns to the top chair after a five-year hiatus from the scene. The chord hovers, and swells, as Fatal begins rapping, slowly at first, building the intensity, growing in agitation and delirium. The videos from this record, “Sacrifice,” “Speaking in Tongues,” and “WTF Happened” all feature him staring directly at the camera, dispensing with adornment… In the case of the latter one, he’s shirtless, marching down an alleyway, half-naked and powerful, just a man spitting with that strong, unmistakable rapid-fire wordplay. Fav track “Power Play” is lyrical and hypnotic. There’s an elegant way that these songs unfold, downtrodden, but hopeful, deliberating choices or lack of choices, with songs like “I’d Rather Die,” contemplating time and mortality. This record is supported by the weight of the Black Umbrella collective, with guest verses from Sam Lachow and Malitia Malimob, along with epic string-heavy production that’s become something of a signature for that label. It’s good to have you back and bold, Fatal Lucciauno. WTF Happened, indeed.

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Romaro Franceswa

The Stranger picked Romaro Franceswa as one of the “Top 5 Albums of 2013,” saying that:

In late spring, the young rapper Romaro Franceswa dropped an excellent self-titled album that was produced by the local veteran BeanOne. The album is about the streets, and the streets that Franceswa is all about are found in Federal Way. The album is good for three reasons: Franceswa’s raps are packed with energy, and this energy is matched by the second reason, BeanOne’s beats (this cat has been in the business since the mid-’90s—probably even earlier than that—and yet he manages to sound as fresh and energetic as a young buck going for broke). Three, Romaro Franceswa kept the streets in the 2013 game. What do I mean by this? With the continued gentrification of Seattle (good-bye, Yesler Terrace), it’s important to keep in mind (and not lose sight of) the life of those who are harassed by racist cops and often have to hustle to make a living in a society that has systematically abandoned them. In short, Franceswa is keeping it real.

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This That & Th3rdz

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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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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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Respect

Seattle hip-hop blog 206UP picked this record as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2012,” saying that:

Fatal Lucciauno’s stubborn refusal of the Seattle rap status quo is probably one of the most important statements made in the local arts. In a city home to the nation’s annual White Privilege Conference, it’s no surprise that the gregarious Macklemore has become Seattle hip-hop’s envoy to the rest of the world. That shit happened basically by default.

On the colder end of town, however, is where Fatal stages his operations. Hardcore and unforgiving to a fault, Respect is the other side of Seattle rap’s truth. It rejects even the militant-light stylings of acts like Blue Scholars and Gabriel Teodros, preferring to cast flickering reds and blues on the folks too preoccupied with basic survival than to be troubled with thoughts of the revolution. And in a year when we viewed all local rap through a Heist-colored lens, it’s important to ask ourselves: What percentage of those “Thrift Shop”-ers actually understood how their discovery of joy in a dirty bargain bin can be construed as yet another ironic luxury is borne out of privilege?

It’s true we’re all better people when re-purposing perfectly useable disposed goods, feeding our souls with something truer than what is marketed to us. But Fatal’s Respect speaks on a different type of hunger: the one for things untarnished after a lifetime of languishing at the bottom.

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The Message E.P.

Seattle rap legend Fatal Lucciauno was very busy in 2012. While he was still working on his grand and iconic opus Respect, Fatal went in the studio with Jake One, and the two of them conjured up a sneak-attack EP called The Message. Respect, which included hits like “Gotta Go,” “Black Hoody Rap,” and “Better Than You,” was completed and released later that same year, and both projects dropped on Seattle’s Sportn’ Life Records.

The Message boasts a lineup of eleven original Jake One beats of all sizes and shapes. The danger of doing a whole record with only one producer is a cloned sound. Jake avoids this pitfall thanks to his creativity, and each beat on The Message is different from the others. On “Warm Ups,” Fatal runs easy victory laps around less capable rappers. “Sinners Prayer” is a strong cut, where the contemplative lyrics are perfectly nestled in the gentle beat. “Some of us are just prone to violence,” confesses Fatal.

One of Fatal’s strongest traits as an MC is the fact that he examines society’s myriad contradictions in his search for meaning. He poses rhetorical question after question on this EP. “How would the world react to a president who’s Black if Huey’s the one who made it instead of Barack,” he asks on “Drunken Poetry.” The last song on The Message, “Cry For Help,” doubles down on this concept, for instance, “What if I was to turn state’s evidence, go against everything I ever believed in?”

Production on “The Mad Hatter” goes to the same drum gravity vortexes found in Jake’s beat for “Rock Co.Kane Flow” by De La Soul. Fatal assembles a strong verbal attack, for example, “Cut your b**** up, this ain’t Nip & Tuck.” But, for me, “Mad Hatter” is too similar to the 2004 De La track for me to relax and enjoy it. Similarly, I also found the loud, peppy drums on “My Caliber” to be distracting when placed with the more mellow lyrics of this love song.

