A film about Northwest hip-hop from

The Scepter and The Sword

I fell in love with hip-hop full-tilt in 1991. It had been building up for a while by that point, but ’91 broke the dam. I was in middle school, and when I heard “By the Time I Get To Arizona” for the first time, it pushed me over the edge into hip-hop appreciation head first. With Public Enemy as the sounding board, I then branched out, forwards and backward, and across the map. Ice T and Ice Cube, LL Cool J, Naughty By Nature. Cypress Hill, Gangstarr, Digable Planets, the Native Tongues. Artifacts, Boot Camp, Wu-Tang, Mobb Deep. And each new tape I picked up just made me more excited to cop the next one. hip-hop was vibrant, it was fresh and progressive, it was building and growing; each artist and producer had a unique style, and identity, and crazy visions. To my young ears, the music was limitless.

There are things that happen with the passage of time, and with age: Looking back on the landscape of my life, from the midway point of an almost 40-year-old, I see the gradual and inevitable shift I’ve taken from active participant to spectator. I’ve moved away from the city and its frenetic creativity, my family and I now live in the woods, and I do my best to show my three young children those things I’ve discovered throughout my life, that I feel are important, and want to pass on. I play the music whenever I can. They’ve danced to Blowout Comb. Inner City Griots and Project Blowed. Kingdom Crumbs and Colored People’s Time Machine. Apocalypse ’91 has definitely still been on rotation… My crazy children know all of these albums. And recently, I’ve introduced them to a new one I feel is more than worthy of inclusion in this elite group of classics: Dawhud’s The Scepter and the Sword.

I’ve been fortunate to have been listening to this album in its various incarnations for a while now. Its inception began way back in 2013 when a particularly face-slapping track from rapper/producer Dawhud and rapper Ace-One caught the attention of the one and only DJ Premier. The track, “Battle Anybody”, which got a lot of airplay on Primo’s “Live From HeadQCourterz” program, is a slouchingly self-assured, boot-stomping show-stopper of a track, and acted as a catalyst for their creative energies as a duo.

By 2015 a full-length Dawhud and Ace-One (collectively known as David and Goliath) album was born: a raw, heavy-ass, two-headed monster of a record, with production handled by Dawhud and the Beatminerz. Although Dawhud hails from the Pacific Northwest and Ace-One is from Indianapolis, this album was full-on Brooklyn, circa ’95. As Dawhud called it, a “Tims and baseball bat video” of an album. This early version, although bearing some alternate universe-resemblance at times to the finished product, might as well be an entirely different album. Dawhud is an all-but self-professed perfectionist, and with edits and re-edits, re-recordings, and new material, The Scepter and the Sword continued to evolve. Becoming more sonically and thematically cohesive, the album coalesced into one brilliantly coherent and confident; adding participants, spawning the aptly titled mixtape Something’s Coming, and eventually eschewing the Beatminerz tracks until a later release. With Dawhud’s intricate and full production featured exclusively, through trials and tribulations the album moved forward until its release in July 2017.

And the product is sublime. Look up the definition if you’re unsure of what it means exactly. It’s the perfect balance of craft and wild spontaneity, of humble artistry and classic hip-hop bravado. As a young kid, consuming tape after tape, chasing after each artist and each release, on through the ’90s and as an adult into the new century, The Scepter and the Sword stands out like a beacon; an album that remains true to the art while simultaneously advancing it. This album, and actually quite a few others in the last 12 months, have signaled a sea change in hip-hop, a return to detailed, powerful production and dedicated lyricism. But nothing I’ve heard yet has grabbed me like this. To say it’s solid and full, and beautiful in its intricacy and depth, doesn’t do the album justice. It’s lean, no filler, no skits, no weak cuts, just a double lp’s worth of beautifully crafted songs – each as satisfying a listen as the one that comes before. There are heavy, HEAVY beats, the kind the push against your rib cage, and underneath them flow these incredible gems dug up from crates, of horn sections, vocal samples, pianos played like percussion instruments, and fuzzed-out basses. Complimenting the music, Dawhud and Ace-One’s lyrics and raps are the best either has ever laid down. Trading rhymes, alternating verses, and pulling out line after line of fresh new Rhythmic American Poetry, they easily stand aside peers (yes, PEERS) such as Masta Ace, Sadat X, and Rock from Heltah Skeltah (who all just so happen to appear on the album). The Scepter and the Sword is a record that is years in the making and is surely going to become more revered as time goes on. It’s an incredible achievement; it’s the most exciting release I’ve heard in a long time and gives me hope for a new revolution in hip-hop. Head over to Dawhud’s Bandcamp page to pick up a copy. The limited double Vinyl, with bonus tracks, is truly a thing of beauty. Listen, dance to it like my children do, and be excited about the future! (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Never Enough

A while back, someone suggested to me that you could love a whole record because of a single drum break or perfectly placed sample, and Never Enough a 2014 release from Leezy Soprano has them in spades. There’s one moment in particular, in the opener “The Whole World/Problem Child” where, just as Tacoma rapper Leez says “Pour some liquor…” a sample of ice clinking in a glass emerges to form the foundation of a synth line that then carries through the song. If you do nothing else, go seek out this moment: I look forward to it every time I spin this record. (At the end of the track, he says, “I love y’all, and I love this beat, too,” and you know he knows it’s great. “Star” samples Madonna in a fresh way, too. What brings me back is all the real talk on racial injustice and the need for change. “Colors” suggests that instead of one-day protests, there’s a real need for better ongoing education programs in black history and accomplishments in our schools. Fun educational fact: Leez’s Supreme Being record was one of the first I ever wrote about, inspiring this whole long series of local hip-hop write-ups.

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

4 The Love of Music

Imagine a family reunion where everyone is there. I mean everyone. That means you get to see grandpa captivate people with his charm and wit, and you can hear a few of the aunts harmonizing a lovely new song they just made up, but you may encounter some not-so politically correct language from certain relatives. 4 The Love Of Music contains 17 tracks from across the family of rap and hip hop in the Emerald City as it existed when this comp was released in 2010. The expert curation by Tendai Maraire places tracks by superstars like (his own band) Shabazz Palaces, Macklemore, and Sir Mix A Lot, alongside offerings by other artists familiar to fans of Seattle hip hop. Thee Satisfaction contributes “Queen Supreme” and The Physics give us “Booe’d Up.” Fresh Espresso’s “Sunglasses On” stands out for its synthwave aesthetic, while “What Up Pimpin” by Draze is impossible to dislike, it’s simple and catchy. Unfortunately, there are too many more artists to name them all, but I must mention “Can’t Stand The Reign” by Mash Hall. Clocking in at five minutes and thirty-six seconds, this track is mysterious and inventive, calling to mind a hallucinatory Harmony Korine movie soundtrack. 4 The Love Of Music is one of the most complete assemblies of Seattle’s diverse rap community, and this compilation is a must-own. (This review was submitted by reader Novocaine132.)

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

White Van Music

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.

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!

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

In Tha Name Of Game

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.

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!

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!