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Hello World

The Stranger picked Hello World as one of the “6 Best Hip-Hop Albums of 2005” saying:

Framework is the street name for Keith Russell. Hello World is his debut CD, and it stands as this year’s highest achievement in hip-hop. Not since Silent Lambs Project’s Soul Liquor has there been a recording that erupts with so much creativity—in both senses of the word: innovation and procreation. There are 20 tracks packed into this CD, and all are rich, thick, and fecund. Hello World gives the distinct impression that Framework, the rapper, and Bean One, the producer, could easily go beyond the physical limits of the CD, and add 20 more equally superb tracks. When Bean One and Framework connect, the results are volcanic.

Hello World was recorded in Bean One’s house in the University District. “It took 31 days to make,” explains Bean One. “I gave Framework seven CDs of beats. He took them home, wrote stuff, and then he started coming around to my place at 12 at night to record. He was always on time, and wouldn’t be drunk or high but ready for some go-get-it shit. And that’s the kind of professionalism I admire. Some rappers come to my place and they are so high they don’t know what they’re doing, and begin wasting my time. Framework was there on time and ready to work.”

Framework’s raps are about street life—thugging for a living, hustling hard drugs, dealing with obdurate cops, going in and out of America’s bloated prison system. “I’m from the streets where it’s scandalous/don’t be feeling scared while teenagers that be acting mannish,” raps Framework, who was recently released from King County Regional Justice Center, where he spent a good part of this hip-hop-splendid year. “I don’t always agree with what he has to say,” explains Bean One, “but he has the natural elements that make an emcee: elements of cadence, chrism, and imagination. And that is why I have to work with him. There are people who say things that I agree with but they sound like shit. And I can’t work with them.”

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Reigncraft, Volume 5: Process of Progress

In 2003 and 2004, executive producer KNDNM assembled and released four Seattle rap compilations under the title Reigncraft. In 2005, the fifth volume in the series stepped up to the plate. RC5: Process Of Progress shows that there was no shortage of hungry hip-hop fiends who wanted exposure. “Real Life” by Grynch is clever, as producer Referenz uses the (hot at the time but now quite vintage) sped-up soul sample technique to bring emotion into his chorus. “You don’t gotta be in jail to be doing some time,” raps Grynch, meditating on the power of a positive or negative attitude to change our outcomes.

Two tracks on Process Of Progress are produced by Northwest stalwart Bean One. “They See Me” by Framework is outstanding, listen for the Ofra Haza accoutrements. The song appeared on Frame’s terrific 2005 album Hello World. On “They See Me,” he employs concise, descriptive phrases for his verses, and even tosses in references to other rap songs. “Girl was in the cut, backing it up to Joey Crack’s Lean hit,” and also, “baby shaking it fast like I was Mystikal.” The other Bean cut is “Make A Hit,” by Damian Black who effortlessly distributes the smoothest rhymes ever, like a poker dealer whipping cards around the table. “Well, go ahead and say I’m cocky, but nothing you say will ever stop me, nothing you say will ever top me, nothing you do will ever drop me, just sit back go ahead and watch me, take some notes go ahead and copy.”

For explicit sex talk, look to “Don’t Front” by Twin G. I must admit that the chorus of Aquino’s “Left Coastin” gets me every time. “We pop shots cause we got to, I guess that makes us a pop crew,” with cutting and scratching to enhance the effect. I would have leaned in and titled the song “Pop Crew.” The Block Burners drop a serious heater titled “Big Bank.” At first the song seems overly basic, but different elements weave in and out while the MCs rip the mic. By the end of “Big Bank” you just want to rewind and listen again. Five volumes is a huge accomplishment for Reigncraft, and they weren’t even done yet. Written by Novocaine132

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The Streetz Iz Enough

Skuntdunanna dropped his CD, Trapped In Da Hatrixx, on Sea Sick Records in 1998. By the time his next album The Streetz Iz Enough came out in 2003, Skunt had joined D-Sane’s Street Level Records, home to Syko, IK, Byrdie, and the label’s marquee group F.T.S. The Streetz Iz Enough is a tour de force from one of the slickest rappers to ever emerge from Seattle. Spending all his time and effort in the studio paid off, allowing Skunt to develop a unique personality and character on the mic in real time, and the listener can hear him shifting gears between gangsta, hustler, pimp, comedian, and stone cold MC.

To me, one of the best things about Skunt’s material is the steady flow of truly hilarious punchlines. “Must have got help from the Post Office, because they turned thug overnight,” is one that always makes me chuckle. He makes joke after joke, using wordplay and insults, generally staying three or four steps ahead of the listener. Because his flow is so asymmetrical, there’s no way to know what he’s going to say next. Guest appearances enhance many of the tracks here. Wanz sings the groovy hook on “All I Got,” rap veteran Silver Shadow D lends some ragga chanting to “Soundproof,” and golden-voiced Byrdie drops a delectable verse on “Shake It.”

My favorite cut on this album is the title track, “The Streetz Iz Enough,” featuring underground Seattle rap hero Framework. This song goes so hard with lines like, “Memories of childhood days, but now instead of playing ball, I’m dropping flowers on graves.” Another hot track on this CD is simply titled, “Skuntdunanna.” “Pronounce the f***ing name right, dog,” he exhorts the listener. “Crazy Life Pt. 2” is an autobiographical piece which tells Skunt’s story of coming up in the Seattle rap game. There are even a couple of skits, “Rap Right Commercial,” and “Rejection Hotline,” which add to the entertaining vibe of the album. The cover artwork says this is the first official Skuntdunanna album, and the musical partnership between Skuntdunanna and D-Sane continued to grow throughout the 2000s and 2010s. Written by Novocaine132

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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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