A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Overture To The Unknown

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about sources of energy—those wells from which we draw our creative sparks, and how wherever our top Seattle talents are digging lately is largely unmapped geography. I felt this strangeness with Porter Ray’s Watercolor earlier this year, and this new wavy energy is as good a preamble as any from which to discuss Overture To The Unknown, the brilliant seven-song debut EP from Koga Shabazz. On the first play, this record will strike you as distinctly alien: Distorted voices, beats, and verses that run parallel and not always together—and sometimes in reverse—alongside out-of-place samples that spar with bass notes so low they’re under the floor. And then during the decimating “Ol’ Faith” the drums drop away for a moment, and a clear voice speaks, “This is your conscience calling…” In that moment of waking you realize how much this rich playground has been tapping deep channels in your subconscious, haunting like the cover art. Koga’s wordplay operates like tightly knit Zen koans, unpacked through meditation. This record is a dense trip, and from each subsequent listen you emerge with new truths, and you’re so hungry and so thirsty for them you’ll replay and repeat, and replay again. (Yesterday I listened to this album five times in a row.) “Overture” pushes some of the town’s brightest stars to new heights—Jake Crocker, Gifted Gab, Dave B, Jake One, Max Moodie, Ralph Redmond IV, Vinciboy, and Samsara. You’ve heard little like this from any of them before. Bravo to executive producer Sam Lachow on the assemblage. Find a comfortable chair, fire this up, and be ready to rewire your brain.

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Friends, Funk & Liquor

There’s an easy, happy vibe that you find in most of the records of Sam Lachow that I just love. Sam’s latest one, Friends, Funk & Liquor, further demonstrates the evolution of his career from young wine to fine port: here are seven slick and stylish songs that slide by in the most satisfying way. Sam is a presence that vibes throughout this record, but he often steps back to give lead mic to one of his many talented contributors, including Ariana DeBoo, Gifted Gab, B. Skeez, and others. Dave B is featured on three tracks here. The third track, “Absolutely” will have you jumping around your living room. This is party music, the sound of hanging out with your friends, and Sam’s many friends and collaborators are featured on the cover. What a party.

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Cognitive Dissonance: Part II

First off, a major shout out to Jake Crocker, preternatural producer and secret weapon of Black Umbrella Music. His stark symphonic backdrops on 2014’s Cognitive Dissonance, Part II are enchanting and luxe; the perfect accompaniment to Raz Simone’s elegant storytelling and robust vocabulary. Raz punctuates the narratives with worthwhile meditations on the questionable value of pursuing money at the expense of time and natural resources. This is a record of cinematic characters, of listening to a theatrical play, evocative of a mood and a place, and a plot, the listener lounging in plush seats as the house lights dim. I’d love to see Strawberry Theatre Workshop mount this album at 12 Ave Arts as a play.

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