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The Life In The Central But The Ways Of The World

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Seven Deadly Sins

Darkset is a notorious Seattle rap group which released its debut album Krakker Bashin on compact disc in 1993. Krakker Bashin represented the finest in violent gangsta rap, with subject matter ranging from revenge to racism to gang warfare. Highlight tracks included “The Rain” and “Step To The Madness.” Two years later in 1995, their second album Seven Deadly Sins came out on both cassette (pictured here) and CD. Brother Frost, DJ Pace, I Double L, MC Bear the Kodiak, and producer Kevin Gardner combine to give you more of that raw, deadly, murder rap, straight from the Central District.

“Snitch N****” deftly creates a doom-filled musical soundscape. The lyrics set the theme for the rest of the album, basically don’t be a rat. They warn anyone “f***ing with the 98122” to beware. The atonal-sounding “Madman” has a rousing chorus with hard drums and dancehall-chant vibes. The rhymes are about how Darkset has no chill, and they are always ready for a fight. “Never shall I sleep when the enemy is stalking, I creep down Emerald Street, cut a throat and keep walking,” is a good example.

I think my favorite track on the album is “Friends And Enemies.” It begins with Malcom X’s 1965 speech at Ford Auditorium, then chops the chorus live in front of our eyes. The stark beat carries a measured urgency, possibly because its minimal nature lets the lyrics shine. The gossamer bassline hovers below the cut like an aura, and every time the chorus comes back I get goosebumps hearing Malcolm’s voice.

Later in the album, “Settrippin” is a haunting, slow burner about drive-by shootings and riding for your crew. Once again, Darkset reps hard for the 98122 zip code. “Central Hy Way” is sentimental and reflective sounding, all about puffing chronic and living the life. Darkset, while far from one-dimensional, adhere very closely to their brand of kidnapping, killing, and revenge on most tracks. But every now and then a song like “Central Hy Way” peeks through with a look at the different, less stressful aspects of life. The title track “Seven Deadly Sins” is dope, but it commits one small sin, it’s too long. The meandering last two minutes of the track leave me waiting for an ending that never arrives. “Seven Deadly Sins” would be a lot stronger if it was a tight five minutes, in my opinion. One of many skits on this four-dimensional album, “Crime Of Passion” is a long narrative interlude which includes contributions from co-producer/manager Robert Redwine and singer Richard Lowery.

Movies like New Jack City by Mario Van Peebles or Menace II Society by the Hughes brothers are critically acclaimed despite their graphic violence and killing. The entertainment industry sees these directors as geniuses because they illustrated the darkness of which the human heart is capable. Explicit rap artists on the other hand are rarely revered as literary heroes, instead they are often banned for their crude, deplorable depictions of street life. I would place Darkset in the same category as Van Peebles or the Hughes brothers. Seven Deadly Sins is a Grammy-worthy opera of violence for any who dare to experience it. Written by Novocaine132

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Seatown Funk

Seattle’s Nastymix Records was in financial trouble in late 1991 after losing Sir Mix-A-Lot and his lucrative catalog. To stay afloat, Nastymix partnered with Ichiban in Georgia for approximately a year, finally closing at the end of 1992. Artists who remained at Nastymix in 1992 had the Ichiban distribution logo on their tapes and CDs. Kid Sensation was no exception, and his 1992 album The Power Of Rhyme was a complicated Nastymix/Ichiban/Emerald City Records collaboration. Kid continued making music after the demise of Nastymix, and in 1995 he recorded his third album Seatown Funk strictly for Ichiban.

The songs on Seatown Funk fall into three main categories: party life, tough guy gangsta talk, and knocking boots. Highlights of the fun cuts include the Kevin Gardner produced “What Comes Around Goes Around,” which sees Kid reminiscing about his past relationships and what he has learned. The title track “Seatown Funk” borrows its silky beat from a 1977 hit by The Floaters, and it is a good way to start the album. “Rhyme For Me” is a funky interpolation of “Flashlight” by Parliament. For these radio-friendly type tracks, Kid keeps the topics light and the rhymes fairly simple.

On the tougher side of things, tracks like “I Come Wicked” and “Neva Goin Out” show a harder component of Kid Sensation. “Fools in my city, even those who don’t know me, stab me in the back, but in my face they’re my homie,” he observes on “Neva Goin Out.” Later in the track he shoots his adversary point blank, “There’s a hole in your chest, your heart is pumping clots of blood into your lap.” “Seatownanina” uses lots of wordplay to describe how dangerous his crew can be.

