A film about Northwest hip-hop from

NEWCOMER

This 82-minute feature film is an intimate introduction to Seattle’s vibrant hip-hop underground. It was assembled from hundreds of tiny performance clips—shot for Instagram—into a single, continuous concert mosaic, and stars 93 of the top hip-hop artists from The Town.

Here’s how KEXP describes it in their review: “NEWCOMER stretches the idea of the concert film to an artistic extreme: Sub-minute snippets artfully arranged to resemble a field recording of Seattle’s rap scene, the pieces fractured and pieced back together in a truly engrossing way. The narrative flows through venues like Barboza, Cha Cha Lounge, Vermillion, Lo-Fi, the Showbox, the Crocodile, and dozens more. It’s Khris P pouring Rainier into a Solo cup while he raps; bodies packed into regional landmark ETC Tacoma; SassyBlack improvising a song urging concertgoers to buy her merch; the delightfully awkward dance moves of white people in KEXP’s Gathering Space; Chong the Nomad beatboxing and playing harmonica simultaneously; Bruce Leroy bullying a beat next to the clothing racks at All-Star Vintage; Specswizard rhyming about his first time performing in front of a crowd while standing before The Dark Crystal playing on a projection screen. The film is about the moments we experience—as lovers of live performance—just as much as the performances themselves.”

NEWCOMER was directed by Gary Campbell and was an official selection at the 2020 New York Hip-Hop Film Festival and the 2020 Golden Sneakers International Hip-Hop Film Festival in Hamburg, Germany. Throughout November 2020, the film screened for four weeks on the Northwest Film Forum theatrical screening site in honor of Hip-Hop History Month.

You can watch the full movie below.

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

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Symmetry

The 2010 album Gravity from Def Dee & LA is considered by many to be one of the greatest-ever records in Seattle hip-hop. Ten years later, we’re treated to a sequel of sorts. Symmetry reunites these two talented collaborators. The Biggest Podcast calls them “the dynamic duo.” This too-short EP features LA’s speed bag bars against a backdrop of the boundary-pushing boom-bap that Def Dee is known for. Songs hit the ground running and end equally abruptly. There’s conciseness, conviction, and immediacy that easily sets this record above the rest.

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

2 for 5

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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Life of A Salesman

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Hear to Heal

On the song “Fly By,” featured lyricist Moka Only raps, “If vinyl could talk, it would probably say, what the fuck? Like why you put me through all the scratching and chops?” We throw around terms like “old school” whenever there are wax and jazz samples and turntable scratching. While those elements are all present here in abundance, there’s nothing old about Hear to Heal, a 2016 release from Ear Dr.Umz The Metrognome. I have OCnotes to thank for turning me on to this record, a 16-track prescription, where The Doctor collaborates with contemporary local cats to derive novel new approaches to boom-bap. This is a who’s who of the Seattle underground, featuring verses and beats from Able FaderSpecswizardSilas BlakMyka 9 and others. A standout track for me is “Whole ‘nother Level” with some special cool flows courtesy of Dex Amora and Zuke Saga, but really this whole record is solid from end-to-end, and a great response to “vinyl” on why all the scratching and chops.

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Nine Six Webisode #1

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Déjà Vu

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Barkada

I’m spinning this 2014 collaboration, Barkada, from Prometheus Brown (aka The Blue Scholars’ Geologic) and Bambu. Here’s a record that has become more relevant with age, with lyrics that deeply consider West Coast identity, immigration, the origins and future of America, protests and police; themes on the forefront of front pages during these first few months of 2017. These themes are communicated via a deeply playful playbook of technical prowess: “Coming (To America)” is almost exclusively built around with words that end with “o,” while opener “Live from Hawaii” contains more words than you could imagine that contain “bar-…” This is a fun album, ingenious and subversive. Hook your headphones up to it today. Also, I love the Photoshopped “record wear” effect on this cover art.

