A film about Northwest hip-hop from

The Coolout Legacy

NYC filmmaker Georgio Brown moved to the Northwest in the early ’90s. In 1991, along with VJ D, he founded The Coolout Network, a public access show on cable television that would record the evolution of Seattle’s early hip-hop scene. As Georgio says at the beginning of this film, “we went to the community centers, parks, schools, clubs… Every place that hip-hop was happening… We wanted to cover it.” They certainly did. Coolout ran for 16 years on television, from 1991 until 2007. Various forms of the project continue online to this day.

This particular film, The Coolout Legacy was made by Georgio Brown himself. He narrates and reflects on the impact of the show and its importance to our local hip-hop community.

There’s vintage footage here galore: A teenage Funk Daddy shows off a trophy “taller than me” that he won at a DJ contest, before showing us some of the moves that earned him the victory. Laura “Piece” Kelley addresses the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated rap scene. She often faces the insult that “she can rap pretty good for a girl.” But she replies, “I rap good for the world… And I don’t rap good. I rap well.”

Rapper H-Bomb heaps some well-deserved praise on Specswizard: “Nobody’s been doing hip-hop in Seattle longer than Specs.” We then catch up with the ‘Wizard and he shares a book of graffiti sketches from ’93. The late, great J. Moore shares his wisdom for success and acknowledges the importance of that Coolout played in “coalescing a scene.”

There are numerous live performances and freestyles of Seattle legends in their early days, as well as national acts like Mary J. Blige and Leaders of The New School. Brown talks about encouraging young artists who bravely stand on a stage with a mic and bear their truths. It’s hard. But with Coolout filming you, “every little victory helps,” adds Ghetto Chilldren’s B-Self.

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Byrd's Eye View

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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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In Tha Mix

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Evolution of Hip-Hop

In 2004, Seattle’s hip-hop scene was in transition. Enter Tendai Maraire of the group C.A.V.E’. which had recorded their album Holy Haters a few years prior in 2000. Tendai, a virtuoso musician who would later join with Ishmael Butler to create Shabazz Palaces, looked around Seattle, pulled fifteen tracks from fifteen different DJs and MCs, and combined them into this amazing compilation.

Evolution Of Hip Hop is an unfiltered look at Seattle’s diverse hip-hop community in the mid-2000s, and the music is top-notch. Ghetto Chilldren’s track “Young Tender” shows how good Vitamin and B-Self are at breaking words down to their syllables and rearranging them into a roller coaster of inflection. “Peaches and Cream” by Merm and Mal snaps the funk so hard that it was also included on the Town Biz mixtape six years later. In a nod to hip hop DJ culture, there are DJ-only tracks by Funk Daddy, Topspin, and DV One, three of Seattle’s veteran party and club entertainers.

Evolution Of Hip Hop has so many great artists that it’s hard to believe. With names like Candidt, E-Dawg, Jace and Blak, Boom Bap Project, Skuntdunanna, and many others, there is something for every possible listener. “Yeah Yeah Baby” by C.A.V.E. is one of the most blazing tracks on the whole project, careening like a car chase loaded with drama.

When compilations are at their best, they can capture a moment in time like a Polaroid. Evolution Of Hip Hop allows you to see through the camera from the point of view of a young Tendai Maraire. Push the button! (Written by Novocaine132.)

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I Want All That

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Hatas All Pause

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Which Way Is Up

Seattle’s Crooked Path may not have come together were it not for Sir Mix-A-Lot’s matchmaking. After his mega-success with “big butts,” Mix produced Seattle’s first hip-hop compilation, Seattle… The Dark Side. On that compilation, rapper Jay-Skee appears on two tracks, both produced by Greg B, aka Funk Daddy. It was a two-song partnership that birthed the first Crooked Path mixtape, After Dark, in 1993.

Five years passed before the duo dropped Which Way Is Up on Oakland’s Dogday Records. By this point, Funk Daddy was a certified hitmaker, having contributed his signature squelch to E-40’s platinum release, In A Major Way and other mainstream hits.

On Which Way Is Up it’s clear that he and J-Skee, with the addition of Dee-Lyrious, are messing around, having fun, creating classic gangsta cuts, all posturing, reputation, drug-dealing, sexual conquests, finger on the trigger shit.

Favorite tune “Young Playa” lifts the melody from Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like An Eagle,” and tells the story of a young man trying to keep just a hair on the right side of the law while walking around Yesler Terrace. (There’s also a sweet reference to “where the Ghetto Chilldren play…”) This whole record is on Spotify and you should go spin it today for them classic Seattle vibes.

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A.K.A Mista K-Sen

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Return of The Bumpasaurus

Sir Mix-A-Lot is an absolute genius. How else could he have come up with such a perfect metaphor to use for his newest LP, Return of the Bumpasaurus? The record is dinosaur-like in every way: small-brained, slow-moving, and, not least of all, extinct.

Return of the Bumpasaurus, as much as any of Mix’s recent offerings, reeks of Velveeta pop platinum. The only way I could categorize these tracks as hip-hop would be in the area of bad parody.