“The Life” is probably my favorite track on The Message. It is an affectionate and sentimental look at the day to day experiences of a dyed-in-the-wool Seattle hustler. Fatal really has a skill at imagery, and similar to Notorious BIG, he packs a lot of content into very few words. “Praying that the District Attorney will lift the sentence. Dreams of a corner office, but every time I’m in it, they give a cup to piss in,” he laments. Some might find the EP’s prominent f-slurs offensive, but no-one can deny that Fatal Lucciauno is among the most dedicated rappers to ever grace the Emerald City streets. Written by Novocaine132

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Cidewayz: Full Circle

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Graffiti Post Mixtape

Graffiti Post by Soul The Interrogator dropped in 2010, six years after his debut Beyond All Meanz in 2004. This compilation album is in a mixtape format with excellent scratching and cutting by the host, DJ Peg. One track from Beyond All Meanz made it onto Graffiti Post, titled “Back The Track Up.”

The mixtape also contains many of Soul’s greatest hits from his second album Prawdukt which was released in 2008. “Game Face” is upbeat and motivational, and it’s the perfect song to play for a workout or when you just need to get mentally pumped up. “Been Waitin” is a sweet love letter describing having feelings for someone special. Soul wants to share his feelings with a girl but he also doesn’t want to ruin the friendship, it’s very relatable to anyone who has ever felt shy about approaching a crush. “Duck Down” features local Seattle rapper Grynch who rhymes, “And I’m skilled so Soul and me are killing it, you’re so so I just don’t be feeling it.”

There is plenty of new material not found on either of his albums, one standout is “Love And Happiness.” This track samples the famous Al Green song, and gives it a funky new modern flavor. “Pity Pot” is also new, and it’s one of Soul The Interrogator’s funniest tracks. In “Pity Pot” Soul laments the difficulty of trying to get famous, and how hard it can be to make a name for yourself as a rapper. My personal favorite track on the Graffiti Post mixtape is “What Is Life,” which examines the role we play in our communities. Soul wonders why materialism is so rampant in rap. He reminds us that helping others should be our primary mission in life. It’s a powerful song. Overall, Soul’s messages are heavy on positivity and all about chasing your dreams.Written by Novocaine132

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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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Ali'Yah

Seattle hip-hop blog 206UP picked this record as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2009,” saying that:

Ali’Yah represented a shift in tone and lifestyle for Sportn’ Life lead dog, D. Black. A man whose rap career began with aggressive, street-oriented rhyming seems to have made a 180-degree turn. He’s still aggressive and street-oriented but now moving in a different direction, urging his fellow soldiers to step away from the drugs and guns and toward the redeeming light of personal and social responsibility. There was a lot of uplifting hip-hop in Seattle this year and D. Black’s Ali’Yah proudly led the way.

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Reigncraft Volume 8: Sweat Equity

The final numbers are rather impressive! Seven years. Eight CDs. One hundred and sixty songs! Reigncraft was a networking experiment that released compilations of Northwest hip-hop artists from 2003 until 2009. Reigncraft Volume 8: Sweat Equity is the final chapter of this deep Seattle journey. As with the other volumes, everything on the CD is hot, but I will focus on just a few of my favorites to save space.

Billy The Fridge shouts out Reigncraft 8 on his bouncy track “Cadillac Rollin Fat.” This song was later remixed with verses by Barfly and Gatsby, but here you get three entertaining verses by Fridge. From my years of listening to this artist, I have concluded that while many rappers use words simply to communicate, Fridge instead kaleidoscopes the English language in his quest to entertain. He is the Willy Wonka of Seattle hip-hop, and if you haven’t yet experienced Billy The Fridge, you are in for a treat.

Artist LaRue calls for racial unity and solidarity with the track “Rise Up,” and the positive message here is resounding. Sometimes you need a reminder of what’s important in life. The late Zig Ziglar gave us a relevant quote to chew on, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing, that’s why we recommend it daily.” To me, tracks like “Rise Up” gain value as the years go by, while other materialistic or violent songs become obsolete.

“The Myth” by Fatal Lucciauno is a heavy duty tour de force. The beat by B.Brown is grand, evoking the pomp and circumstance of Dr Dre’s masterpiece 2001. Fatal shows why he is perhaps the most complex lyricist ever to emerge from Seattle. “Fixed everything from horse races to court cases,” he boasts. Fatal’s work carries the somewhat divine authority of a writer who wastes no words. Each word and phrase in “The Myth” is there for a reason, fate demands it.

With a sophisticated beat by Mr. Hill, and lyrics of velvet by Candidt, “Life Of A Emcee” might be competing with Greasy Earl’s “New Earl Order” as my favorite Reigncraft track of the entire series. Candidt makes rapping look effortless, and he threads an important needle that many MCs can’t. What I mean is he puts excitement and drama in his voice, but doesn’t have to raise the volume to do so. Additionally, he doesn’t fall in to the common lyrical trap of rote recitation, so “Life Of A Emcee” feels unrehearsed and spontaneous. Congratulations to the series executive producer KNDNM, and to all the artists who ever contributed to Reigncraft. Written by Novocaine132

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The Only Forgotten Son

In a podcast interview with DJ Peg, Fatal Lucciauno remembers the first rap that he ever wrote when he was a young child of seven or eight years old. Then he proceeds to spit the verse, which uses the hook, “Education is the key.” Fatal also remembers a second early rhyme that he wrote about having a positive Black identity, despite the legacy of historical American racism.

