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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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Dopamine

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Kingdom Crumbs

The debut album by Cloud Nice’s Kingdom Crumbs is the long-awaited culmination of the Cloud’s experimental and forward-thinking sound, image, and attitude. Not so much a collection of songs as a loosely-knitted tapestry of impressions, Kingdom Crumb’s debut LP plays like a song-cycle from the Mad Hatter; it is whimsical and random but with elements a little edgy, and sometimes dangerous. Inspired insanity! With songs that rarely stay fixed in place for long, the album constantly morphs from style to style; from sleek, Chic-influenced soul, to ambient, dreamy washes of colorful tonality, to tribal chanting – often within a single song.

Production visionary Tay Sean’s trademark airy synths dominate the mix, accompanied by clean, stuttering beats and lots of reverb. Electronic rhythms and patterns fade in and out, sometimes ending abruptly, sometimes derailing, going where the wind takes them. Emcees Tay Sean, Mikey Nice, Jarv Dee, and Jerm masterfully fit every vibe. With so many talented lyricists it would be hard to keep ego out of the mix, but they do just that, combining their talents in the right way for the betterment of each song and the album as a whole.

With the ever-changing and experimental quality of the record, it comes as no surprise that the three most cohesive (and for lack of a better word, standard) songs are the ones already released as singles: “Pick Both Sides of My Brain” and “The Mezzanine” are two addictive head-nodding, groove-based gems, while “For The Birds” serves as a distilled vision of the album as a whole – sedated and dreamy, with unexpected changes and breakdowns in the music. However, when placed within the maelstrom of sounds that is the Crumbs’ album, these three tracks fit perfectly, bubbling up at just the right moment to link one passage with the next, or to gently wake the listener from a music-induced trance.

As a genre, this record is obviously difficult to classify. Certainly, hip-hop plays a big role – lyricism and stylistic techniques are present, as are the cultural references and the swagger – but other influences are nearly as dominant. Disco and soul play huge parts, and so do late-sixties-era electric jazz of Davis and Hancock. The ambient electronic music of Kraftwerk and Brian Eno can also be heard. Just as evident as the influences is the certainty that this is something entirely new and unheard of, something that might even not have a name yet. So I’ll call it as I see it: this is evolution. Check it and be amazed. This has been my most anticipated record release yet this year. Based on the three singles the Crumbs have released so far, I knew this was some future shit. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Helladope

This week, I’ve been spinning Helladope, a 2010 self-titled sci-fi concept album from Tay Sean and Jerm D. Helladope’s space ambassadors are a funky, musical Bill & Ted, wending their way through an early ’90s action-movie musical landscape, phat synths, treble-positive snares. Throughout their adventure, our duo encounters amazing auditory aliens THEESatisfaction, Jarv Dee, Isabella Du Graf and others. Gorgeous cover art by War.

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

Helladope’s Tay Sean is far too young a cat to be making music with this much soul and expert tribute to the R&B and funk of yesteryear. Still, he accomplished the feat with ease. Along with emcee/vocalist Jerm, Helladope’s debut album offers a fresh take on the P-funk/G-funk rap amalgamation that originated in Southern California in the early ’90s. The sound is updated here with extraterrestrial gimmickry that amuses but isn’t essential to the album’s vibe.

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

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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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Knox Family

Hmmm... There's not a lot of information about this project in the museum encyclopedia. We'd love your help! TOWN LOVE is maintained by an awesome community of passionate volunteers who keep it all up to date.

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Love or Fate

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Think Tank

Seattle collective the Mind Movers released this ambitious record in 2008. City-wide in scope, the talents of over 30 Town emcees, vocalists, DJ’s and producers were utilized in the creation of this solidly underground compilation; probably exposing many of them to an audience that may have not heard them before, thus making it somewhat of a Do The Math for the Northwest’s third wave of hip-hop.

Think Tank is 21 varied and energetic tracks in length, and each song has multiple contributors. Crew cuts! I for one had only known of a few of the collaborators when I picked this up; it certainly opened my ears to a ton of great talent. The Mind Movers are made up of emcees Khanfidenz, Inkubiz, Mic Flont, Open Hands, Phreewil (who also handles production, and now resides in Hawaii), and producer/DJ Dead Noise. Besides those cats, the massive Seattle crew Alpha P/First Platoon represents as well, with features from emcees Jerm (also of Cloud Nice), Inkubiz and Phree Wil(again!), Kasi Jack Gaffle, Diez, Asad, Rajnii Eddins, Rufio, Jerz, Julie C, Yirim Seck, and Asun, who especially kicks it all over these tracks. Other names appear as well… It’s a huge who’s who.

Musically the beats are heavy, dusty underground gems. With six beatmakers in attendance, the tracks are surprisingly cohesive, although the ranges of styles are vast. Drum-heavy, broody, atmospheric tracks are heard in abundance (thanks mainly to Phree Wil), alongside upbeat soul samples, and mellow jazz piano loops. Whatever, it’s all nice; no beats out of a can here, this is artistic craftsmanship from the bottom up. Despite the huge undertaking, only the surface of the last decade’s hip-hop scene has been scratched with this release. The Town is bursting at the seams with talent. This is just a decent slice of it. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Lovework

In the most recent issue of City Arts, you’ll find a poem contributed by Gabriel Teodros honoring the memory of J. Moore. Consequently, I found myself listening to Lovework on headphones at the moment when I ran into Gabriel himself outside of Neumos at last Friday’s memorial show.

This record recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary, and it sounds as fresh and honest today as it did in 2007. Exploring wide-ranging “big” issues from sexism to classism, immigration to geopolitical struggles, Lovework is also very damn funky. Press play and two songs in I’m already chair dancing. The way the bass drums and the bass guitar interplay throughout “Beautiful” is simply sublime as is the syncopated rhyme scheme in “East Africa.” Here’s a musician who understands the responsibility and opportunities of the microphone to influence hearts and minds. Seek this record out.

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

2003

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Sun To A Recycled Soul

As far as I know this is Gabriel Teodros’s debut, and it’s definitely rougher than his later records. He’s still developing his flow here, but the fire, eloquence, and themes he’s known for are already in place. It’s got that old-school, jazz sample-heavy flavor I love, and the rough, unmastered sound quality I crave in production. Jerm, Castro, and Khingz, among others, guest. It was re-released a second time with a whole bunch of additional guest emcees (Orko, Macklemore, Moka Only, Deps, Patrick, Rajnii). Vivacious music, from possibly the 206’s most impassioned orator. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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