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Something YOU Wanted

Something YOU Wanted, a 2017 EP from Pinder opens with the upbeat, jazzy vibe of a day at the beach, of curling your toes in the sand, and swimming. (Only a few weeks ago were we all sunning ourselves at Madison Park Beach, too.) The Seattle rapper made a big splash 4-5 years ago as J. Pinder, then relocated to Los Angeles, dropped the “J” and emerges this year with a trio of new projects: two EPs and a full-length with producer 10.4 ROG. This particular five-song EP is unhurried and sexy as hell, especially a song like “Want” where long instrumental breaks provide time to contemplate our desires and the absolution of our regrets. Indeed, I was listening to this while riding Light Rail this morning and found myself so lost in thought I completely missed my stop. I was off in California somewhere, sitting on the beach.

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

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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Careless

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

If you want to see exactly why Vitamin D is this city’s all-time best producer, visit the second track on Pinder’s excellent album Careless. “Pilgrimage” is a perfect piece of 21st-century hip-hop. This is how I hear it: After an oneiric opening, Pinder smoothly slips into the melancholy mood provided by the deep end of the piano and echoed finger snaps. As for the beat, which never rises above the piano, it has the kick of a drum machine but doesn’t feel mechanical. Indeed, one of Vitamin D’s gifts is an ability to make hip­-hop that sounds musical without sacrificing the sample-based feel of hip-hop.

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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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Go Far

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Code Red

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

This star-studded EP by Seattle ex-pat J. Pinder had a professional sheen equal to most major label releases. And it was free, to boot. Unsurprisingly, the folks who built the foundation of Code Red are either consummate hip-hop professionals or quickly on their way: Vitamin D, Jake One, and Kuddie Fresh, among others. Pinder’s easy flow and accessible subject matter made this album easy to ride for.

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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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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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White Van Music

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Reigncraft Volume Seven: Wake Up

The Reigncraft series of Seattle rap compilations is a wonderful place to start if you have no idea about hip-hop culture in the 206. There are hundreds of artists in our town who put out interesting music, even if the national press only covers two of them. Reigncraft Volume Seven: Wake Up, which dropped in 2008, is just as badass as volumes one through six. Let’s take a look at a few highlights, unfortunately there are too many tracks here to cover them all.

“Start Some S*** Pt. 3” by Cancer Rising is outrageous. A DJ named blesOne had just joined the group, and the song is like a Tasmanian devil chewing on your leg. The combination of blesOne and Gatsby from Cancer Rising would evolve into late-stage Mash Hall, including classic albums like They La Soul. Former wrestler Billy The Fridge drops “Smells Like Hip Hop” as his oblique tribute to Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. Fridge goes meta and references Reigncraft a couple of times in his verse. For instance, “This city is behind me and we’re on a mission, buy that Reigncraft disc and give it a listen,” and “If you don’t know Grynch or the Blue Scholars, then give me ten bucks and I’ll give you two dollars, and a copy of Gotta Do It.”

“Plague Your Mind” by Second Family is interesting to me for the commitment to wordplay, and the relentless grinding beat. Producer Baked Beatz shows restraint, and the track just drip, drip, drips like water torture. I replayed this track a bunch of times, and I still can’t quite put my finger on it. Backing vocals by Latin Rose enhance the gloomy yet dangerously thrilling panorama, effectively capturing the allure of street life on tape.

I want to like “Homelessness” by Byrdie, but somehow the song never comes together for me. The lyrics are a masterpiece, as they explain all the factors that can lead to someone being unhoused. “I speak for the homeless stuck in the streets, every day and every night trying to make ends meet,” Byrdie practically screams on the chorus. You can tell he feels emotional about this topic, and it’s a revelation to hear a rap that isn’t about selfish materialism. Unfortunately, the production seems oddly mixed to the high end, and doesn’t develop an appropriate vibe for the material. With a different beat, I think this song could be more powerful.

Near the end of Wake Up is nineteen year-old Sol’s “Kno U So Well.” This song is lighthearted and fun, and Sol uses his voice articulately and with good rhythm. The vibe is similar to “My Name Is” by Eminem, complete with circus-sounding production and ridiculous lyrics. “Fuck a pistol, I drop an Iraq missile. Leave nothin but your eyepatch, call it the Slick Rick move.” The song is a bit clumsy, but it shows potential for this young MC. 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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Backpack Wax

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Do you know something about the history of this record? Do you have a favorite lyric or a favorite memory? Send us an email on why this is one of the great hip-hop albums from the Northwest. Thanks!

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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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