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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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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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Choked Up

Here is an entirely terrific album of grooved beats, laidback flows, judiciously selected samples (lots of funky jazz), and first-rate production. The fact that it’s by two locals–Mr. Supreme and Sureshot–means a modern hip-hop collection that it’s the first album to offer the full scope of a Seattle hip-hop band over the course of an entire LP. instead of a narrow glimpse, like those offered on recent Seattle hip-hop comps 14 Fathoms Deep and Do the Math.

Choked Up starts with an absolute wallop as “Lifted,” an organ vamp with a beat, intros the LP. The first real song, “Heavyweight,” features a fat, acid jazz horn chart squatting on top of strong percussion. There’s a taste of entirely palatable turntable work as the first impression hits like a bolt from the blue: Could this be jazz and hip-hop? Could this be really, really good jazzy hip-hop?

The third track establishes the legitimacy of Sharpshooters. They begin with “Analyze,” a drifting, underwater beat just long enough to set the stage for the boss rhymes of Trust (The Soul Trooper). At this point, the album is about perfect. Three fat tracks, not a dud. When Trust drops a thoroughly chilled line about our favorite hoops team, it seems just like hip hop heaven.

The LP rolls, moving easily forward instrumentals dovetailed perfectly wh the raps. The beats are brisk, the horns well-tempered, the flows right on production huge, and the guest appearances (Kylea, Wordsayer, and Mad Fanatic) add to the album while not subtracting from the band.

Presently, there is a load of overhyped hip-hop from which to choose. Much of it, especially from the big-name, big-image rappers, doesn’t measure up. This record delivers. The fact that they’re local and sending shoutouts all over town is just gravy. (This review originally appeared in The Rocket and was written by S. Duda.)

Here’s another take:

Choked Up was originally released on Conception Records and later reissued on New York-based Shadow Records. In the time they were around, Shadow managed to introduce some of the most memorable and enduring acid jazz records to the American audience. DJ Krush had his American debut with his album Krush, as did DJ Cam’s Mad Blunted Jazz. Funki Porcini, 9 Lazy 9, Dj Food, and Up, Bustle, and Out were just a few other notable names on Shadow’s roster. Shadow was distinctive and catered to a specific audience who was into trendy, late-90’s trip-hop and acid jazz. Although the Sharpshooters were a Northwest group, I probably wouldn’t have known about them if they hadn’t been part of the Shadow Records family… Even if I did live in the same city as them.

The Sharpshooters were a duo consisting of Seattle producers Mr. Supreme and DJ Sureshot. Supreme distributed their work on his own indie hip-hop label, Conception Records. And, although they were local, Conception at that time was just starting and had some steam to build still. So, it was through a distribution deal with a label that specialized in waking up American audiences to foreign artists that I heard about a group and label that lived a couple of miles from me. Their sophomore release, Choked Up, is a cool, blunted slab of jazzy hip-hop. Flutes, saxes, and vibes dominate the mix as much as the drum loops do, creating a smoky blend of coffee-house jazz hop. Vocal guests including Four Fifths, Mad Fanatic, and Kylea from Beyond Reality add flavor to a few select tracks.

I have an idea. Do yourself a favor; save this record for the summer. Put this on a playlist along with other like-minded albums of the time (Krush’s self-titled record, Digable Planets’ Blowout Comb, and Guru’s Jazzmatazz vol.2 are good recommendations). Find something pretty to look at. Then sit back in the evening, let the records play, and see where you go. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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