Fast forward to 2006, and Seattle rap family Sportn’ Life Records was having a huge year. The label put out Cause & Effect by D. Black, an album so heavy that it has been described here at Town Love as a “debate-ending anvil from a talented prodigy.” Sportn’ Life then teased an album from Fatal Lucciauno by dropping a three-song promo CDr. The hard hitting tracks, “Watch My Back,” “You Ain’t Hood,” and “Opportunity (feat. J Pinder),” made an impression on Seattle rap fans, and by 2007, Fatal had completed his debut album, The Only Forgotten Son.

“I’m Here” starts things off like a shot of strong liquor, instantly setting the mood. Before The Only Forgotten Son, Fatal had collaborated a couple of times with D. Black, and early in their careers the two rappers shared a lyrical and thematic gangsta rap lane. Fatal’s delivery on “I’m Here” definitely reminds me of D. Black, and that’s a good thing. The music sounds doom-filled and ominous, and the lyrics are hungry, “So fuck the label, fuck the law, fugitive artist, I just duck and draw.”

“Won’t Change” brings Tribal Productions legend Vitamin D onboard to drop his herky-jerky jalopy flow over a slinky groove. In fact, Vitamin keeps his production batting average high by effortlessly smacking beats like this one out of the park. Vitamin shares some of his life history so we can understand his pedigree, “Raised Democrat, soul child, used to bump Pendergrass, into rap, plus there’s a little pimping in the cat.” Fatal’s lyrics are more defiant, and he stakes a claim to his hood identity which is set in stone. Things get even more gritty on “Don’t Grind Don’t Eat,” and the song reminds us that everyone needs a hustle to survive, whether it’s a legit one, or something more criminal.

My favorite track on the album is “Gangsta Groove.” This absolute classic was produced by D. Black, who made six of the beats on the album, including “I’m Here.” “Gangsta Groove” drops little bon mots and aphorisms alongside punchlines and hard rhymes. With references to David Hasselhoff and O.J. Simpson, the track weaves humor with real talk in a very effective way. Fatal would go on to have one of the most accomplished careers of any Seattle MC, with at least six full albums under his belt. The Only Forgotten Son is another big win for Sportn’ Life Records. Written by Novocaine132

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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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The Cause & Effect

Today, I’m sharing the history of the 2006 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 Frazer 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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The Sport-N-Life Compilation Vol. 1

Sportn’ Life Records launched in 2002 with a two-song, twelve-inch rap single. The A-side was called “We Are” by Last Men Standin, and the cut lyrically served as a rectangle-sticker-on-their-chest introduction to the group and the label. The single’s B-side was by Danger, later known as D. Black and now Nissim Black, and titled “You Need A Thug.” Both tracks were produced by Vitamin D of Tribal Productions fame. Sportn’ Life co-founders Devon Manier, Emery “Slim” Buford, and Jamal Henderson quickly began to attract talent, and in 2003 the label put out a massive collection of Seattle hip-hop called The Sport-N-Life Compilation Vol. 1, containing twenty one tracks.

Let me apologize ahead of time to some of the fine artists that I will not have time to mention, there are too many tracks here to cover them all. Danger and Fatal Lucciauno start things off with their excellent “Make A Change.” Both performers have an economic way of rapping, using supply and demand to create phrases, sentences, and verses of extreme value.

The aforementioned Vitamin D carries some weight on Compilation Vol. 1, producing four cuts on the CD. Besides the two songs from the 2002 Sportn’ Life single which both appear here, Narcotik’s easy-paced Seattle classic “Chips To A Cell” from the group’s 1995 album Intro To The Central is also featured. Vitamin’s own track “Pimp Of The Year,” is yet another example of his talent both in the booth and twisting the knobs.

Producer J Bellamy gets flutey on J. One’s pop-sounding “Tonight,” featuring a short rap by Wojack and vocals by Sophia. “No Ordinary” by Footprints is one of my favorites of the whole set. “The rumor is I’d make a million overseas. America, she’s so hard to please,” is one of Proh Mic’s effortless lyrics. Mall Saint also entertains with “Caught In The Red,” showing off his very unique, speedy rapping style.

Three huge names finish the long compilation, Silent Lambs, Fleeta Partee, and Candidt. Sportn’ Life managed to accomplish so much with this ambitious CD. The thoughtful project brought together artists who may not have otherwise appeared together, which added so much character to the listening experience. I would be remiss if Bean One did not get a shout out too, for producing over a dozen beats on Compilation Vol. 1. Written by Novocaine132

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