The song “Mob Style” should carry a “contents under pressure’ warning sticker for all the clichés and stereotypes that have been mercilessly crammed together. Mix uses the Sugarhill Gang’s “Jump on It” to simultaneously kiss asses in at least two dozen states across the U.S. (Yes, he did use this same idea in “Square Dance Rap” almost ten years ago-it’s not just your imagination.) Don’t worry, the lifted Kraftwerk-/Miami-bass-style beat is here just like on every other Mix record. Disses, put-downs, and egomania run amok throughout the entire album.

This wouldn’t be so bad if Mix were 18 or 19 years old and not pushing 35. It would take a city as recycling crazy as Seattle to produce an album that is so blatantly reused. The only points I can give Mix are for letting my man Funk Daddy rumble things up on the track “Top Ten List,” reminding me of skills like the track “Yo Flow” on Funk’s album Is Tha Source. It’s easy to see why so many artists are clamoring for Funk Daddy’s keyboard and production talents. As for Mix-A-Lot, extinction looms baby. (This review originally appeared in The Rocket and was written by Novocaine132.)

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Funk U Right On Up

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Is Tha Source

Maybe it’s the influence of Gifted Gab’s murderous new masterpiece, Cause & Effect, that’s resulted in my listening to a lot of Seattle G-Funk and Gangsta classics lately. Here’s Is Tha Source by Funk Daddy, released in 1995. Funk has been releasing new music for over 30 years: He produced the eagerly-anticipated 2019 The Mixtape Vol. 2 from Maribased1. At the other end of his timeline, in the ‘80s, he was Greg B from Ready-N-Willin’ and also Kid Sensation’s DJ. Fascinated with Sir Mix-A-Lot’s production prowess, he obtained Mix’s old equipment, but soon realized it’s the player and not the gear, and developed his own unique sound. Listen for that delightful, rubbery, squashy bass and the tickling, squishy highs. (His track “Yo Flow” is golden honey.) Multitalented, he’s also famously won most any DJ, MC, or beat battle he’s been in and was one of the members of hip-hop group Crooked Path. Oh, and in 1995 he produced a bunch of E-40’s platinum-selling record In A Major Way. It was that same year that Funk Daddy dropped this debut CD, a relaxed 15-track romp through Seattle summer. In the lyrics, he’s aware of his baller resume but humble to his roots. (Okay, and yeah, there’s also “Fu?K,” a song about how big his “meat” is.) “When I hit the club, it’s on V.I.P. status…” he raps on “Streets of S.E.A.” while later stating that “The day I can’t roll through the CD… is the day I let my own hood beat me.” There are several hometown anthems here, including the aforementioned “Streets” and creeper “Rainy Day Hustle” that argues for reparations “since I’m from Seattle where it rains all the time.” Funk Daddy—thank you for your long service to the Seattle music scene. Everybody else—This record is on Spotify, so go crank it loud today.

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After Dark

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Seattle... The Dark Side

BOOM! Here it is. The best rap and R&B coming out of this dirty-white, rock ‘n’ roll lovin’ Emerald City. So says Mix-A-Lot, the biggest rap act out of this area for hundreds of miles. (And sadly, that’s straight up the truth.) He damn near promised us a sure-fire, kick in the ass, hit-to-hit collection by putting this LP out on his own label. (And that’s more proof for my earlier statement.)

BAM. I’ll be dipped in jeri curl juice! There’s some fresh and creative “dark” music being hidden away in this town somewhere. Mix, his new label Rhyme Cartel, and American Records (Rick Rubin dropped the “Def” part) have put out a rough and stylin’ nine-song selection. Not all of this compilation would be banned by the late KFOX playlist, though. There are some mainstream artists on this CD; a good third of it is mediocre at best. But that just makes the best stuff really shine.

My favorite cut is newcomer Jazz Lee Alston’s “Love…Never That.” It sent shivers down my spine. This is probably the best example of how dark it can get in a young adult’s mind. It’s an abstract tale of a female struggling to deal with an abusive boyfriend and the father of her child. It’s delivered in a slow, deliberate spoken-word fashion to a shuffling jazz tempo and haunting keyboard samples — a style few female rappers have dared to try.

I’m a sucker for ’70s soul samples. Two songs, in particular, bent my ear for a funfilled tour to back when. Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Sunshine” and Con Funk Shun’s “By Your Side” make for instant grooving on Jay Skee’s “Menace Crook” and Kid Sensation’s “Flava You Can Taste,” respectively.

Not all of the cuts rely on trips to yesteryear. E-Dawg’s “Little Locs” brings this LP back to the ’90s in a big way, using production skills that have had city streets cracking all over the US.

Two of the artists didn’t get their start in Seattle. Jay-Skee is from the LA area and Jazz Lee Alston is from New York City. So is Seattle really putting out new good rap acts? Or are they coming to this area to make it big?

I’m serious! This area has more major label scouts sniffing around than espresso carts on its corners. It is probably easier to count the numbers who are actually from Seattle. This album could be a swan song for most of these acts, or it could be just the beginning of some good, dark music for the future. (This review originally appeared in The Rocket and was written by Scott Griggs.)