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33 and a Third

Seattle hip-hop blog 206UP picked this record as one of the “Top 10 Albums of 2013,” saying that:

I have no insight into producer Def Dee’s Gmail inbox, but I would hazard a guess that it’s full of earnest requests for beats from rappers who probably have no business rhyming over them. Def is like that uber-talented sketch artist you see posted up on a sidewalk bench, drawing hyper-real pictures of what he sees in front of him. Except Def makes hip-hop sketches that bring to mind the producers that built the very foundation of boom-bap: Pete Rock, DJ Premier, J Dilla — you know, guys you’ve probably heard once or twice before.

Mello Music Group promptly added him to their storehouse of talented beatmakers last year. 33 and a Third is his first compilation for MMG and the guest list includes a corps of Seattle rap’s best (Mic Phenom, La, Grynch, OCnotes, Chev, Zar) in addition to a grip of national underground talent (yU, Oddisee, Black Milk, etc.). Def is that type of producer whose interludes you actually look forward to, the kind where you can practically smell the hip hop elements cooking in his kitchen. Chopped up samples and scratched records: There will never be a more satisfying combo.

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Prologue

I was introduced to KnowMads when they played with Kung Foo Grip and All Star Opera at The Croc this past Thursday. Outside the show, someone told me The KnowMads have a cult-like fanbase, a kinda nouveau Grateful Dead thing but hip hop, based on tattoo evidence. So that was the impression I went into their show. When you hear the opening of “TheCure,” a track on their 2012 EP, Prologue, you’re ready to follow, too: This is the sound of connection, some songs speaking directly to their fans in sort-of rap self-help. “Disregard the energies of people you despise…” Musically there’s a broad range between a ’70s easy-listening vibe (“Firefly”) and just-beats-and-verses ’80s origin rap (“WaxOn”). It feels good to listen to this record.

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Young Seattle

Between 2012 and 2016, musician Sam Lachow created three collaborative short films, each bearing the name “Young Seattle.”

Slightly confusingly, the videos are labeled “Parts 1, 2, and 4.” Part 3 was released as an audio-only track with no video.

Here’s his explanation of the concept: “I make these Young Seattle videos each year simply because I’m a huge fan of all these artists. As a fan, I just thought it’d be badass to put them all on one track. My favorite thing about the Seattle hip-hop scene is that we don’t have any specific sound. There are so many different types of styles in this little city and yet we all fuck with each other. We’re all part of the same culture. It’s fucking cool.”

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Gravity

Last night at Uppercuts, I got into an in-depth conversation with Def Dee about his record Gravity, released eight years ago in collaboration with LA (Language Arts). There are many cats in this town, when pressed, who will say this is one of the greatest classics Seattle has ever produced. Me, I’ve been a longtime fan of the stories rapped by this emcee and his pointed criticisms of how the town has changed… Back when Gravity was released in 2010, The Stranger‘s Larry Mizell Jr. described LA as “one of the strongest MCs in the 206 and more people should know this… With a clear ear for classic flows and sharp rhymes… He throws zero dirt on his own rep.” About producer Def Dee he said: “Vinyl-cracklin’ mid-90s-style boom-bap… Insomniac vibes, but sloppy emulation it is not. The beats have some of the album’s best moments.” Something I learned last night that has me spinning Gravity with fresh ears today was the discovery that this music was all recorded live in the studio: Def Dee on the MPC and LA freestylin’ overtop. If either of them f-ed it, they wound the tape back and started over. How many records are still made this way today? In a post from earlier this year, Respect My Region described Gravity as “an album of pure, raw hip-hop.” What do you say?

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Roll With The Winners

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

This “debut” album from the emcee formerly known as “Language Arts” featured expert throwback production by an unknown producer named Blu-Ray, whose heavy soul sampling sounds like The Alchemist on his most nostalgic day. The highlight, though, was La’s take-no-prisoners lyrical work. Hearing raw talent like this is akin to watching Allen Iverson play basketball for the first time. At this stage in his career, La is still all fearless potential, but on paper, he might already be the most technically sound rapper in the city.

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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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