As mentioned earlier, Kid is intent on showing his player side on this album. “Sex In The Studio” is a long voyeuristic instrumental beat with lovemaking sounds mixed in, vaguely evoking Madonna’s 1990 hit “Justify My Love.” “If My Pillow Could Talk” sees Kid’s pillow dishing about all the women Kid has slept with, but the repeating loop from “You’re A Customer” doesn’t allow any space for the song to be sexy. “Late Night Hook Up” is predictably a rap about exactly what you would expect it to be about. Kid showed stamina and longevity in the game by not giving up, and admirably he continued building his personal hip-hop brand even when he was unceremoniously forced to switch record labels. Written by Novocaine132

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Really Cheat'n

Here are some car-stereo-shaking Central District tales of murder, violence, romance, and good weed: Released in 1995, Really Cheat’n from Squeek Nutty Bug is grooving G-Funk at its finest.

After spending his early years in the Midwest—and in jail—Squeek made a big splash on the Seattle scene in the mid-‘90s, named so because of his distinctive high-pitched vocal delivery. He released a catchy first single called “ILL HETCHA HY”—you should sound this out. The song also appears on this full-length, this all-too-short, nine-track Really Cheat’n. The whole album is funky hop fantastic with live instrumentation courtesy of producer Ryan “RC” Croone, who, after this project, launched a production empire. Together, he and Squeek are bringing that “hydroponic do-do-funk type shit” as he says in the opener. Squeek himself saw his verses as education, once saying to the Seattle Times, “I’m takin’ hip-hop to the vegetables and the vitamins.” The closing track “Outro” is almost three full minutes of thanks to town talent and favorites delivered in a most amusing style. Overall, this is a hella fun record, reminiscent at times of Gifted Gab, who’s one of the main players who turned me onto it. Really Cheat’n was also one of the first releases from CD Raised Records, a Central District record label started by Captain Crunch, a member of the once mythological Seattle hip-hop group the Emerald Street Boys, and father of D.Black/Nissim. That fact, plus one that Squeek was a headliner on Nasty Nes’s “Best of Northwest Hip-Hop” stage at Folklife Fest that year, connects this record to a host of this town’s amazing first generation of hip-hop legends. Dee.aLe from DMS is featured, as are Young K, Lil Mafia (AKA Skuntdunanna), ROK, BG Bari, & Kevin Gardner.

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Krakker Bashin

N.W.A.’s 1988 record Straight Outta Compton changed the world, and in 1991 they came back even harder with their second and final album Efil4zaggin. Rolling Stone writer Jonathan Gold penned a good piece in 1993 noting that Efil4zaggin was clearly in a class of its own due to being a sonic masterpiece, yet the awful, violent, homophobic, and misogynistic content had become exponentially worse. “Many observers thought gangsta rap had reached its pinnacle with the brilliant though unlistenable Efil4zaggin,” begins one of my favorite sentences in the essay. N.W.A. were not alone in this genre, indeed they were joined by other horrorcore groups like Geto Boys, Gravediggaz, Brotha Lynch Hung, and Seattle’s Darkset.

Darkset was a crew composed of first generation Seattle hip-hop artists who had been there since the beginning. John “Frostmaster Chill” Funches and his brother Anthony “DJ Pace” Funches had both become involved in rap music as soon as it was a thing. Shedra “I Double L” Manning from the Strictly Wicked And Treacherous crew was another heavy hitter MC who joined. And for additional royalty, Eddie “Sugar Bear” Wells from Emerald Street Boys was also part of Darkset, changing his name to MC Bear The Kodiac. Fifth member Shan Dog was a hype man for the group. Additionally, Kevin Gardner provided studio and recording expertise, as well as beat work.

Placed among the more explicit tracks on Krakker Bashin that will never make the radio, “50 Wayz” (featuring Bryan Hatfield), “Police B****,” “Krakker Bashin,” “Dope Man’s B****,” and others, there are two tracks I would like to highlight, “Step To The Madness,” and “The Rain.” First, “Step To The Madness” is a thing of beauty in a somewhat unforgiving listening landscape. The beat sounds minimal compared to the ‘wall of sound’ production style found on so many tracks here. And second, epic cinematic journey “The Rain” is more of an experience than just a song. Absurdly it’s six minutes and forty-four seconds long, but due to some Chris Nolan-esque creative composition and structure, including moments of dead silence, “The Rain” remains interesting from start to finish.

Darkset could be called the most old-school connected Seattle rap group in the ’90s. In fact, Krakker Bashin was executive produced by none other than James “Captain Crunch” Croone, another member of Emerald Street Boys. The new label was called CD Raised Records, and two years later it would drop a hood classic titled Really Cheat’n by Squeek Nutty Bug. Jonathan Gold might also find Krakker Bashin “brilliant though unlistenable,” but its explicit elements shouldn’t prevent people from making their own opinions. This is a powerful album and it will not appeal to everybody, but freedom of speech protects the right of Darkset to shock and offend. Written by Novocaine132

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