Here’s another take:

Times change. This comp dropped in 1993, which to me was the year of the Great Upheaval in Northwest hip-hop. At that time, gangsta had outlived its welcome and new acts like Heiro and the Pharcyde were grabbing the attention. Local artists like Mix-A-Lot and Kid Sensation had lost their cool and had become the stuff of middle school dances, so by the time I heard about this album, my ears were closed.

I was in high school, the future underground was in full swing, and local acts like the Elevators and Tribal had quite effectively turned the early-’90s gangsta and R&B industry into a joke.

Though I did not appreciate this record at the time, listening to it in retrospect, I can hear the value in it. Here is some top-quality hip-hop attempting to assert itself in the face of change, And more poignantly, this is a declaration from Seattle’s Afro-American community and a group of artists who were very much left out of the anglicized Northwest music explosion of the early ’90s (AKA GRUNGE).

Dark Side is a short record. But its 35 minutes effectively showcases an important time in the 206’s long history of hip-hop. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Listen To The Greg B

In the late 1980’s a DJ named Greg Buren began to emerge as one of the more prominent hip hop artists in Seattle. He started in a group called The Latin Lovers, and then created a duo with Kid Sensation called 2 Fresh 4 U. After that, he teamed up with a rapper named Willin (Owen McCants) and they they called themselves Ready And Willin. By the early ’90s he was operating at a very high volume, and he dropped two remarkable albums back to back. Buren released a solo tape called Listen To The Greg B in 1992. The following year in ’93 his crew Crooked Path featuring himself, Jay-Skee, and Dee-Lyrious released their debut tape titled After Dark.

Listen To The Greg B is a long album, which shows how extremely productive Greg B was during 1991 and 1992. Buren enlists Jay-Skee and DJ Skill for assistance on Listen To The Greg B. Highlight tracks include “Neighborhood Coroner” which narrates a sordid tale about drug addiction and domestic violence seen from the cold medical viewpoint of hospital and morgue staff. The irresistibly slinky “Out To Be Raw” uses a simple, funky bassline which lets the lyrics shine, and “Damn Ney Ruthless” is peppered with a harder street edge than the typical B-Boy aesthetic which Greg B cultivates. “Eat Up A Fat 1” and “1-2 Um Buckle My Shoe” are two highly technical DJ turntablist slideshows that are both lots of fun. They show off Greg B’s love of record scratching and cutting, a technique in which he has tremendous talent. He almost certainly inspired other Seattle DJs to do their own turntable-based projects such as Table Manners 2 by Vitamin D which came out seven years later in 1999.

Not every track is a hit, “Peace C’ya Later” is formulaic and a little predictable as Greg B tells stories of dating women and how he brushes off the ones he doesn’t want to see anymore. “Lil Snitch” borrows a little too heavily from “Five Minutes Of Funk” by Whodini which limits the originality of the track. A similar problem exists in “I’m A Pimp,” which prominently samples Color Me Badd’s “I Wanna Sex You Up” in a manner that is distracting and minimizes the track’s freshness. The album’s strength is the diversity of tempos and variation in beat production from song to song. Each of the tracks feels very unique and therefore your ears never get dulled by repetition. Greg B has a wide imagination for sounds and beats thanks to his extensive experience as a party DJ. In fact shortly after Listen To The Greg B, Buren settled on his new moniker Funk Daddy, and has gone on to become one of the most celebrated DJs in Seattle history. Written by Novocaine132

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Back 2 Boom

The b-side cut on Kid Sensation’s solo debut is a song called, “I S.P.I.T.” Kid is rapping about his lyrical abilities and shouting out the whole Mix crew. “The Pacific timezone is on the attack.” The song includes uncredited feature verses from the whole posse: Attitude Adjuster, Maharaji, and Mix-A-Lot himself. There’s also a new voice, Greg B, aka Funk Daddy. The beats here are all about the drop. At one point, Kid raps “I merge with Mix to make a masterpiece,” and that’s a pretty great description of this whole EP.

Someone recently described the Mix-A-Lot and Kid Sensation relationship like Batman and Robin: It’s apt: Mix was 26 and Kid was only 18 when this single dropped.

Mix’s mentoring hand (and production) is evident throughout the title track, “Back 2 Boom,” which makes the song all the more curious. It starts by liberally sampling and referencing “Posse on Broadway,” Kid is driving down Rainier… The tune play like many of Mix’s early rapid-fire, Electro hits, hyping up the crowd even higher. It’s so referential to Mix’s other work and apes his style, you start to wonder, is this a parody track?

Two minutes in, everything shifts. Kid drops the beat to half speed like it’s some early chopped-n-screwed experiment, and the song lingers here for the duration. This is the “boom” … Kid changes up the verses, he and the posse are trashing stop signs, tearing shit apart, blowing up Broadway.

And then the verses are spoken backward. And then you remember how Kid Sensation is a talented beatboxer, and you realize the beats have been his voice all along. Everything eventually drifts away like a car crash in slow motion.

So arrives the debut of Mix-A-Lot protégé Kid Sensation. BOOM!

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