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Greater Than

Greater Than is a local hip-hop supergroup that unites three of the biggest talents from our past decade: Dyme Def’s Fearce Vill, Grynch (“The King of Ballard”), and Grieves, who steps away from his usual role at the mic to focus on the beats and the music. Respect My Region describes this record as “a whimsical bounce that balances out the harsh rapid-fire bars from Grynch and Fearce… Greater than all these wack rappers thinking that their kindergarten level rhymes will take them to the top.” The song “Motor Mouth” is the big single, but stick around for tracks 3 & 4, too.

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Byrd's Eye View

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33 and a Third

Seattle hip-hop blog 206UP picked this record as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2013,” saying that:

I have no insight into producer Def Dee’s Gmail inbox, but I would hazard a guess that it’s full of earnest requests for beats from rappers who probably have no business rhyming over them. Def is like that uber-talented sketch artist you see posted up on a sidewalk bench, drawing hyper-real pictures of what he sees in front of him. Except Def makes hip-hop sketches that bring to mind the producers that built the very foundation of boom-bap: Pete Rock, DJ Premier, J Dilla — you know, guys you’ve probably heard once or twice before.

Mello Music Group promptly added him to their storehouse of talented beatmakers last year. 33 and a Third is his first compilation for MMG and the guest list includes a corps of Seattle rap’s best (Mic Phenom, La, Grynch, Chev, Zar) in addition to a grip of national underground talent (yU, Oddisee, Black Milk, etc.). Def is that type of producer whose interludes you actually look forward to, the kind where you can practically smell the hip-hop elements cooking in his kitchen. Chopped-up samples and scratched records: There will never be a more satisfying combo.

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Treadin'

Treadin’ is a 2013 EP from Grynch and Budo. The title track finds our MC questioning whether his long dog paddle towards success is worth the hustle. “We’ve come so far… We ain’t going nowhere,” echoes Shaprece during the hook on “So Far.” This song also features a great guest verse from Brother Ali where he recalls people asking him, “If you’ve made it, why you still riding the bus?” Success is indeed an elusive, fickle lover. Included are instrumental versions of these tracks, and it’s here where we can really hear Budo’s production shine. He’s an engaging multi-instrumentalist, effortlessly mixing the textures of horns, slide guitars, and badass synths. On headphones, so many delightful audio treats await. The vinyl is an icy grey splatter and every copy is individually numbered: My copy is 500/500. Keep at it Grynch.

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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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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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Tomorrow People

Today is one of those beautiful Seattle days with infinite blue skies and cool breezes, where all you want to do is lay on the grass or drive to the coast with the top down. The perfect accompaniment is The Physics 2012 album Tomorrow People. Contrasting many laptop-produced hip-hop records, here you have a group of musicians riffing and jamming and rapping together. Laid-back, organic, and gorgeous.

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

Tomorrow People reaches for a broader context than The Physics’ previous album (last year’s outstanding Love is a Business) without sacrificing any of what makes the group so appealing. Soulful, funky, and beautifully nuanced, TP is 13 tracks of grown-man/woman hip-hop. MCs Thig Nat and Monk Wordsmith are thoughtful, conscious, and raunchy always right when they need to be. And producer Justo and don’t-call-them-back-up singers Malice and Mario Sweet put the finishing touches on each track so they shine at just the right angles. This is a crew with a rare nonchalance that never translates to dull, a sure sign of artists who truly know who they are. There is something for everyone on Tomorrow People. You could play this album for your grandma and she would probably love it, and I mean that in the best way possible.

Similarly, The Stranger selected Tomorrow People as one of the “Top 5 Albums of 2012,” saying that:

“So Funky,” the first track on The Physics’ latest album, Tomorrow People, is, for me, hip-hop in a pure state. It’s spare and it has a big and chunky beat, a raw and rubbery bass, bits of scratching, and no singing or chorus—this is a rapper’s paradise.

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Young Seattle

Between 2012 and 2016, musician Sam Lachow created three collaborative short films, each bearing the name “Young Seattle.”

Slightly confusingly, the videos are labeled “Parts 1, 2, and 4.” Part 3 was released as an audio-only track with no video.

Here’s his explanation of the concept: “I make these Young Seattle videos each year simply because I’m a huge fan of all these artists. As a fan, I just thought it’d be badass to put them all on one track. My favorite thing about the Seattle hip-hop scene is that we don’t have any specific sound. There are so many different types of styles in this little city and yet we all fuck with each other. We’re all part of the same culture. It’s fucking cool.”

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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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SeattleCali Fragilistic ExtraHella Dopeness

Seattle hip-hop blog 206UP picked this record as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2010,” saying that:

The album equivalent of a 2-0-6 hip-hop house party, by design SeattleCali wasn’t exactly an official debut LP for State of the Artist, but a showcase for much of the talent in the city. The three SOTA emcees were consistently outshone by their guests and a lot of times the lyrics didn’t seem to make any sense. As strictly a party album, however, there wasn’t one better.

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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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Dear Friends EP, Vol 1

Today I’m spinning Sol‘s Dear Friends EP from 2009. Six solid tracks, chill and funky as hell, with guest verses from Grynch, Philharmonic, Scribes and Kush Carter.

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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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Music: Soul of The Man

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Backpack Wax

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How The Grynch Stole Hip-Hop Vol. 1

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Reigncraft 6: Gotta Do It!

Reigncraft 6: Gotta Do It! is a compilation of some of the best rappers and producers in Seattle and the greater Pacific Northwest. The series began in 2003, and Gotta Do It! which dropped in 2006 keeps the party going. Early in Reigncraft 6, two earnest and heartfelt tracks emerge. First, Xperience exercises an easy poetic dexterity in his lyrics to “The People’s Anthem.” It’s a spoken-word-feeling, game-filled pep talk from someone who has seen it all. “Life ain’t all about the fame and the afterparties,” he reminds the listener.

Second is the spectacular “Ego” by Macklemore. His win at the Grammy Awards was still eight long years away at this point, but even in back 2006 he was clearly a superstar. Mack is an artist who found his sweet spot somewhere between street and square and rode it to the top. This track is very mature, and spreads a valuable message that we need to remember. “Ego” was previously featured on Language Of My World in 2005. In retrospect, his jealousy of Boom Bap Project and Grayskul in the track is comical, considering the heights to which Mack’s career would eventually elevate him.

After those two inspirational songs, let’s examine a couple from the opposite side of the spectrum. “Reality Check” by Skuntdunanna is a nonstop blitzkrieg attack, full of sizzling slams and insults. Most of the punches are above the belt, “If I had your flow in my notebook, I’d be asking God, why me?” is one that always gets me. But unfortunately, Skunt sometimes tosses homophobic slurs which can detract from the final result.

Another punchline expert is Livio. For his track “Hit Em Up,” producer Funk Daddy flips Grieg’s 1875 “In The Hall Of The Mountain King,” and lays it with cocking shotguns and hammers blasting. It’s genius, and the rousing music enhances Livio’s hilarious stream of jokes. “Livio’s a madman, what you think a Magnum’s for? Man I’m on some bullshit, I hope you’re a matador,” is one that stands out. “Hit Em Up” can also be found on Livio’s sophomore album Cruel Intentions.

I don’t want to forget dRED.i’s “Freedom 4.” DJ Roc Phella and Kenyatto “Moorpheus” McThomas are the two musicians in this excellent group. This particular track is an anthem about mind body and soul, and the freedom sought by all. The lyrics are very conceptual, yet simultaneously down to earth and useful. “Teach by example, boy, it’s more than something you can preach.” Well said. Written by Novocaine132

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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 7 Deadly Sins

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